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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Walleye fans guide: Entertainment name of game

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Regardless of the level of excitement generated by the Walleye hockey team on the ice, fans will not be bored at the new Lucas County Arena.

Mike Ramirez, who is the video and television productions manager for the Walleye, said his role is to support the game action with other forms of entertainment.

“Our goal is to keep fans entertained and we've put a lot of things together,” he said.

Ramirez, who has similar duties with the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field, said he hopes to create a similar family-friendly atmosphere.

“There will always be something to do,” he said.

Ramirez said he will be showing replays of hits, saves and goals on the video boards which are “very graphics driven.” The new arena has a huge, main 600-square foot video scoreboard. A 600 foot long “ribbon scoreboard” also wraps around the arena between the upper and lower bowls.

He said the digital display of the period, score, game clock, penalty info and shots on goal will be shown in the corners of the ribbon boards.

“You can see it from every single seat,” he said. “We surveyed our goalkeepers and they were comfortable with the location.”

He said that key information will be primarily fixed at those locations.

“It may not be permanent,” he said. “If a goal happens the entire board could light up.”

Ramirez said he and other officials attended dozens of NHL games to gather ideas about how to celebrate goals. He said coach Nick Vitucci had input as well.

“Every NHL team has a unique horn,” Ramirez said.

He said the Walleye officials will blast a foghorn when the team scores.

“We've been on the hunt and we found it online,” Ramirez said. “Ours is a horn that is a combination of a foghorn at a light house and a ship horn. It will be nice and loud.”

One song Ramirez hopes will catch on is called “Jump Around,” by House of Pain.

“They play it at Wisconsin Badger football games,” Ramirez said. “The entire place erupts and the fans kind of do a synchronized dance and they jump up and down.”

Another “fish-themed” song the team plans to use is “Fins,” by Jimmy Buffett.

“There is a dance to it that all the Parrotheads know,” Ramirez said. “It involves putting your hands over your head in the shape of a fin. I hope fans pick up on it.”

The team's introduction song was specially written by a local band called in theory. The group won The Blade's recent Battle of the Bands contest.

“It's an up tempo rock song with aggression,” Ramirez said.

He said the song will be part of a “theatrical entrance” when the lights will be turned out during player introductions.

“We want to make it a very exciting time,” he said.

Another idea is to have music tailored specifically for each player when they score.

He said the team's mascot, Spike, will interact with fans. The team also will have promotions and games on the ice between periods.

Highlights and real game time action will be shown on the 136 TVs installed throughout the arena.

“I spent many nights at the Sports Arena. But it's time was up. It's like going from the dark ages to the space ages,” he said.

He said the video boards also will be used for games such as the puck shuffle. He also said fans will be encouraged to lock lips when on the “kiss cam.”

Ramirez said it would have been cost prohibitive to install a scoreboard to hang over center ice which is common at most hockey arenas. The scoreboard would have had to retract into the ceiling for arena football games and the rigging was deemed too expensive.

“In the end we were able to provide a much bigger video board,” he said.

Ramirez said he has a staff of about 15 people, including the TV crew from BCSN.

“The joke is that I have the best job,” Ramirez said. “It's fun to get to be creative and watch games.”

The organization signed a three-year radio deal with WCWA (1230 AM) to broadcast each of the team's 72 regular-season games and all postseason games.

The Walleye will have all 36 of its home games televised live on BCSN, a local sports network on Buckeye CableSystem and a sister company of the The Blade.

Former Toledo Storm announcer Matt Melzak will return as radio and television announcer. Melzak will be the TV announcer for all home games and will serve as the primary radio announcer on the road.

Melzak also will host a weekly radio coach's show, which will air Tuesdays on WCWA from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Vitucci will appear along with players.

Andy Stuart, vice president and market manager for WCWA, said the station is thrilled to be a part of the organization's inaugural season.

“Everybody here is excited that the long wait will be over very soon and great hockey will be returning to Toledo,” Stuart said.

Melzak, 33, a St. Francis de Sales graduate, was selected as a member of the ECHL All-Star Game broadcast team in 2006. He called more than 400 hockey games and has worked for BCSN since its inception calling football, baseball and hockey telecasts.

Josh Heller, who was named the ECHL's announcer of the year last season, will be the Walleye's radio announcer at its home games. Heller, a native of Sharon, Mass., spent two years with South Carolina of the ECHL.

Games also will be broadcast live on the team Web site, toledowalleye.com.

Fan Web site

North Toledoan Bryan Emerick has created a fan Web site to communicate with other Walleye supporters about the organization from the front office to the coaches and players.

The site's web address is toledowalleye.proboards.com.

Emerick said he took over the Toledo Storm message board 10 years ago when the creator moved out of town.

“Throughout the years we've had many players and a few coaches interact with the fans on the board,” he said.

The Storm message board had nearly 700 members. Emerick said the Walleye board has been active for about two months and has around 60 members.

Seating

There are 7,500 seats in the new arena for hockey games, while the Sports Arena's capacity was about 5,500. The new arena can accommodate up to 9,000 people for concerts. Every seat is padded and has a drink holder.

Tickets

Individual tickets will be $15, while children 12-and-under and seniors (65-plus) will pay $13. Children 2-and-under admitted free.

The team is currently ranked fourth in the ECHL in season ticket sales with nearly 2,400 sold.

Opening night is sold out, but tickets remain for Saturday and Sunday.

“Things are going extremely well,” said Eric Ibsen, the ticket sales and operations manager for the Walleye.

The team is still selling season ticket packages as well. They include the traditional 36-game full season package, 18-game half season package and a nine-game package.

“We have an endless number of options,” Ibsen said. “We have different packages to meet anyone's schedule or budget. We will work with people on seating preferences, too.”

The packages also include combinations of arena football and hockey. The team also has three suites that are available for rental on an individual game basis.

Tickets are still available at the arena box office and can be purchased by phone at 419-725-WALL (9255) or online at www.toledowalleye.com.

“We can tell people are ready for hockey again,” Ibsen said.

North Toledoan Bryan Emerick has created a fan Web site to communicate with other Walleye supporters about the organization from the front office to the coaches and players.

The site's web address is toledowalleye.proboards.com.

Emerick said he took over the Toledo Storm message board 10 years ago when the creator moved out of town.

“Throughout the years we've had many players and a few coaches interact with the fans on the board,” he said.

The Storm message board had nearly 700 members. Emerick said the Walleye board has been active for about two months and has around 60 members.

There are 7,500 seats in the new arena for hockey games, while the Sports Arena's capacity was about 5,500. The new arena can accommodate up to 9,000 people for concerts. Every seat is padded and has a drink holder.

Individual tickets will be $15, while children 12-and-under and seniors (65-plus) will pay $13. Children 2-and-under admitted free.

The team is currently ranked fourth in the ECHL in season ticket sales with nearly 2,400 sold.

Opening night is sold out, but tickets remain for Saturday and Sunday.

“Things are going extremely well,” said Eric Ibsen, the ticket sales and operations manager for the Walleye.

The team is still selling season ticket packages as well. They include the traditional 36-game full season package, 18-game half season package and a nine-game package.

“We have an endless number of options,” Ibsen said. “We have different packages to meet anyone's schedule or budget. We will work with people on seating preferences, too.”

The packages also include combinations of arena football and hockey. The team also has three suites that are available for rental on an individual game basis.

Tickets are still available at the arena box office and can be purchased by phone at 419-725-WALL (9255) or online at www.toledowalleye.com.

“We can tell people are ready for hockey again,” Ibsen said.



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