By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
As hockey players, the Everett Silvertips want to make their presence known.
But away from hockey the Silvertips still want to make their presence known, particularly when it comes to visiting schools and hospitals, and in other public appearances that are all part of the team’s ambitious community-relations program.
Sending players out to interact with fans “is very important,” said Zoran Rajcic, Everett’s executive vice president and assistant general manager. “When we look at it operationally, what we’re looking at is the chance to gain visibility for the players themselves.
“We’re very fortunate that we that have a 6- or 61/2-month window of opportunity for them to get out into the community and do outreach, special promotions, visits to the hospital and those types of things.”
The team’s appearance schedule is largely dictated by its travel schedule, with most events scheduled during long homestands. And by far the most common outings are the visits to schools, whether in all-school assemblies or in individual classrooms.
Travis Huntington, the team’s director of broadcasting and public relations, generally coordinates the appearances, which are invariably a big hit with the kids.
“The reactions are always fun to watch,” he said. “Usually it’s elation, and that’s awesome for me. Even if they’ve never been to a Silvertips game, it doesn’t matter.
“There are kids who are wearing (Silvertips) jerseys and they’re huge fans, and of course we love to see that. But I also love to see the kid who maybe doesn’t know anything about hockey, but who’s so excited that a hockey player has come to their school.”
But school appearances are about more than signing autographs and patting heads. Huntington likes to call ahead to find out “some of the themes that we can hit on that will basically tie in with the lessons the kids are already getting in class.”
The idea, he said, “is that this isn’t just about the chance to see a hockey player. Hopefully it’s about getting a good message from a hockey player. And we definitely draw a parallel to the players who are still students themselves.”
Hospital visits are less common, but no less important. Sometimes they are arranged to visit a specific patient, often a child. But other times the players “will just spend a few hours walking around the hospital, stopping in rooms and visiting with people,” Huntington said.
The notion of having players out in the community is as old as the franchise itself. Right from the start, the Silvertips emphasized player appearances, and some of the biggest names in team history have also been some of the most willing participants. Among them, Mitch Love (2003-05), Jeff Harvey (2003-04), Jonathan Harty (2004-08) and Zack Dailey (2005-10).
Love, who is today an Everett assistant coach, “was huge early on,” Huntington said. “It’s something he did a lot of.”
Among current players, Kohl Bauml and Austin Lotz enjoy the chance to appear on behalf of the team. Lotz, in fact, “is really big on helping out with these types of things,” Huntington said. “He’s even come to me and said ‘I want to be involved in this.’”
From the team’s perspective, he added, “we’re always trying to put the players in situations where it’s rewarding for the fans and for the young people in the community to interact with these guys in ways that aren’t often afforded them.”
According to Rajcic, public appearances by the players are encouraged, “but there’s definitely no requirement. They don’t have to give up any of their time to do this stuff. But they do it because they came here maybe as 16-year-olds, and they’re going to be here three, four or five years, and it’s a way for them to give back to the community for what the community does for them.”
It is, he added, a chance “for them to become ambassadors for the Everett Silvertips.”