ECHL: Adirondack Thunder Bring Home Three Awards From Vegas

ECHL

The ECHL Hosted its annual Summer Meetings last week, and along with the Summer Meetings, The ECHL Award Show was also hosted in Vegas as ECHL honored the organizations and their members who play big roles off the ice and the Adirondack Thunder would head home with three awards; Jeff Mead would win the Blake Cullen Award for Executive Of The Year, the first time anyone from Adirondack has won the coveted award. Adirondack would also go home with Specialty Jersey of the Year for their Country Jerseys and Ticket Sales Department of the Year (Year-over-Year Growth).

Jeff Mead Wins Executive Of the Year

For Adirondack, the milestones continue to build up, and one of the biggest milestones of late comes off the ice as Adirondack Thunder Team President Jeff Mead became the first person in franchise history to win the Blake Cullen Award for Executive Of the Year. Mead is pleased about winning the award but mentions that it takes a whole team to put together a year like they did in the 2023-24 season to be able to win the award.

“It’s quite an honor to receive the award from my peers and the ECHL; I’m very honored; it takes the whole team to do what we did this year: front office staff, operating staff, my board of directors, very honored, and a little bit of pride for me.”

Adirondack Thunder President Jeff Mead on Winning the Blake Cullen Award

There were a number of milestones for the Thunder this year, from the 16 sellouts, having the best ever regular season in Thunder history to winning the North Divison and Eastern Conference, but when asked what stood out to Mead during the historic 2023-24 season, it was the fact that the arena was so busy and electric game in and game out and talks about how far this organization has come since he became a part on the Thunder organization.

“It seems like yesterday when we started this endeavor in 2017 when we bought the team. The first couple of years, it was just not well received in the community, so going from averaging 2300 fans a game that year to 4300 fans this season, It’s pretty impressive how far we’ve come in the last ten years and how much the community and the fan base has embraced the Thunder during that time, and we’re very excited about year 10 and very proud of getting there and how far we’ve come as a group”

Adirondack Thunder President Jeff Mead when asked about the team reaching year 10 as the Thunder in Glens Falls

One of the things that always gets overlooked is how important it is for ECHL teams to have an NHL/AHL affiliate, and earlier this off-season, Adirondack took care of business by signing a multi-year extension with the New Jersey Devils to continue to be the team’s ECHL affiliate. Every year, you see a number of teams who are changing up their NHL affiliate and continuing to try and find the right fit for their organization, but when talking to Mead, it sounds like the Devils are the right fit for the Devils for the foreseeable future.

“It was good, it’s always about do you look elsewhere, are there any other NHL teams that can be a better fit, maybe? When you look around the league, there are teams that switch every two or three years, but I think we really have a good relationship with New Jersey, and they’ve started to really trust us with developing their players, and it takes a while to build up their trust on both ends. A prime example of that is they sent us Isaac Poulter for our playoff run because they knew that we would take good care of him, we’re very happy with Jersey, we’re very happy to extend it. There are years where they are great in terms of players they send us, and there are other years where it’s just okay, but that’s just the cycle of developmental hockey; we’re happy with Jersey and expect to be with them for a long time.

Jeff Mead on the affilation extension between the Thunder and New Jersey Devils

Specialty Jersey Of The Year

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

The ECHL is known for having some very creative theme nights and specialty jerseys, but this year, the Adirondack Thunder went above and beyond when it came to the Country Night jerseys that caught the attention of everyone in Glens Falls. The idea behind County Night came from Rob Lippolis, who is the Communications and Broadcasting Director for the Thunder. It’s one thing to have the idea, but the execution of the jerseys, from the shot of Travis Broughman on a tractor with the jersey to the final on-ice product, is something that the Thunder fans will certainly remember. Adirondack did confirm that there will be another country night next season, but it will have a completely different design.

” I grew up in a small town, love the outdoors, and we thought this area would fit perfectly for a Country Night. The fans made the night unbelievable in my opinion. The crowd was huge, and they were into the theme and game all night long

Rob Lippolis on the idea behind Country Night

Ticket Sales Department of the Year (Year-over-Year Growth)

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

Sean Driscoll is the Director Of Ticket Sales for the Adirondack Thunder and has been ingrained in the Adirondack Hockey Community even before the Thunder became an ECHL and was previously working for the Adirondack Flames. Despite being happy that the Thunder organization won this award, Driscoll mentioned all the hard work it took to get the fan base to where it is now after the team went from an AHL team to an ECHL team and the fact that fans didn’t exactly know what to expect moving forward. He also mentioned that he’s not the only one who helps sell tickets and mentioned co-workers like Jeff Casey, Tadd Sipowicz, Rob Lippolis, and Brennan Dowd as all playing a big part in filling up seats at the Cool Insuring Arena.

“I was kinda happy and just thrilled to be honored; my first year was with the Flames in the AHL, and we had a good season ticket holder base, but once we announced we were going down to the ECHL, we lost almost half of our season ticket holders, and that was a tough year because no matter what we said or what we did, we couldn’t really get people to buy season tickets, they didn’t know the league and what not so since that Summer of 2015 till now the Summer of 2024 we’ve been building up our season ticket holder base and it doesn’t come overnight I learned that in the first couple years in the ECHL so it’s been a long time coming and I think as an organization we’ve shown that we can stay here and people are willing to come out and buy our tickets, I think we’re the most affordable ticket in the ECHL and to drive our season tickets, half-season tickets, mini-packs, groups.”

Driscoll on the Thunder organization winning Ticket Sales Department of the Year and what it took to get to this point

There’s no question that a winning team can help sell tickets, but Driscoll knows that his team can’t control the on-ice product. He wants to have the opportunity to make sure that regardless of what kind of fan you are, you are enjoying the “party.” Some of the big factors that have played into this over the recent years are Dan Miner, who is the Public Address Announcer for the Thunder, and Billy, the In-Arena Host for the Thunder, who is always finding new ways to keep the crowd entertained during all home games.

“I don’t know where the closest ECHL market was when we moved. I know Manchester had a team. I think people didn’t know about the ECHL. They kind of thought it was going back to the UHL because we’ve always been an AHL market with the Red Wings, and then the Adirondack Phantoms were here for those five years, and everyone kind of just knew the AHL and obviously the NHL, so I always say those first couple of months we were really good and we had only lost a couple of games and I tell people that by January that saved hockey here because we were in the first place and people hadn’t seen playoff hockey here for a while, they came out to the playoff games and then it started to trickle in. I think the video board got installed a couple of years after that was a huge plus, and just to try and get the fans as an office, we talk about it all the time; we can’t control what happens on the ice, and since I’ve been here, we’ve had some really good years, and we’ve had some really bad years, but we can control how a person has fun at the game, and now it becomes a “party”. We try to make the atmosphere good.”

Driscoll on the challenges he faced when the Thunder went from the AHL down to the ECHL

I asked Driscoll how easy it is to sell tickets to such a passionate fan base in Adirondack, and as expected, he talked about how easy it is to sell season tickets to the die-hard fans but also mentioned that in years past, he’s had time to relax once the season ends but hasn’t been able to have that this season with the number of new season ticket holders that are already signing up for next season.

“Oh Ya, my job is pretty easy to get them on board and even the new season ticket holders with the win and the long playoff run, but we have a passionate fan base; I joke with people even though we are the smallest market, some of our fans treat us like the Dallas Cowboys, the L.A. Lakers, or the New York Yankees, and our guys are treated that way when we go on the boat cruise to Lake George when we do our season ticket holder party. We have fans who will wait outside after every game meeting the same players, but they just wanna say hi or get another picture with them; maybe they are in a different jersey, but I think our fanbase is pretty easy; I just say hi and do you wanna keep your seats, and it’s an easy sell, I just have to find out if they wanna pay in full or do a payment plan.

Driscoll on selling season tickets to die hard fans
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Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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