Friday, 11 July 2008

The Outrage

Apparently, I crossed some sort of line in my deconstruction of the Iowa Chops. I understand that people in Iowa are passionate about their AHL franchise, and I'm all for them having a professional hockey team. More teams allow for the game's popularity to grow, especially when these teams are prominent within their communities. However, the team is a representation of the community they play in. I'm not certain if people are simply misunderstanding my view on the name the Iowa AHL franchise chose, but I will attempt to extinguish some of the fires I may have lit with my article on Wednesday.

I went hunting on the Internet today for some additional information regarding Iowa, the term "Iowa Chops", and exactly what it means to people. Let's take a deeper look at why I wrote what I did.

From the Iowa Pork website, "[t]he term 'Iowa Chop' was coined by the Iowa Pork Producers Association in 1976". I'm all for heritage in a team name, so this 32 year-old term has some history. But aside from the Kansas City T-Bones baseball franchise in the Northern League, has there ever been another sports franchise named for a cut of meat?

Let's keep moving, though. In the summer of 1976, "[a]n official Iowa Chop Committee was then formed and county pork producers and Porkette groups began serving them at social gatherings, community events and business meetings. Once the marketing effort was started, the enthusiasm for the Iowa Chop was contagious".

Porkette groups? The Iowa Chops already have a page on their website for their Ice Girls, but I can't see them using the term "Porkette" for anything. Something about it seems a little politically incorrect. However, they are calling their online store the "Chop Shop", so maybe this is some sort of "anything goes" marketing scheme? According to this article, they've already branded the Wells Fargo Arena with a new nickname: The Meat Locker. They've even started talking about branding the penalty box as "the pig pen". made a good point in stating that the Iowa Stars really didn't have a local identity, making it harder to endear one's self to the team. I can believe this, and it certainly takes some time for fans to warm to a team that is new in town playing a game that isn't very popular.

However, when choosing a new identity, it's probably a good idea to go with something to which all your fans can endear themselves. When asked by the Des Moines Register in an online poll what people thought of the name, "the majority responded they 'hate it'". Granted, a lot of those votes can come from non-Iowans, but isn't hockey merchandising more than just a local project?

I can't see anyone from outside Iowa being a billboard for the Iowa Pork Producers. After all, this article states that "[t]he franchise is partnering with the Iowa Pork Producers Association". Hmmm... pig for the logo, and a deal with the pork producers. Hmmmmm.

I understand that the major agricultural product is pork in Iowa. There's no need to keep telling me this. I get it. I also understand that agriculture is largest industry in Iowa, with pig-farming being tops. The name "IceHogs" was already taken, so I am aware that the team would have to get creative with its name.

But what about the other major corporations that are making strides in Iowa? Principal Financial Group, founded in 1879, has their headquarters in Des Moines, and employees nearly 9000 people in that city. The financial services industry is huge in Des Moines, but I guess the "Iowa Bank Tellers" isn't really a great name. The Iowa Insurance Adjusters? No, I've got it! The Iowa Loan Sharks! The Iowa L-Sharks would have provided an excellent rivalry with the Worcester Sharks.

All jokes aside, I want everyone to know that I am looking forward to October 10, 2008 when the Iowa Chops take to the ice in Des Moines. When I wrote that article on Wednesday about how the team stinks, I was disappointed. I expected something more, and I apologize to the people of Iowa because I was not making any sort of commentary on you.

As I wrote in the comments, I have been through Iowa on a number of occasions, and I really feel that the people of Iowa are phenomenal. I've met farmers, waiters and waitresses, bus drivers, bartenders, retail salespeople - the foundation of some very welcoming and genuine communities. If I offended you in any way with my previous article, I apologize for that. It was not intended as my disappointment with the choice of the name was all I was trying to convey.

To the hockey fans in Iowa, and, specifically, the city of Des Moines: I believe you deserve an AHL franchise. Yes, attendance dropped after a few seasons with the Stars, but that's no reason for the franchise to pull up roots and head to another town. I commend the ownership group in keeping AHL hockey in Iowa, and encourage you to go see the Chops play as often as you can.

To everyone in Iowa, hockey fan or not, thank you for your passion and for making my previous trips through your state feel like home. If the heartbeat of America is in the Midwest, Iowans make it beat strong and proud, and I am already looking forward to my next trip through your beautiful state... even if you all want me dead.

By the way, that picture at the top is a genuine Iowa Chop. I still don't like the name, and I still feel that the ownership group sold out to the pork producers with whom they are partnered. But that's the beauty of team names - they can change with popular opinion.

Go watch the Chops play. Keep the AHL in the heartland of America.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Omaha Beef, an indoor football team... another meat name.

Anonymous said...

I would venture to say that in today's market that names like Packers, Buckeyes, and Cornhuskers would not fare well in focus groups and web-polls. These are teams that have tradition and have formulated a brand that extends beyond the context of their original meaning.

The same would apply here. If this team succeeds one the ice and in ticket sales this name will join many others which are odd, regional and have character. I have even become more comfortable with the name after a few days.

Thank you for your kind comments about my fellow Iowans. I have enjoyed reading your insightful entries, and look forward to reading your thoughts during hockey season.

Teebz said...

Like I said before, Broodwich, I totally support hockey in Iowa. I am disappointed in the name, but I certainly think Des Moines deserves a team.

Enjoy the hockey, soak up the atmosphere, and have a good time. That's what hockey is all about - chops or no chops. :o)

Anonymous said...

Yes, the majority, 1,000 of roughly 1,500 that responded to the online poll, hardly a cross-section of Des Moines, said they "hate it". What you failed to mention was that WHO TV, the NBC affiliate in Des Moines has a sunday night sports show called "Sound Off". Sound off has a munch larger audience base than the 1,500-2,000 people who voted online. The fans of Sound Off voted and Iowa Chops was the name that won, then a couple days later the team name was announced. Schlegel sports also interviewed Iowans to get a feel for the state and found most people they interviewed mentioned the pride Iowa takes in it's pork industry (as well as corn and ethanol production). So it's not like they didn't consult with Iowans first. It's a great name now the tough part is teaching Iowans hockey and getting them from the wrestling mat (Iowa has the largest HS wrestling tournament) to the ice rink!

Teebz said...

Being proud is one thing, but how many people in Iowa want to be named after something you flame-broil on the BBQ?

I get the pride in the pork industry, but why name your team after something you slaughter? If that's the case, why not name the team the "Iowa Chicken Legs" or the "Iowa Ground Beef"?

Schlegel should just admit to everyone that he got paid by the pork industry to advertise for them. He has a partnership with them, after all.

But... and I want to be clear... support the team. I like Iowa, and getting pro hockey in there is vitally important to growing the game. Go see the Iowa AHL franchise play as often as you can. That's how it will grow. :o)

Joe said...

As a Canadian ex-pat now living in DSM, I have to admit in being a little shocked at the choice. I also knew immediately the folks in the "Hockey Nation" would be kinda disgusted. But considering I played for the Grimsby Peach Kings once, the Iowa Chops is growing on me. One thing for sure, if the team wins on the ice, the fans won't care one bit. Afterall, what the heck is a Peterborough Pete? It is an excellent franchise in Major Junior A, but the nickname is not a winner. Some of the other Canadian nick names, Calgary Hit Men, Ottawa 67's etc. The fact that the Toronto AHL team "stole" the former junior team nickname "Marlies" when I thought the name was just silly, though better than full name: Marlboroughs. can you imagine how American fans would scratch their head witha team seemingly named after a cigarette! Enough I say! The AHL experince in Iowa has been excellent for me and my kids are huge fans. The rink in downtown DSM is a beautiful facility, and I hope to see it full to the rafters with Chop fans loving the hard hitting action come this fall.

Teebz said...

Well put, Joe.

I totally get the fact that there are some names out there that are beyond ridiculous (IceHogs? SeaWolves? Checkers?), but I would rather not be a billboard for the Iowa pork industry if I played. That's nearly European hockey with the advertising they are doing.

Again, I fully support AHL hockey in Iowa, and truly believe that everyone in Iowa should embrace this team. I'm just not fond of the name they chose.

Support the team. Go to games. Buy a soda and a hot dog. It's the game that's important, not the name. :o)