Monday, 27 January 2014

Out To Pasture

It feels kind of weird to write about the folding of a hockey team mid-season, but the ECHL's San Francisco Bulls have decided to close up shop after failing to find new ownership. After completing their first season of play in the Cow Palace, the Bulls confirmed today through a statement that they will not complete the final 32 games of the season. After all the success being touted recently about hockey in California, this puts a little tarnish on those achievements.

The statement, written by President, GM, and head coach Pat Curcio, reads,
To the SF Bulls Ticket Holders,

We regret to inform you that the SF Bulls are ceasing operations, effective immediately. The team was hoping to secure new ownership, however the terms of an updated deal were unable to be finalized, cancelling the remainder of the season.

We want to thank all of our loyal season ticket and mini plan holders over the last two seasons. It’s been such a memorable time here with you in San Francisco, and we've especially appreciated all of your positive feedback over the past week. Thank you to those who went above and beyond to make us feel welcomed in the Bay Area, especially the members of the Matadors and Stampede. The entire organization is grateful.

We had a great opportunity come to us that would've kept the Bulls in San Francisco at least through the end of the 2014 season, with potential for future seasons, but we ran out of time to complete all ends of the deal. At this point, the best thing to do financially is to reluctantly end the season. We will miss playing here, miss our fans, and miss this city.

Bringing hockey to San Francisco was a dream; we have great talent on our team, and had a great vision for what the team could be. Things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. It's sad, and disconcerting, but we're unfortunately left with no other choice at this point.

For fans that have already purchased tickets to upcoming games, the Bulls Office will take requests for refunds up until February 28. Season ticket holders and single game ticket holders can contact their ticket reps for more information at


Pat Curcio
According to the ECHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, all players under contract to the Bulls become free agents. San Jose, the NHL affiliate of the Bulls, had five players playing for the team, and all five will be re-assigned as per San Jose GM Doug Wilson. Those five players include JP Anderson, Kyle Bigos, Riley Brace, Sebastian Stalberg and Steven Tarasuk.

While it's not unheard of to have something like this happen in the ECHL, it certainly comes as a surprise. The Bulls were 15-20-5 and fourth-place in the Mountain Division, just three points back of the Bakersfield Condors. They had recently beat the Stockton Thunder, who sit in second-place in the division, by a 3-2 score. Furthermore, Bulls' CEO Angela Batinovich four days ago seemed to indicate that the Bulls were going to see this through to the end of the season.
Thank you for your support during this time, we appreciate all of the encouragement from our fans.

During the ECHL Mid-Season Meeting, the Commissioner and Board of Governors granted our request for additional time to complete negotiations that would allow for the transfer of the San Francisco Bulls to a new ownership group.

We are hopeful that these negotiations will be completed within the allotted time, and we currently have no intention to cancel any games.
Apparently, Miss Batinovich's foresight was slightly off as the team didn't even make it to the following weekend! I understand the idea of keeping the interest of the fans positive, but it seems the idea of closing up shop was already a hot topic before Miss Batinovich's statement on January 23.

If it wasn't apparent to Miss Batinovich, the cracks were starting to show from a fan's standpoint.
While the Bulls seemed to benefit from the NHL lockout in their inaugural year, the cost of running the franchise in San Francisco seems to have done in the franchise. The Bulls were second-last in attendance this season, averaging just 2292 people per game over their 18 games at home this season. That's not a good number if you're into economics of hockey. Nor is this: the Bulls reportedly was on track to lose $2 million this year. Ouch. As the linked article states, playing in the decrepit Cow Palace - built in 1941 - put this franchise behind the eight-ball from the start when it came to costs.

When they first were debuted, the Bulls' uniforms had contrasting name bars and they seemed to use the Anaheim Ducks' number font. While the Sharks were partners with the Bulls, I can't imagine the Sharks were too fond of a California minor-league team they partner with looking an awful lot like one of their California NHL rivals.
The Bulls went back to traditional block numbers as they played through their inaugural season and into this season, but they still held onto those contrasting name bars.
And that's as far as we'll get in the San Francisco Bulls' jersey history as they have officially ceased all operations just a season and a half into their existence. Personally, I'm disappointed that no one stepped up to save this franchise or help it find a better location to play its game in. It sounds as though the Cow Palace is an absolute sinkhole for money, so perhaps it's better off this way.

If there's one thing I will miss from the Bulls, though, it's their fantastic marketing department. Do you think an NHL club could get away with this?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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