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THE MASCOT GAMES

As any fan knows the fan experience during NHL hockey playoffs is all about the players on the ice, right? Not for every fan and certainly not for the youngest ones in the stands. It’s about – the mascots! As of this year’s playoffs there are 28 NHL mascots entertaining everyone with their zany antics and every crowd pleasing mascot manoeuvre you can imagine.
The new kid on the block is Hunter, the lynx who adopted the Edmonton Oilers as his team.
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And that’s me with Hunter and his pals at the All Star Game in LA where we read NHL Mascots & Friends to kids and their families. How much fun was that?! I asked the mascots to welcome Hunter to the NHL mascot family and apparently they did. Hunter tells me he loves sharing a page with Victor E. Green. That’s good! So, all is fair in love and war and hockey mascot rivalry.
But it’s May now and the rivalries are deepening:
Anaheim’s Wild Wing versus Edmonton’s Hunter:

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Pittsburgh’s Iceburgh versus Washington’s Slapshot
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Nashville’s Gnash versus St. Louis’s Louie
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Ottawa’s Spartacat versus New York’s …um, nobody.
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So as the best hockey players in the world battle it out on the ice for NHL supremacy and the Stanley  Cup, a lot of the fun will be taking place in the stands with these amazingly energetic, fun-loving, hockey fan-loving furry, feathery, toothy, winged, beaked, giant-sized creatures. Give ’em a high five for making the experience loud and laugh-filled and just way more fun that it would be without them. Ask the five year old beside you …
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It takes two …

What if you hosted a football game and only one team showed up? Wouldn’t work, would it?

And that was my conundrum as I prepared to create a children’s book for the great football fans of the University of Southern California. Fight on! Hmmm. Against whom? It was a huge honor to be asked to write a book for USC and all Trojan fans. I loved visiting the campus, kicking the post on Trousdale, becoming immersed in the traditions of the drum major, The Spirit of Troy, touring Heritage Hall. There was a great story to tell. It would almost write itself. But who would the Trojans play? Who would they defeat on the field, in the book? How about … arch rival Notre Dame, the choice of the director of licensing and likely legions of Trojans fans. ( Either them or the Bruins, but we had our team.)

That’s when my story about how to bring two rivals together begins. When you publish a book using the brand of a great college football team you don’t just replicate the jerseys and the traditions. Permission comes in the form of a licence. I had a licence with USC. We were good to go – crimson and gold. I did not have a licence with Notre Dame. The process to get one is long. So my options were? Here’s where asking nicely actually still works today.

I asked. The interim director of licensing at Notre Dame entertained the idea of the Fighting Irish playing USC in my little children’s book and losing. We sent her rough illustrations as work on the USC book progressed. We sent the text of the story so that she could see the context in which Notre Dame was playing this football game. She approved. Wow. How fortunate were we. Now, we had a story with two great college football teams and permission to use their famous jerseys and logos and what was in it for Notre Dame? Really, nothing.

Fast forward a year. Our book, Always a Trojan, has been for sale at the campus bookstore, at the LA Festival of Books, through Vroman’s bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, afanforlife.com and now Fanatics on line. One thousand copies went out to little members of the Trojans Kids Club this fall.

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As my business grows I apply for more college licences. One I am keen to secure – Notre Dame. All colleges I apply to offer me a licence. Feeling very fortunate. The last approval: from the University of Notre Dame. Now, to write a kids book, get a team to lose ….

The Director of Licensing for USC saw this writing on the wall long ago. Before Always a Trojan was  started, he suggested to me that every college team would like a book. I loved his vision! So, when Notre Dame agreed to a children’s picture book for the Fighting Irish we had the approval of USC to be the losers. As long as they didn’t lose too badly. Seemed fair to me. Thank you to the folks at these two great schools for playing along in the spirit of a children’s book. They didn’t have to but they did. Today Fighting Irish Fans for Life is selling at the Hammes Bookstore on campus, Barnes & Noble, Fanatics, Amazon.com and afanforlife.com and our reach is growing.

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This football season and next – impossible for me to pick a team, of course. Cheering for them both! Play Like a Champion Today. And, Fight On!

 

 

 

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“Do you know who I am?”

 

Hockey has as strong a heartbeat in Chicago as anywhere the game is played. It’s never in doubt that the Chicago Blackhawks annual fan fest will draw 10, 000 fans to its celebration every summer. And those fans come from everywhere….from Ohio and Wisconsin and small town Ontario.

We were here last year when the Stanley Cup and the players on that winning team were in the house. The house being the Chicago Hilton turned Blackhawks Central. The sales of our book for these fans as well as our NHL Mascots & Friends book were crazy! It was an easy decision to return. That, plus all the fun we had with generations of fans of the team with arguably the best jerseys in the league, and always a great shot at the Cup. This year, even without the Cup, they came. No kidding!

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The players, coaches, Tommy Hawk were all here. So, too, famous Blackhawks from years, even decades ago.  And new players, too:

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They lined up for them all.

And we met the youngest fans in the house! The ones who were well on their way to becoming fans for life:

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I made my way through the crowd to get a sandwich and stood watching a news channel while lunch was being made. A voice behind me said, “So Donald Trump’s announced his choice of his running mate.”

“Yes, I replied. I’m from Canada. I guess I shouldn’t really comment but we’re watching all of this with interest.”

“Do you know who I am?” the elderly gentleman asks after he orders his coffee. (I notice there will be no charge for coffee for him.)

“No.” is the only reply I can give.

“ I’m Pierre Pilote,” he says.

I tell him I know who he is by his name, the Blackhawks famous defenseman. Also that I’ve talked to many folks that day who’ve stopped to buy my children’s book, The HOME Team Chicago Blackhawks, and mentioned how excited they were to have just secured an autograph from Pierre Pilote. He tells me how much he enjoys signing them and chatting with all of the fans, too.

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( Here’s his name in the program, among the who’s who of Hawks history, right where it belongs.)

“You should buy my book!” he says.

“You should buy mine, too!” I say. We both laugh. Then he turns away as the woman beside me exclaims, “You’re Pierre Pilote!”

I may not have recognized the great Blackhawk from the past but it’s as sure a bet as I’ve ever made, that won’t happen to Pierre Pilote, not here on this day, again!

 

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Hockey doesn’t Holiday

 

The outdoor ice may have melted but the game is far from gone. It’s mid-summer and hockey hasn’t gone to the beach – not in the minds of fans or in the mentality of the teams as they deal for better results on the ice in the coming season. And especially not for players signing new contracts that might involve moving to another country if you’re PK Subban or Shea Weber.

Hockey’s on our mind too. That’s what our conversation is about at the summer markets where we meet fans young and old and hear their stories of how close their team came to winning the Stanley Cup this year … or not!

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In June we talked NHL hockey in Regina at Bazaart on the lawns of the wonderful MacKenzie Art Gallery. ( And of course we talked football in the land of Rider Nation. I was happy to tell fans our fourth Rider book, The ALWAYS Team Home Sweet Home will be out soon!) Fans bought books for their kids and their neighbour’s kids and for relatives and friends in places as far from home as Korea and Vietnam. Who says team loyalty doesn’t travel? We sold books for Blackhawks and Rider fans in Chicago! It warms my heart on a warm summer day to envision The HOME Team and The ALWAYS Team books taking flights to fans around the world.

Late June it was the West Edmonton Mall on a Saturday afternoon where throngs of kids were celebrating the end of the school year in the mall’s pool or on the indoor skating rink. And some kids will be reading while school’s out too, including Noah whose parents bought him a story about his favourite NHL team.

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Noah may be too little to do more than look at the illustrations today but soon, maybe just in time for their next Stanley Cup victory, he’ll be reading The HOME Team Edmonton Oilers to his Mom and Dad.

Yukon, Northwest Territories, just like the boy in our stories, I seized the opportunity when it was presented! A maybe once in a lifetime visit to Canada’s north. And now, afanforlife’s books will find fans in the NWT through the city’s great local book store, too.

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We left summer in city for the Canmore Mountain Market, nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where the wind blows, (hold onto your tent!) the sun shines and it rains, all in a few hours. In a tourist destination like this folks strolling by our little table of books under the red tent have come from around the world. A young teacher who played hockey in Europe buys books for his Grade 1 class. How nice is that?

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If it’s July, it’s time for the rustic Millarville Market and our first time here in the beautiful foothills but we’ll be back on many Saturdays throughout the summer and fall. Among the jewelry artisans, the food vendors, the artists, here we are: It’s great fun talking hockey in this venue too! Although Alberta has two NHL teams, we find plenty of new homes for books of every team – the Rangers, the Penguins, the Canadiens, the Predators, the Canucks….etc! And half a dozen of those books are in the hands of two families from Texas. They’ll make their way across the border in the suitcases of young fans. Maybe they’ll be read on the plane or in the car on the long trip home. These are the memories I make, too. Hockey in the summer, our books about your team, among the market stalls of honey and organic vegetables and bison jerky.

Summertime is the perfect time to share our passion for the game, to imagine how exciting the new season will be….if only the team makes the right decisions, signs the right players this time …if only.

In the summer, the conversation goes, the Stanley Cup 2017 could be anybody’s; could be –  YOUR home team!

 

 

 

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BORN A FAN … FOR LIFE

IT IS ONE OF THE GREATEST PLEASURES IN WHAT I DO: I’M AT A BOOK SIGNING OR REVIEWING AN ORDER ON LINE FOR A BOOK FOR A LITTLE PERSON WHO, NOT ONLY DOESN’T PLAY HOCKEY OR FOOTBALL YET, THEY DON’T READ. THEY DON’T EVEN SPEAK. AND THEY CERTAINLY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT BEING A SPORTS FAN. THAT’S BECAUSE THEY AREN’T EVEN BORN!

BUT, MOM OR DAD, GRANDMA OR GRANDPA HAS GOT THIS COVERED. LITTLE EMMA OR JACK IS A FAN OF THE ( YOUR TEAM HERE) BY VIRTUE OF BIRTH – BEING BORN, SOON, INTO A FAMILY WHERE SPORTS TEAM LOYALTY JUST COMES WITH THE TERRITORY.

THIS …..IS MY GRANDSON.

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HE IS 6 DAYS OLD. ( YES, HE’S BEAUTIFUL. THANK YOU. AND MUCH LOVED.) AND – HE’S GOT TEAMS! HIS FATHER’S, HIS GRANDFATHER’S, HIS UNCLE’S TOO. YOU CAN BE SURE THEY CAN HARDLY WAIT TO TAKE HIM TO “THE GAME.” HIS T-SHIRTS WITH THE TEAM LOGOS ARE ALREADY IN HIS CLOSET. SO THIS MAKES BABIES ” MY PEOPLE” IN MY BUSINESS KIND OF WAY. THEY’RE GREAT CUSTOMERS, IF YOU WILL, FOR CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS WRITTEN FOR YOUNG FANS. THEY MAY DECIDE, SOONER OR LATER, TO EMBRACE THE TEAM OF FAMILY LOYALTY, OR NOT. I ALSO FREQUENTLY MEET CHILDREN WHO SURPRISE EVERYONE BY DECLARING, ” NO, I WANT THAT BOOK,” POINTING TO THE RIVAL TEAM! MAYBE IT’S A SUPERSTAR PLAYER OR THE FUNNY MASCOT THAT DOES IT.

AND SO IT BEGINS….AND, ONE DAY, OF COURSE, ENDS. THAT CHOSEN LIFELONG TEAM LOYALTY REALLY DOES LAST…A LIFETIME. TAKE THIS SATURDAY’S LOCAL PAPER AND ITS ANNOUNCEMENT OF SOMEONE’S PASSING WITH THE LINE, HIGH UP IN THE PARAGRAPHS ABOUT A MAN’S LIFE: ” HE LOVED THE CALGARY FLAMES.” A DEVOTION TO TEAM THAT WAS IMPORTANT ENOUGH AND SAID ENOUGH ABOUT THIS ONE PERSON THAT IT RATED HIGH MENTION IN THE STORY OF HIS LIFE. THE GREAT JOY AND THE ANGUISH, TO BE SURE, OF BEING A SPORTS FAN, MARKED IN THE TELLING OF A LIFE’S JOURNEY. AND, I BET, FEW REGRETS FOR HAVING GONE ALONG WITH THAT TEAM FOR THE RIDE.

YES, YOU WOULD KNOW BY NOW, THAT I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO CHEER FOR “THE HOME TEAM” ALONGSIDE THE NEWEST LITTLE ONE IN MY LIFE. I GUESS I’LL JUST HOPE HE’LL BE CHEERING FOR THE SAME SIDE!

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A President, a Prime Minister and the Politics of Hockey!

They play hockey, don’t they, on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border? Apparently, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada both love the game. No surprise. But maybe a little unexpected, the number of  times the game was mentioned when relatively new PM Justin Trudeau made his official visit to the White House today! 

In the late spring one team claims the Stanley Cup. The current champions just happen to be President Obama’s team, his beloved Chicago Blackhawks. And so, he said so. Made a point of it. The Stanley Cup is in the U.S.A.  Trudeau acknowledged the fact, while adding another – that Canadians Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and (former Hawk) Patrick Sharp are Canadian exports to that Chicago Blackhawks winning 2015 team. It was jock talk in a formal setting.

Secretary of State John Kerry chose hockey in his speech welcoming the Prime Minister too, joking that their enjoyment of  hockey was what he and the youthful leader of Canada have in common.

” He has a favourability rating that is equal to that of Wayne Gretzky and Rachel McAdams and well ahead of Justin Bieber,” Kerry said. ( Hockey fans might have been remembering the day in 2011 when then U.S. Senator Kerry arrived at a White House ceremony honouring that year’s Stanley Cup champions, his Boston Bruins, sporting two black eyes he received in a recent hockey game with family.)

So afanforlife.com sent the President a copy of our book The HOME Team Chicago Blackhawks today; the Prime Minister  The Home Team book for the Leafs, the Habs, NHL Mascots & Friends ( for the youngest member of the family ) and The HOME Team Chicago Blackhawks, Canada’s other team! John Kerry gets The HOME Team Boston Bruins, of course.

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Hockey brings us together. Rivalry is good. Lifelong team loyalty, too. I’ll remember today’s White House exchange when I’m in Chicago this summer to join more than ten thousand fans for the 9th Annual Chicago Blackhawks Fan Fest in the President’s home town. I’ll enjoy personally writing the names of little fans whose parents or grandparents, aunt or uncle just bought them their own copy of The HOME Team book ensuring, as much as possible, that this is their team forever! And that’s whether the players this next generation cheers for come from the state next door or a province a country away.    

 

 

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#THEGATHERING2016

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This is what we arrived to in the morning. This would be the place where we’d reinforce our passion for what we do – beer marketers, HR managers, sneaker and sunglass manufacturers, sports team promoters, furniture makers, yoga pants sellers, smart car fleet managers, ultimate fighting defenders, bed and breakfast suppliers, and, did I say, marketers? Strong messages, entertaining presentations from the folks who steer the world’s cult brands. Who devise the strategies that sell the products and create brand loyalty that leads to a cult following. Thinkers and schemers. More ideas swirling around than maybe anywhere else in, at least Alberta, at this time. A theme and a thread in all that is said:

Find the passion in what you do, the passion in your customers, listen, deliver on what you say you will.

Be disruptive. Don’t advertise. You can take over the world. See the mountain top. Aim there.

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CATFISH AND A PIE IN THE FACE, PLEASE: NASHVILLE HERE WE COME

SOUTHERN HOCKEY, SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY. THAT’S A COMBINATION I’M READY TO MEET!

HOCKEY’S STARS WILL SHINE IN NASHVILLE THIS MONTH WHEN THE HONDA ALL-STAR GAME COMES TO TENNESSEE, THE HOME OF THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS. ON PAPER, THE EXCITEMENT LOOKS LIKE THIS:

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THE GUY WITH ALL OF THE PIES IS … GNASH. THE HOME TEAM’S MASCOT. JUST LIKE FANS WHO LIKE TO WHIRL A CATFISH ON THE ICE, HE WILL NOT HESITATE TO FIND A PIE TO MEET YOUR FACE!  GNASH ( WITHE THE SABRE TEETH) MEET ADAM, SEASON TICKET HOLDER AND FAN EXTRAORDINAIRE:

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AND WHAT’S THAT THEY’RE HOLDING? THAT’S NO PIE, THAT OUR NHL LICENSED CHILDREN’S BOOK, NHL MASCOTS & FRIENDS. I’LL BE READING THIS LITTLE BOOK AT THE ALL-STAR FAN FEST EVERY DAY FROM THURSDAY TO SATURDAY NIGHT AT MUSIC CITY CENTER AS WELL AS ALL OF OUR THE HOME TEAM BOOKS. THERE’S ONE FOR NASHVILLE PREDATORS FANS TOO! COME MEET ME. I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU. BRING THE KIDS. CELEBRATE YOUR TEAM. IF YOU LIKE OUR STORIES, MAYBE BUY A BOOK :) SEE YOU THERE …

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Harvey Steals the Show

 

 

 

 

 

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MAYBE IT’S THE TONGUE? THERE IS DEFINITELY SOMETHING ABOUT….HARVEY.

HARVEY THE HOUND, THE FUN-LOVING MASCOT OF THE CALGARY FLAMES. I LOVED THAT HE STOPPED TO HAM IT UP BESIDE HIS IMAGE IN OUR BOOK, NHL MASCOTS & FRIENDS. WE TOOK LIBERTY WITH HIS TONGUE. ( IT’S HARD TO IGNORE :) IT’S WHAT YOU SEE FIRST, ISN’T IT? IT’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CALGARY AT THE MAX BELL ARENA WHERE THOUSANDS, ELEVEN THOUSAND YOUNG HOCKEY PLAYERS ORGANIZERS SAY, COME TOGETHER FOR ESSO MINOR HOCKEY WEEK. THAT’S A SPECTACLE. WE WERE HAPPY TO BE THERE, TOO, THANKS TO HOCKEY CALGARY, SELLING OUR SERIES THE HOME TEAM CALGARY FLAMES AND OTHER TEAMS TOO! WE SIGNED BOOKS FOR CAEDEN AND GORD, BENNY AND ALI AND GILLIAN. FOR THE VANDERBURG FAMILY AND JAXON, WHO CHEERS FOR THE OILERS. SO DOES LUKE. STEPH BOUGHT A BOOK FOR HERSELF: GO HABS! THE FUN WAS MOSTLY ON THE ICE. ( OH AND IN RACING AROUND THE STANDS FOR THE LITTLE ONES THERE TO CHEER ON THEIR OLDER BROTHERS AND SISTERS, KIND OF.) AND THANK YOU HARVEY FOR HAVING TIME FOR EVERY ONE OF THEM….INCLUDING ME!

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