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If you were among those who attended hockey games at the Coliseum in the 1990s you would attest that that the Chill was more than a unique sports experience. In the inaugural season one publication described it as a cross between ballet and murder. That quote always stuck with me as fitting (see headlines and sub text of our initial ad campaign both emphasizing and spoofing hockey’s aggressive image) of the balancing act we were trying to walk.
One of the things that made our organization special was we were willing to take calculated risks with our aggressive marketing approach. When we were at our best it seemed as though we teetered on the edge of something that was either going to be brilliant or a complete disaster. My favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen, described his legendary live performances as part dance party, part spiritual revival, and all rock and roll. That’s what we wanted to emulate. Combine the raw energy of the on ice product with the spirit of a vibrant side show act, packed into the tight confines of the battle worn Fairgrounds Coliseum and we’d have something special. Little did we know just how special it would be!
In the summer of 2009, I approached Craig Merz, who covered the Chill for the Columbus Dispatch, about the idea of a book. We agreed that the Chill’s story is among the most unique in minor league sports history and one that had to be told.
Having never written a book, we found it really difficult, but well worth it. It’s taken us more than four years to write the book, go through a dozen or so revisions, search for publishers, and collaborate with a professional sports book editor to put us in position to release a product that we hope you feel has captured the excitement and fun of what made the Chill experience so incredibly unique.
The Chill book (title to come) has several intertwined story lines. First, how the franchise unexpectedly exploded on the sports scene long dominated by Ohio State and the love at first sight relationship between the fans and the team. Second, the quirky character of the franchise; from a gregarious coach named Rosco, to a spirited player named Smurf, to the Fat Lady, to the Mad Cows, there was always an unpredictable element that made the Chill in a word … fun! Third, the behind-the-scenes method that went into creating the madness. Finally, the Chill’s role in building a fandom that caught national attention, and in turn allowed the Chill to play a leading role in driving the need for a Downtown arena issue, and ultimately a NHL expansion team for Columbus.
The Chill’s lasting impact on the Columbus is undeniable. Need proof? Look at the emergence of Central Ohio as a hotbed at the national level youth hockey development hotbed. Need more? The Chill (and its fans) are among those you can thank anytime you go to the Arena District to attend a Blue Jackets or Clippers game, any of the numerous events at Nationwide or got to one of the dozens of restaurants and bars in the area.
We plan to release The Book in the fall (we will reveal the name later in typical Chill style). This spring, to peak your interest we will release 27 chapter summaries (through www.columbuschill.net), one chapter every Friday, for 27 weeks. Also, in the next few days we will ask you to answer a series of questions and if all goes well will include some of your comments in the final version of the book.
We look forward to hearing what you think. To stir your memory, remember that April 4 will mark the 15th anniversary of the Chill’s last game in the Coliseum. Has it really been that long?