Sometime over the next couple of weeks, 500,000 Komets pocket schedules will be distributed to just about every business located in a town within an hour drive time of the Memorial Coliseum. Politicians wish they could get this kind of coverage with their campaign flyers.
Pocket schedules might just be the greatest marketing tool ever used by a Fort Wayne business. They are free, easy to find and almost everybody wants one. Until the rules changed, almost every kid who grew up in Fort Wayne received them at school when players came to talk.
When the Komets first organized in 1952, they handed out schedules listing only the home games. No one is exactly sure when the team first starting using comprehensive pocket schedules, Komets Executive Vice President and Co-Owner Scott Sproat's mother Julia gave him one from 1956-57. In the days when men wore jackets and ties to the games, it would fit into a shirt pocket and worked with a sliding board.
Former Komets goaltender Chuck Adamson remembers Komets' Business Manager Colin Lister handing him a bundle of pocket schedules late one summer during the early 1960s and telling him to hand them out at Fruehauf Trailer Company where Adamson worked in the summer. Those schedules were smaller and would fit into a wallet.
Keefer Printing started developing the smaller pocket schedules in the early 1960s, according to current owner Rick Keefer who was a young teenager at the time.
``I was working here part-time then and the part that involved the Komets I was very intune with,'' Keefer, now 61, said. ``I'd sit down with Colin and Bob (Chase) when he was doing the marketing, and we had red and black in the early 1060s. We were still printing black and white programs through the early 1960 and in the last 1960s and early 1970s started using color.''
Keefer started out sitting on his mother's lap during the first game in 1952 and still sits in the same area behind the home bench today. He said the Komets printed about 30,000 programs per year, and between 20,000 and 30,000 pocket schedules.
Now the Komets, and Excel Color Graphics, far exceed that total. Pocket schedules this will year start going out sometime this week to any business with a walk-through clientele that will accept them.
``Literally, we try to take them anywhere that there's foot traffic, to every single retail location within an hour of Fort Wayne,'' Sproat said. ``How close we come to that, I don't know.''
They get lucky with some partners. Krogers, Meijers and Wendy's ask that the schedules be dropped off a corporate headquarters and then they distribute them to individual stores. The rest are usually handled by interns working for the Komets.
Some businesses, between 60 and 100 per year by Sproat's estimate, call asking for more. The Komets have no way to track the effectiveness of pocket schedules or even to estimate how many are actually used. Now, they are just expected to be available.
The hardest part of designing one is finding the room to squeeze all the information in. Along with the 72-game schedule, this year the Komets are providing the logos of all 23 ECHL teams. There's also the usual guide to in-game promotions such as Chuck-a-puck, post-game skates and season-ticket exchange nights.
The cover design was easy, a picture of Colin Chaulk lifting the Central Hockey League's Ray Miron Presidents' Cup over his head last May.
``When you win a championship, it takes care of itself because you throw up a guys holding the cup up,'' Sproat said. ``If it's an anniversary year, you use the logo. It's one of those things that we worry a lot about, probably more than is necessary. At the end of the day we could probably put a Komet logo on a black background with the word schedule on it and it would accomplish the same thing.''
But then they wouldn't be collector's items.
This ear tried to get all the new logos of the teams, ECHL map, This year pushing the new website and team store. Also trying to push college night promotion this year. Game time and date, when the chuck a puck, bobble head night, there's just a tone of information crammed into a very little space and there's only so much you can do sometimes.
``It's a lot like going fishing in a pond, and instead of throwing out one line you are throwing out 50,'' Sproat said.
More like 500,000, and usually, they catch quite a bit.