By Bill Vilona, Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
Captain America is going to be part of the Ice Flyers next biggest theme night.
In a nod to the soaring popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and resurgence of famed comic book characters, the Ice Flyers are producing their first Marvel Super Hero Night on Saturday, as part of a three-game weekend at the Pensacola Bay Center against the Quad City Storm.
Saturday will involve rapid uniform changes. The Ice Flyers are wearing three, specially designed, comic-book hero jerseys – Captain America, Black Panther and Iron Man – in each of the three periods in Saturday’s game.
The proceeds from the Black Panther post-game jersey auction will benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.
“This is a unique and different way for us to be out there in the community and be able to raise awareness and raise dollars simultaneously,” said Paula Shell, the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.
Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris joined the non-profit organization’s board of directors in 2019. He wanted to find a way to be able to connect a game and the team’s fan base with helping area children in need. The Marvel Night became a match.
“It is so popular right now,” said Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris, referring to the Marvel comic book heroes. “It’s going to be a fun night. I think a lot of fans will really enjoy having a Marvel night here.”
Harris always describes himself as a big kid at heart. This was a viable way to help give back in the community.
“In the short time I’ve been on the Board for the Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve clearly seen how much the staff and Board truly care about the youth of Northwest Florida,” Harris said. “I’m happy we’re connecting Ice Flyers fans with this amazing local organization to help bring further awareness to it, along with helping get more people signed up to be mentors for our local youth and help raise some money for them as well.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is celebrating its 30th year of helping change lives with area children.
“Greg has a passion for helping children,” Shell said. “And he just believes in the mission of what we do to find that potential in children. It was just a good fit for him.
“Of course, one of the things Greg is also passionate about is the Ice Flyers. And I think he thought of how to make the two work. He has also opened the doors for us to be involved in other games down there as well as connecting the players to the mission of Big Brothers.”
This weekend’s games follow the Ice Flyers’ last home weekend, where they attracted more than 14,000 fans in two nights, including a sellout of 8,049 on Jan. 25 for the annual $5 weekend ticket promotion. The residual effect was the economic impact it brought to the downtown area in two nights.
Tickets are normal prices this weekend, but Harris expects sizable crowds. The Ice Flyers are hosting Celebrate Faith Night on Friday with area churches able to buy center ice seats for discounted prices in groups of 20 or more.
On Sunday, the weekend series against Quad City wraps up with First Responders Night with the Ice Flyers offering 35-percent discounts on center-ice seats to all area First Responders personnel and their families.
“We always strive to be a good corporate citizen of Pensacola,” Harris said. “And the $5 weekend and this weekend are ways we can help give back.”
The Ice Flyers (19-6-7) enter this weekend tied with Huntsville for third place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. They are coming off a past week where a game last Thursday against the Macon Mayhem in Macon, Ga. was cancelled due to arena ice surface problems.
The Ice Flyers then split a two-game series against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs in Roanoke, Va.
At home, half of their first 16 games at the Bay Center have gone into overtime. This weekend, along with the following weekend (Feb. 14-15) against Macon present opportunities to gain in the standings against two teams situated in the bottom half.
The ideal of a Marvel Super Hero Night was born from an SPHL owners meeting last year. Harris said that OT Sports, a sports apparel company in Burlington, N.C., presented four different license opportunities with Marvel, Nickelodeon, Mossy Oak and Peanuts.
“We decided to go with all four,” he said. “All 10 teams in our league will be doing these licensed theme nights with jerseys.”
The Ice Flyers are having the Captain America character at Saturday’s game interact with fans and participate in a meet-and-greet reception. All of the elements, including the theme jerseys, were approved by Marvel.
“They provide a catalog. We have to provide our own content,” Harris said. “We send everything to Marvel and they approved it
“There are all these brand guidelines we have to follow. The graphics they give us are just so impactful.”
The impact was noticeable when the Ice Flyers began posting images of the jerseys on their social media sites.
“It has been unbelievable,” he said. “This is prime time in the scheduling here for us. This is when our crowds get pretty big and we’re just looking to having a big crowd and really pack the arena and have a lot of fun.”
And the worthy cause, too.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the civil work of the community,” Shell said. “To do the work, the dollars have to be alongside that. We’re just as excited about being connected with this opportunity and we’re so appreciative to the Ice Flyers and Greg for thinking of us.
“And I know he has opened the night for some (Big Brothers Big Sisters) matches… so they will be there as well. It’s just a fun way to keep Big Brothers Big Sisters and our mission at the forefront of the community’s mind.”