Itís winter in the Midwest. Youíre sitting and looking over a large expanse of gleaming ice. Suddenly you hear the roar of a v-twin engine, and there is a three-wheeler on the ice. Oddly, the passenger seat is occupied by a horse, and heís carrying a big gun! Is this a weird hallucination or wacky nightmare? Nope. Youíre attending a Missouri Mavericks hockey game. Itís intermission, and Mac, the teamís mascot, is ready to use his air cannon to launch souvenir T-shirts into the audience.
The Mavericks are in their third season in the Central Hockey League and play their home games at the Independence Events Center. Blue Springs Harley-Davidson is one of the teamís main sponsors. The dealership sponsors the teamís cheerleaders known as the Filly Spirit Squad. At several games during the season, the Harley Tri-Glide is on the ice with Mac. At other games, a Harley is on display at a kiosk in the concourse. There are other promotions including one where the video ribbon serves as a roulette wheel selecting one section of spectators to win prizes from the dealership.
This seasonís big promotion involved the selection of six contestants from among the fans who had purchased season tickets for next year. All six received really nice prizes such as a big-screen television, but the grand prize was a new Harley Fat Boy that was presented at the teamís final regular season home game on March 24. Jerry Gallian was the lucky winner.
I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the ďIce TrikeĒ from the horseís mouthóor more accurately from the horseís chauffeurís mouth. I enjoyed a visit with the Blue Springs Harley-Davidson sales associate who is usually the man in the riderís seat when Mac makes his round, namely Scott Branstetter. Scott is also the one who checked me out on the rental trike I rode to the 2010 Sturgis Rally. The interview follows:
CC: Scott, how long has Blue Springs Harley-Davidson been involved with the Mavís?
Scott: The dealership has been a Mavericks sponsor from the start. This is the third season.
CC: Whatís the drill with the trike?
Scott: Usually our run is during the second intermission. Once in a while, itís the first. I head down to the tunnel with about 7 minutes left in the period on the game clock. I find the trike in the tunnel and make sure itís ready to go. When the period ends, Mac gets on, and Amy walks around with us carrying the T-shirts to shoot into the crowd. Mac normally gets off before making a complete lap and goes to help with the chuck-a-puck promotion.
CC: There is a lot of pedestrian traffic.
Scott: Yes, there are other promotions during the intermission, so there are often lots of people on the ice. Several people are needed to set up for chuck-a-puck. Sometimes there are special guests to be introduced. There are photographers. I have to be alert, because braking traction is not good on the ice.
CC: Is there a method to the madness?
Scott: Actually, there is. I have learned that I can use the reflection in the glass to see what is going on behind me. I can hear and feel the cannon going off, so I know itís time to stop and reload. By watching the reflection I can tell when Amy has the canon loaded, and we can roll again. Itís a weird feeling seeing all those people on the other side of the glass, yelling and taking pictures. Since there are nets on the ends, the T-shirts are only fired on the sides. I still ride slowly all the way around, so the people on the ends can get a good look at Mac and the trike.
CC: Any unusual experiences?
Scott: One time last year one of the cheerleaders rode instead of Mac. It was a surprise to me, and it may have been to her also. She hadnít had any practice with the T-shirt cannon. On her first shot, the T-shirt went almost straight up, bounced off the ceiling, and came down right behind the glass. Front row fans usually donít get a chance at T-shirts, and that was really funny. Another shirt was launched into a suite that happened to be empty for that game. Thatís the only time Iíve had a passenger other than Mac. At a recent game, the shirts werenít rolled tight enough, and Amy had trouble getting them loaded, so Mac decided to just toss them over the glass.
CC: Are you always the rider?
Scott: Last year we did it for every game, so it varied quite a bit. This year, since weíre only doing ten games, itís usually been me. Danny has filled in a couple of times. I really enjoy hockey, and I did it the most last year, so I usually get the assignment. I normally represent the dealership at our kiosk also. I enjoy that too. Being a ďpeople personĒ itís fun to do public relations work.
CC: You mentioned celebrities earlier. Have you gotten to meet any of them?
Scott: The theme for one game was Kansas City Sports Night. Several local sports figures were at the game to sign autographs. I met Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker/defensive lineman Bobby Bell. He saw the trike in the tunnel and was really interested. Someone took my picture with him before we went onto the ice.
CC: Thanks for the info, Scott.
Iím a hockey fan and attended several games this season. I wanted to get some good photos to accompany this article, and found it to be a challenging task. The whole process happens pretty fast, so there is only one perspective available at each game. Shooting from the higher areas eliminates the ends because of the nets, but shooting through the glass darkens the photos a bit and creates a little bit of distortion. To get the whole trike in the photo from up high generally requires a telephoto shot from the opposite side of the rink to keep the subject from being obscured by the boards and standing fans, but then both Scott and Mac are usually looking away from the camera. The Mavericks have several alternate uniforms, and Mac becomes a horse of a different color at games when the team changes uni's. Hopefully, the accompanying photos will illustrate what I have described. By the way, the Mavís are enjoying another great season, recently qualifying for post-season play from the third consecutive year.
Article and photos by Stripe
Thanks to Scott Branstetter, Blue Springs Harley-Davidson and the Missouri Mavericks (Patrick Armstrong, Tina Short, and Samantha Watson).