By Andy Kent
Copyright © 2005 Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. – History has been made within the Florida Everblades organization this week as the ECHL club saw one of its own make the jump directly to the National Hockey League.
Sammy Wallace, ticket manager for the Everblades and Germain Arena, was hired to do the same job for the Florida Panthers and the Office Depot Center across Alligator Alley in Sunrise. His last day at Germain is Friday and he will start his new job Monday.
“The way I worded it to our employees here is he had a chance to move to the majors and we’ll never stop someone from moving up,” said Everblades team president and general manager Craig Brush, who also is the arena president. “He’s a seasoned guy who’s done a great job for us and knows what he’s doing. He’ll be fine.”
Brush filled the two positions Wallace was responsible for with in-house promotions Wednesday, naming group sales manager Nathan Gosline director of sales and promoting Sandy Moskal from box office supervisor to box office manager.
Gosline will oversee season ticket sales, corporate sales and group sales and Moskal, entering her eighth season, will be in charge of all aspects involving the Germain Arena box office.
Wallace, 34, has been in his current position for two full seasons with the Everblades and was in the Orlando market with two different teams in two different leagues before that — the Solar Bears of the now-defunct International Hockey League and the Seals of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League.
Although a chance to move up to the top professional hockey league in the world might seem like a no-brainer to most, Wallace actually had to take some time to think about it before accepting the Panthers job. That’s how much he cherished his time in Estero.
“They offered the job and it was a difficult decision for me to make quite honestly, even though it is the NHL, because I do like this market,” Wallace said Monday as he tried to tie up some loose ends in the Germain ticket office. “But I just felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up at this point in my career.
“And I can’t complain about the pay.”
Chad Johnson, the Panthers’ senior vice president of sales and marketing, had heard of Wallace before around the close-knit hockey community but was introduced to him by another event coordinator. The job he wound up hiring Wallace for first became available two months ago.
Johnson and the Panthers were looking for somebody who had experience dealing with ticket sales for sporting events and concerts and other types of entertainment. He found that in Wallace, with the hockey background being another added bonus.
“I spent about five years with the Lightning and we thought highly of the Blades’ organization,” Johnson said by phone from his Sunrise office. “We were down there quite a bit for exhibition games and other events. Sammy’s hiring couldn’t come at a better time.
“(Tuesday) was our biggest day for season ticket sales in the last five years (200 new packages sold).”
The new salary structure in the NHL stands to benefit teams like the Panthers, who constantly lost out on big-name free agents under the previous collective bargaining agreement.
Monday’s signings of veteran forwards Joe Nieuwendyk, a four-time All-Star, and Gary Roberts had an immediate impact on ticket sales.
Even though he now has 13,000 more seats to try to fill, Wallace is excited about the challenge that lies ahead, and feels confident he will be able to deliver in a South Florida market that has been tough to please.
“Obviously, I would have loved to have won that lottery and gotten Sidney Crosby (the top draft pick who went to Pittsburgh),” Wallace said. “But they did sign two quality veterans in Roberts and Nieuwendyk, two veterans they couldn’t have gotten before. …
“It’s a great building and a phenomenal market and I think they’re really one of the prototype markets for this new salary structure.”
In other front-office moves, Joshua Schwinghammer was promoted from advertising and promotions coordinator to director of marketing and Ethan May was hired as a new account executive after serving in the same capacity for the Reading Royals the last two years.