By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
David Cann may lead the Storm with 73 saves going into this weekend, but it was the Toledo community that made the biggest save during the offseason.
The Storm filed for a volunteer suspension of operations on March 30. The team just could not generate enough revenue in the 60-year-old Toledo Sports Arena without a significant increase in ticket sales.
It looked like one of minor league hockey’s most successful cities was going to be without a hockey team.
The Storm front office and coaching staff went into overdrive trying to sell the fact the Storm was a vital part of the community. The goal was to increase season ticket sales from 800 to 1,600.
Though the Storm did not quite reach the goal of 1,600, the response was impressive and strong enough to convince team president Timothy Gladieux to keep the team in the league this season.
The Storm has gotten off to an impressive start in terms of wins and loses, and attendance, going 7-2-1, and averaging 4,072 fans.
Storm general manager Mike Miller felt it would be a huge loss to see the team fade into the shadows after a rich history of minor-league hockey in the city. This is the Storm’s 15th season in the ECHL, during which it has won two ECHL titles and nine other minor-league championships.
“My feeling is Toledo has been one of the best minor-league hockey franchises in the country in the last half century,” said Miller. “We have 11 championship banners hanging from our rafters.”
It was a difficult summer for the Storm, pushing to maintain their existence, but in the end rewarding to confirm the Storm is an important part of Toledo.
“It was a tremendous statement by the community saying we are not letting this go anyplace,” said Miller. “It was a real, real tough summer. We rolled up our sleeves and got after it.”
Miller gave credit to the ECHL office and league president Brian McKenna for not only extending the Storm’s season ticket deadline so they could sell more tickets, but for their general support of the effort.
“Hats off to Brian McKenna,” said Miller. “He showed great support for myself and the staff. He called every day. He showed great leadership.”
It still is a struggle for the Storm as long as they play in the outdated Toledo Sports Arena. Miller knows the Storm have to keep winning and he has to keep selling and hopefully Toledo has to start building a new arena to allow the Storm to survive.
“It still boils down to eventually we will need a new building built here,” said Miller. “Being profitable in a 60-year-old building is very, very tough.”
The Storm look to have one of the better teams in the North Division, which bodes well for ticket sales, because Miller knows all too well what happens if the Storm struggles on the ice.
“If you lose here you are going to have issues,” said Miller who got more than an earful during the Storm’s 23-38-11 campaign in 2003-04.