Junior A hockey team hires marketing guru
Janesville’s Junior A hockey franchise, which faces one last hurdle at tonight’s city council meeting, announced today that John McCally will be the team’s general manager of hockey operations.
“John is a sales and marketing guy,” said Bill McCoshen of Wisconsin Hockey Partners. “He’s been selling in the market successfully. I like John’s background. He’s a former player. He knows hockey.”
McCally, 45, has worked with Beloit’s RiverFest, the Beloit International Film Festival, the Beloit/Janesville Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Wisconsin AirFEST.
But he also is a dyed-in-the-wool hockey fanatic.
“I think it’s the greatest sport in the world,” said McCally, who grew up in Rochester, Minn., laced on skates for the first time at age 3 and later led Mayo High School to the Minnesota state semifinals.
McCally played goaltender for that team. One of his teammates was Jim Johannson, who played for Wisconsin from 1982-86, made the roster for the U.S. Olympic team in 1988 and 1992 and is now an executive director for USA Hockey.
“That was really a big thing,” McCally said of Rochester Mayo’s trip to state, especially in a hockey-mad state like Minnesota.
“It was crazy,” McCally said. “We beat Burnsville, Minn., at the old Met Center to qualify for state.”
McCally then played four years of varsity hockey at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
“We are thrilled to have someone with John’s vast business and brand-building background,” said McCoshen, managing partner of the franchise ownership group. “Not only is John a smart businessperson with great contacts throughout Rock County and beyond, his successful hockey career in the high school and college levels will be very beneficial to our team and the players themselves.”
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” said McCally, a divorced father of two daughters. “I think people are going to be very excited about this franchise. I have a great passion for this sport.
“What we need to communicate is the quality of Junior A hockey. There will be quality players from throughout Wisconsin playing on this Janesville team. They will be working hard trying to get Division I scholarships. I think people who come out and check it out will be impressed with the hockey.
“The ticket pricing will be affordable. I think Janesville and the surrounding area is looking for something that’s a real positive. I’m impressed with Bill McCoshen and his Wisconsin Hockey Partners.”
McCally’s work organizing and marketing the team will begin immediately.
In conjunction with this hiring, the organization also announced that it wants the community to pick the team’s name as part of a special naming contest.
McCally’s first major action has been to create a temporary Web site for the team, which is scheduled to be online Tuesday. The address will be www.janesvillenahl.com. Fans will be asked to make suggestions for the team’s nickname.
A person who provides the final chosen team name will receive four complimentary season tickets, a team jersey signed by the inaugural players, and the chance to drop the ceremonial puck at the first home game. Complete rules will be posted at the new Web site Tuesday.
An announcement on the team’s coaches and player try-out schedule will be released later this week.
The new Janesville Junior A hockey team will play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). NAHL competition helps players make the transition from midget and high school hockey to college hockey by creating an environment that is highly competitive, encourages skill development and provides time for physical growth and maturity. The team’s season is scheduled to start in early September.
The final hurdle the team must clear will come at tonight’s city council meeting, where members will vote to accept or turn down a recommendation from the Janesville Alcohol Advisory Committee.
“I have a lot of experience in sports marketing,” McCally said. “I heard about the team and contacted Bill. I told him about my passion for hockey as a player and a fan as well as my marketing, public relations and sales experience and contacts in the Rock County area as well as regionally and nationally. I gave him my pitch, and he liked what he heard.”
So just how serious a hockey fan is McCally?
He took it hard when the North Stars moved to Dallas.
“That was a sad day for hockey in Minnesota,” McCally said.
McCally lists the hockey comedy “Slapshot” as one of his three favorite movies. His favorite player of all-time is former Minnesota North Stars goaltender Gump Worsley—the second-to-last goalie in NHL history not to wear a protective mask. And, McCally’s hockey memorabilia collection includes a Terry Sawchuk game-used goalie stick from the 1954 Red Wings’ season.
Now he finds himself at the forefront of a startup hockey team.
“I’ve worn a lot of different hats,” McCally said of his professional background. “I’m confident this team will have the support of the community.”