Monday, March 30, 2009

Worcester Sharks Win Big While Losing Game

So I wake up this morning after a late night watching the Worcester Sharks, Minor League hockey game, and I jump on the lap top. I'm still stoked from last night's game.

I pour myself a bowl of Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries in honor of some of the bone crunching hits I saw at the game. I throw Warren Zevon, "Hit Somebody" into the CD player and I begin to recreate the excitement and the over all awesome event my family had just experienced.

Before I begin waxing poetic about the top notch brand of hockey we saw, I want to share a personal experience that was the precursor to writing this story.

Aside from my passion for writing sports, I'm a Customer Service Wizard. Much of my successful career outside of this Fantasy World we call Sports has been spent satisfying customers.

The phrase "The Customer Is Always Right, Even When They Are Wrong" has earned me more than my fair share of Franklins, while at the same time turning many a case of heartburn into volumes of success stories.

Well this story begin about a week ago when I bought 10 tickets to two upcoming games at the DCU Center involving the Worcester Sharks. We had been a few weeks before and the Sharks office placed a follow up call to see how we enjoyed our first game (GOLD STAR No. 1).

We had enjoyed it immensely. We sat at center ice right behind the bench, so close I was concerned that the kids and I would be showered with ice as each player whisked by.

We had enjoyed making new friends with season ticket holders and had even enjoyed chatting with the very friendly usher who calls Section 123 his home.

Upon receiving the follow up call, I bought the 10 tickets. Five for last night and five for their season ending regular season bout with the Providence Bruins.

I told Kate and our son, Dakota, about the tickets and I thought Dakota was going to kiss me for the first time (I'm the step Dad and kisses and hugs are just becoming common place). He asked if he could bring two buddies and we agreed.

Long story short...My credit card was double charged and I went BONKERS! I called my ticket sales dude and was ready to do a Cam Neely through the telephone.

But wait...I was greeted with a calm, cool and collected voice who told me, "Mr. Civin. You are our customer and we will find out what occurred. I highly doubt it was on our end but we will certainly find out ASAP and call you back."

I hung up. Almost disappointed. I wanted to fight. I had dropped the gloves, thrown down my stick, took out my two front teeth and I was ready to dance. I even shoved a fist in the whimp's face and he skated away. Smiling.

Within minutes I received the following email from the CFO of the Sharks. SAY WHAT??? Not an email from the bottom feeder but an email from the Top of the Food Chain?

It said,"Thank you for the patience that you have shown throughout this process. ("The process took all of an hour, I thought"........) I can say with full confidence that the Worcester Sharks have only been paid one payment of $130.00. Unfortunately your bank, citing privacy regulations, will not speak with me regarding your account....With all of that being said, you are a Sharks ticket holder and are very important to us. Obviously I cannot refund money that we did not receive but should you not get this straightened out with your bank, I, in good faith, will credit your Sharks account the full $130.00 so you can use that towards the purchase of tickets either this year or next. "

"Please keep me posted on your results, we appreciate your business and we all are VERY concerned that this happened."

"Holy Bobby Orr Slap Shot", I thought. A hat trick. An Over Time Goal on a shoot out. The Holy Grail of Customer Experiences. Where do I sign up? I'm sold!

To make a long story, even a bit longer, it was indeed a bank error, which was quickly rectified by conventional means and we all lived happily ever after. I have since purchased playoff tickets and am on my hands and knees groveling to my wife to let me buy season tickets for next year.

The moral of the story is one I learned early on in Customer Service..."If you treat someone poorly, they are likely to tell ten of their friends. If you treat someone nicely, they may tell one."

Me, being the over achiever that I profess to be, am compelled to stand atop the roof tops and tell the world...BUY YOUR PLAYOFF TICKETS NOW...

(My Dad, the traveling salesman taught me...."He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well, is not so apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers.")

And that brings us to the Main Event..The reason why I sat down to tell this tale to begin with.

We got to the DCU Center in Worcester ready for action. I had been singing the praises of the fine quality of hockey we'd seen at our last game when I brought our daughter and two of her friends. We had seen a fight filled contest, with hard checking and lots of scoring.

The game exhibited a much higher brand of hockey than I had anticipated. My daughters left ready to blacken their teeth they were so pumped up after the game. I sense they went expecting to see the Ice Capades, but instead so "Disney on Ice with Checking."

The Sharks are the American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. The Mother Team on the left coast is currently sitting atop of the NHL with 109 points and are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

San Jose frequently dips into the Worcester roster to pluck top players to supplement their major league roster and I was concerned that the level of hockey would suffer due to the farm team arrangement. Was I wrong.

Though the San Jose team has shared such Worcester stars as Tom Cavanagh, Ryan Vesce, Rile Armstrong, Jamie McGinn, Thomas Greiss, Lukas Kaspar, Mike Moore, Derek Joslin, fan favorite, Brad Staubitz and former NHL tough guy Claude Lemeiux, the level of hockey was far superior to the few college games that I had attended.

Was it the Bruins? No. But for about 1/10th the price it was money well spent.

From the second we strolled into the DCU Center we were entertained. It happened to be "Be a Leader" Night so we were greeted by mascots from all the local teams. "FINZ", the Sharks Mascot, had invited his friends from the Worcester Tornadoes, The Holy Cross Crusaders, The Boston Breakers Female Soccer Team and several of the other AHL teams. Dakota, and his two buds grinned toothless hockey grins from ear to ear.

Once inside the friendly confines the boys could choose from Slap Shot Shooting, to Face Painting, to getting autographs from Worcester Tornado and Boston Breakers stars, both of whom are ready to kick off their seasons.

I had told the family that our seats were up in the Nose Bleed section. "All we can afford guys with the economy the way it is." The boys were disappointed, but tried to be appreciative. "Half the fun is just being here, Todd." I looked at Kate and she at me. We smirked.

After loading the kids up on dogs, pizza, cotton candy and an icee, Kate and I treated ourselves to a glass of Pinot and a beer and a delicious plate of Penne pasta in a wine sauce, as well as, a Roast Beef Panini with chips and a pickle. We sat near the beautiful oak bar while a Jazz Orchestra entertained us with a selection of hot jazz tunes. No, no one spiked my Kool Aid...I'm serious.

The kids, Kate and I were amply nourished and headed for our seats in "The Nose Bleed Section." Not so fast. For the whopping price of $13.50 (slightly discounted from the regular price of about $17.00, since we bought 10 tickets for two games), we had seats in the third row behind the teams benches. I sat in section 123, row HH, seat 11. The center ice line would have dissected me in half had it been allowed to continue off the ice.

Upon looking at my program, I pointed out that Saturday night was Family Night where the Sharks offer 4 tickets, 4 hotdogs and 4 sodas for $61.00 or less than the price of a medium priced seat for the Bruins.

The kids eyes were the size of a Zdeno Chara slap shot, as the usher brought us to our seats. Tim, our ticket sales person, had arranged to have us sit right next to Bruce and Diane Paine, who have been Sharks ticket holders since the franchise moved to Worcester (actually since the days the DCU was home to the Worcester Ice Cats).

"Where else can we go every Friday or Saturday night and get this type of entertainment," said the affable Paine. "And it's a great place to bring the whole family", added Diane. "It's a real family night out for cheap money."

From the dropping of the opening puck, the hockey was intense. I boasted to the boys that they will see NHL type hockey and they were not disappointed. The checking was bone crunching, the skating fast and the battles were hard fought.

With the "Woosification" of sports of late with steroids and rule changes it was exciting to see clean, young, natural hard bodies going to battle with each other.

Though I love the fighting aspect of any game, I explained to the boys as well as the kids around us, that the fighting is not because the players dislike each other or are even really mad. The fighting is part of the battle. The test of strength. The quest for territory and domination of your opponent. I think even Kate appreciated the sport more once she knew that "ooooh, they are trying to kill each other" didn't really mean that.

In between periods we were entertained by music, mascots and the tossing of t-shirts into the crowd by the on ice Shark's Ice Team. A special treat for the kids was the tossing of stuffed animals onto the ice when the Sharks scored their first goal.

Though they were to be shut out 1-0 on this night there were two nullified scores so the kids prematurely tossed "FINZ" and other stuffed animals onto the ice in celebration.

As I mentioned, "Our New Favorite" team lost that game, but did they really? The Civin clan, clan, plus two friends had enjoyed a wonderful night with the Sharks. For less than the price of dinner at the 99 we had seen a great brand of hockey and had a wonderful entertainment experience.

The boys fell asleep in the car on the way home. I had the recap going on the radio and Katie looked over at me and smiled. "You know, in this economy we may not be able to do all the things we normally do, but I appreciate you for taking us all out."

I took out my front teeth and smiled. I knew I had scored, despite the fact that the Sharks were shut out. I kinda think the Sharks and their organization scored a big victory, too.

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