It’s been 16 years (or it will have been) since a hockey team played at the Cow Palace. I don’t mention that simply to make those of you who saw it feel old. As Carol Klatt, Mayor of Daly City said: “16 years is a long time to go without hockey.” Mayor Klatt confessed to being a Blues fan, since she is originally from Missouri. She’s also been back to watch the Blues play. Old loyalties aside, she promised: “I plan to be behind the glass when that first puck hits the ice” in a San Francisco Bulls game.
Since it last hosted hockey, the Cow Palace was slated for destruction and slipped the noose. Someone thought of moving the facility to Brisbane and then thought better of that. The Grand National Rodeo moved to the Spring and back again to October, its sturdy old home continued to host the Dickens Faire, dog shows, the circus, the California Bar Exam and sundry other events as it always had. Except for a single season played by the SJ Wolves indoor football in 2010, the Cow Palace hasn’t had a regular sports team for a tenant in a very long time. They are very happy to have one moving in next season.
The Bulls hosted a press conference this afternoon in San Francisco, to fill us in on the details. The hockey schedule will not interfere with existing events, Cow Palace CEO Joe Barkett assured us.
Pat Curcio, President and GM of the Bulls, commented that he has spent “a lot of sleepless nights” over this project, but it’s been exciting. Curcio has been involved in all aspects of hockey, from playing to management to coaching. Running his own team is a “dream come true.” Asked to describe the team he hopes to put together, he said he would be looking for young, energetic, skilled players, with an emphasis on offense and up-tempo play.
The move includes some facility improvements. Curcio mentioned ice upgrades, which will also benefit other ice shows that the Cow Palace can host. They will have new scoreboards and the dressing rooms will get a facelift, matching improvements the Cow Palace has already made to the concourse.
More than a couple of people said they were excited about this team coming into being. “The San Francisco Bulls are going to be great for San Francisco,” said Maureen McEvoy, of the SF Chamber of Commerce, thanking the Bulls and the ECHL for their “faith in San Francisco.”
Speaking of bulls, Joe Barkett explained that next year the Grand National will have the arena set up on top of the ice. I’m sure they have figured this all out, but I do wonder how many ice surfaces have had to deal with the pounds per square inch of a 2000lb jumping bull?
Elouise Curcio, Pat’s wife, was the one to “find” the Cow Palace while working in SF. Seeing it, she wondered “how can this place not have a hockey team?” After going to see the Cirque du Soleil there, Pat recognized that it was a perfect venue too. Of San Francisco’s hockey history, Curcio concluded that if the Bulls can get the same attendance as the Spiders did, they will be doing fine.
San Francisco also stood out because of the high number of relocated Easterners in the city who might appreciate a local team. Because of the market development the SJ Sharks have done, locals are more enthusiastic about the sport than they were a couple of decades ago. Believing there are San Francisco hockey fans and would-be fans who can’t conveniently make the drive to San Jose, the club anticipates that they will have an audience.
Brian McKenna, ECHL Commissioner, described San Francisco as a good geographic fit with Stockton, Ontario and Bakersfield all in reasonable travel range. He explained that the Bulls ownership group spent six to nine months researching markets before they made the choice. Having an “iconic facility” like the Cow Palace in the deal was a definite bonus.
For the venue, as Mayor Klatt put it, the SF Bulls represent the “first step to restoring the Cow Palace” to the glory days of yore. I don’t think that’s far off. That old barn really did need a hockey team.
(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner.)