If there’s one constant in the history of the Saskatchewan Shockers, it’s their penchant for disastrous promotional events. Whether it was the Japanese Night promo (when the Shockers started a sumo in goalie and had to pull him after one period), the Kazoo Night fiasco (when angry fans littered the ice with hot dogs and malfunctioning instruments and nearly forced the game’s cancellation), or last season’s Kids Night embarrassment (when the team gave away a “kid’s activity book” that was filled with errors and obscenities), Saskatchewan leads the league by a mile in-game entertainment failures.
“I feel like we’d be better off if we started advertising the nights when we don’t give anything away,” quipped Shockers interim coach Caleb Ponder. “‘Tonight, every fan in attendance will receive: Nothing! We promise!'”
Despite the team’s sad history with such promotions, the Shockers went ahead and held “Fan Appreciation Night” on Saturday against the Anchorage Igloos. The team announced that they’d be giving away a “special, limited-edition T-shirt,” and made vague promises of a “special event” for fans in attendance. Owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz was coy, saying only that it would be “something special the fans will never forget.”
The T-shirts were given out as promised, although the design was unexpected. The bright yellow T-shirts read “#1 Fan!” The team said that the Shockers logo supposed to appear below those words. The version the fans received instead contained a picture of Doofenshmirtz’s face. According to the owner, he sent the wrong image file to the printing house. The finished shirts arrived only a couple of days before the event, and (as usual) no one with the Shockers bothered to look at them before handing them out.
The fans’ reaction to the Doof-bedecked T-shirts could fairly be described as “mixed.” Many fans discarded the shirts immediately; several trash cans in the concourse were overflowing with them. Other fans chose to wave the shirts over their heads like rally towels. Others proudly wore the shirts (ironically or otherwise).
“I looked around the stands, and I saw my own face all over, staring back at me,” Doofenshmirtz said. “It was a little creepy, to be honest. But also kind of cool!”
After the performance of the anthems and a ceremonial puck drop by rock guitarist and Saskatoon native Pete Friesen, PA announcer Tim Conroy told the fans to “stay in your seats and get ready for something special.” Shortly afterward, a small blimp with the Shockers logo on the side emerged from one end of the arena. The blimp was designed and built by the owner himself, and it contained a camera that was taking a panoramic photo of all the fans in attendance.
“I know from my daughter that if there’s one thing the young people today like, it’s taking selfies,” said Doofenshmirtz. “So I figured, why not take one big selfie of the whole crowd? And behold!”
After the photo was complete, the blimp was supposed to drop leaflets with the URL the fans could visit to view the group picture. But Doofenshmirtz was also piloting the craft, and he lost control of it and crashed it into a catwalk hanging from the roof. The start of the game was delayed for over 15 minutes while workers retrieved the stranded blimp.
After the game, the photo went live online. (The team posted the URL on the scoreboard, since their leafleting plan was thwarted.) Once fans started looking at it, however, they started noticing some curiosities. Several fans greeted the blimp with upraised middle fingers. Others appeared to be engaged in fisticuffs. Some female fans raised their shirts for the camera. As fans started pointing these out on social media, the Shockers responded by blurring the offending photos.
Things went from bad to worse when the team received a call from the Canadian national police. Apparently, the camera had captured a person who is in the witness protection program and had been moved to Saskatchewan under an assumed identity. The police said that the fan had received threats on his life after being identified in the photo. The police demanded that the Shockers take the picture down. The team initially resisted, but ultimately took it down.
“Yeah, I guess I didn’t think this one through as well as I should have,” admitted Doofenshmirtz. “I definitely don’t want us to get in trouble with the police. But why would you go to a hockey game if you’re in the witness protection program?! Seriously, dude, just watch it on your couch next time.”
SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell has noticed Saskatchewan’s sad history with promotions. “As a rule, we try to encourage our teams to do as many promotional events as is practical,” the commissioner said. “It’s a great way to boost attendance and give fans something to look forward to. In the case of the Shockers, however, I’d like to ask them to stop doing them altogether. Or at least Mr. Doofenshmirtz shouldn’t be allowed to plan them, design them, or really be involved with them in any way. It’s for the best.”