Put The Savannah Bananas On Ice NOW!

Barnstorming sports teams have been around since sports were codified but hockey has a notable lack of teams designed to being more entertainment to the game. Now is the time for someone to capitalize on the idea.
John Medina/GettyImages
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When you are lucky, you are lucky. Through connections, this weekend I got to not only see the famed Savannah Bananas, I got to help another rabid Savannah Bananas fan enjoy the show in Durham. And we were not disappointed.

From top to bottom the Savannah Bananas have it arranged for the fan to be entertained from the moment they walk in the gates, until they leave the gates. Some of it is not as plain to see, some of it you cannot miss.

In watching the game, and playing around with some ideas on the drive how I have come up with a few suggestions to get a barnstorming team like the Savannah Bananas on the ice. Because if there is a sport that is made to be both quick and entertaining, without bending too many of the rules, its hockey. And why not? Hockey is great. Entertainment is great. Should they not go hand in hand?

Here's a quick primer to what I think would make a great barnstorming hockey team.

Naming Is Critical

Something that is catchy and easy to chant is great, but you can't really top the Savannah Bananas in the alliteration category. Why not, then, have a fan poll? It's worked for dozens of teams across sports. And make it a live media event. Get some social media buzz going and livestream the naming voting. After an allotted time, the voting is stopped and the name is picked. And don't have suggestions. Let it be truly live. Have the names right there on the screen. Should a name get really hot, see if it can withstand a better suggest. It's 2024 already, let the people speak through their votes.

Supply And Demand, Just Like In School

Ripping a page right out of the Savannah Bananas book, because there is one, a barnstorming hockey team needs to keep their ticket prices fixed. Nothing is worse than buying a $10 ticket and being slapped on the backside with hidden fees and charges. A $10 ticket that is actually $25 is a big time turn off and will drive away fans initially. That $10 ticket staying a $10 ticket will also keep fans once you get them hooked too. Keeping it simple also allows people to sniff out online scams. If a ticket costs more then the set price, it's a scalper. Pure and simple.

What many folks forget from school, is the law of supply and demand. Some folks want to blame the teacher, and that might be fair in some cases, BUT more than likely it was the student just being a student by intentially not paying attention. Either way, here is a quick run down as it pertains to a Savannah Bananas style hockey team.

The lower the supply of something will cause a higher demand, thus prices can rise.

BUT the Savannah Bananas have flipped the script. By keeping the prices fixed (which I have already suggested) and limiting the supply (which I would HIGHLY suggest) our barnstorming team would by nature increase the demand. When I taught, I compared the Rolling Stone (low supply, high demand, high prices) to the Grateful Dead (high supply, low demand, low prices) but in this case the Savannah Bananas would fit perfectly into a money making machine that would rival the Stones and the Dead put together.

You just don't get Savannah Bananas tickets the the day of, and head out after work to the game. You have to enter a lottery. And then you have to get lucky that you've hit a game when you can go. This drives the demand for Savannah Bananas tickets (with a limited supply) through the roof. People I talked to this weekend have been in the Durham lottery since the team started coming to Durham. My sister and brother in law have been in the lottery since the Bananas started touring. And they were willing to travel much further than Durham to see them. As it turned out, they made a day of the trip, thought it meant a 12 hour travel day.

Going back to the laws of economics, for those of you taking notes. The fixed price, and a limited supply, would naturally create the high demand needed to keep a team like our hypothetical hockey team in the black. Being one of the more risky ways to manipulate the supply and demand curve, you would have to have the product so enjoyable that people would rabid from the start. But as the Savanah Bananas have shown, it is possible. That and really great merch, but that's a whole different article.

The Game Itself

The Savannah Bananas do not play baseball by the traditional rules, and no barnstorming team should. Their game is called Banana Ball and it is great. Gone are some of the more boring aspects of the pictorial game and added are some fun tweaks that not only pep it up but speed it up as well. This would apply to our made up hockey team as well.

Four guys is all you need for our team. Two forwards, a defenseman, and a goalie. Can you tell I am a Carolina Hurricanes fan? Rod Brind'Amour should be thanked.

This encourages EVERYONE on the ice to be offensive and defensive, because guess what: the goalie can play to the blue line.

But there is a catch. Each team is given 5 minutes in a game with an extra player. Goalie, forward, or defensemen. It matters not. It cane be used

Just like in Banana Ball where there are not walks or bunting because they are boring, there are no face-offs in our rules. Because the goalie can play to the blue line, there won't be icing or off sides. It'll be up them to cover or risk a breakaway on a lose puck

The rest of the rules of hockey will apply, with one minute minors and two minute majors. Fighting won't really be a thing because, like other great barnstorming teams, our team will likely play (and travel) with a team while on tour. The Harlem Globetrotters have the Washington Generals, as the Savannah Bananas have the Party Animals, so shall our team have their perpetual foes.

Oh even though the two teams are symbiotic, they are different organization with own leadership structures, finances, etc. So players can be traded between or dropped as free agents. They can sign new players as well.

How Long Will This Last You Might Ask?

Savannah Bananas shows are limited to two hours with a rule that no inning will start with just ten minutes left. If an inning is started before the ten minute warning it is played to completion. Within that inning, all runs are counted twice, so even if a team is down going into the last inning, they can still take home a win.

Our games will last an hour and a half. Three ten minute periods with three ten minute intermissions.

What many folks, like myself originally, have to remember is the Savannah Bananas don't play to puritans of the sport. They entertain first, and play the game seconds. Watching the Savannah Bananas, you see that to make the team, you have to have a hook first, and the ability to hit the ball second. It would be the same for our hockey barnstorming teams. Skating and shooting would be just one of the elements. Being able to keep the crowd in the game for the full hour and half would be the key element.

So there is a start. Unorthodox games and play, bending the supply and demand curve ever so slightly, and betting big on a hairbrained idea is just what hockey needs as the NHL and AHL looking to expand their leagues and their fanbases. Of course there would be details to iron out that I haven't mentioned here, but someone with more capital than I currently have can hash those out. It can be done though. Where there's a will, and a lot of money, there is a way.