Stanley CUp 2020Greg Sickler, 30+ years of ice rink branding for the nhl

As the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals come to an end TGI Sport’s Senior Account Manager, Greg Sickler, reveals TGI Sport’s achievements over the last 20+ years with the National Hockey League, and its involvement in this year’s tournament; following a 4-month pause due to the pandemic.

How long have you been producing dasher boards for the NHL and/or NHL Teams?
GS: I was involved in the production of dasher boards for teams since 1997 for TGI Sport.

How many printed dasher boards does a team consume per season?
GS: In a typical season a team will use approximately 400 full-sized dashers and 100 corner dashers.

Any initial challenges back in the ‘90s?
GS: The most significant challenge in the early years was that digital printing was not on our radar. Most dashers needed to be screen-printed, or in some rushed cases computer-cut stock color vinyls mounted to the base dasher material.

Most dashers are white background, but others are dark backgrounds; what is the difference?
GS: In the early years when dashers were allowed in the NHL, some were full-color background. TGI Sport presented to the league that all dashers should be on a “floating white” background. Meaning that all would have at least 1.5” of white on top and bottom and 3” on each end.
This eventually evolved to the current regulation that all dashers are to be at least 2/3rds white. Then it became a problem if dashers were predominately black or very dark colors, the puck could be lost in sight during regular play.

We know TGI Sport also design and 'wraped' the ice resurfacing machines, known as Zambonis and Olympias. When did that start and why?
GS: In looking for more places where advertisers can get more exposure during games, an obvious place occurred to be the ice machines, that were on the ice many times a game.
We worked with the current league beer sponsor at the time as well as contacts with Zamboni and Olympia to produce graphics to work on the machines. This was a perfect application for TGI Sport since we began as a fleet graphics production and installation company.
Originally, they were basically just logos on painted machines, but with the evolution of digital printing it became what is now commonly known as ‘full wrap ice resurface’.

How fast does it take to print one dasher board?
GS: The actual production of a dasher board in this digital age is approximately 15 minutes. This does not include the art set up or color matching.

How difficult is it to apply them onto the rink? How long is the installation process? How many people are needed?
GS: Installation is rather easy on rink boards, we use an adhesive vinyl that is rated to the temperatures that are required to eliminate the issue that many others didn’t compensate for. The ice side of the board is typically around 40 degrees C, where the back portion (Fan side) could be as warm as 65 degrees C.
Each dasher board takes approx. 5 minutes to install, and approx. 3 total hours to remove existing dashers and install a complete rink. (40 full dashers and 4 corners.)

What do you enjoy most about the work?
GS: This is a very challenging project every year, working with individual teams to get artwork and then sponsor and league approval, all in time to get produced before game day. We strive to have dashers produced and delivered to the teams in a minimum of 3 days before game day in order to work around the busy arena schedule and install times available.
It is very satisfying when all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together and the sponsor, team and league are represented professionally on the ice.

Is there anything different this year from the usual Stanley Cup preparations? Any specific safety measures to be taken by all the parties involved?
GS: With the Covid-19 pandemic this year, it has become a totally different situation for Stanley Cup playoffs, especially for the safety of players, referees and essential staff. It was the main objective before play could begin. The league created two “bubbles” of safety. One in Edmonton and one in Toronto.
Also, since each individual team would not be using their typical number of dashers and the league controlling most of the TV visible side, the league has chosen to allow the teams only a few choice spots for their sponsors per game, and the league control the remainder of the dashers.
Additionally, due to the number of teams at each of the two “bubble” locations, there were numerous games each day so we needed to move things as quickly as if they were playing in separate buildings. Thus, the need to change several dashers for each game, to accommodate the team sponsors, as well as television broadcast sponsors.
With things moving on the fast track, and the number of dasher and bench/penalty box changes per game. This created quite a challenge in order for us to produce and ship graphics to the venue at the 3-day window we strive to have.

What specifically did TGI Sport produce for the games in Edmonton? How many linear feet of dashers are being consumed?
GS: We have produced 7.7 miles of dasher boards as well as 4,371 adhesive decals for Players Benches and Penalty Box graphics.

Did you have any calls in the middle of the night with issues? (or do you talk to yourself in your sleep?)
GS: Fortunately, I have not had any late-night calls with problems, and since the only issues we have had were rather minor - yet not excusable to our standards - they were easily rectified on site.
The only sleepless nights were wondering how we could stay as far ahead of schedule as possible, and yet save the league money so as not to produce too many graphics that they may not be able to use.

What are other important things to know for the hockey fans?
GS: We (TGI Sport) strive to make the rink look as clean and presentable to the typical fan, as well as assuring the teams, sponsors and the NHL what they want and the most economically as possible.

Post 2020 NHL Stanley Cup finals, what are you working on next?
GS: In my 40+ years of working in the field of stadium branding production I have accumulated several clients and will work to satisfy their needs and expectations, as I have throughout the playoffs, and then to work with the NHL and individual teams to move forward to the 2021 season.

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