'Chop' Off the Old Block
With a new name that raised plenty of eyebrows when it was announced, the AHL's Iowa Chops have plenty in common with their parent club in Anaheim
By Matt Vevoda
|Iowa Owner Kirby Schlegel (left) and President Steve Nitzel unveiled the Chops name, logo and colors at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on July 9.|
Foreheads were wrinkled and eyebrows were raised by many upon learning that the AHL team in
Did a team really take on a name that most people associate with a dinner cuisine that is paired well with apple sauce?
Knowing full well that skepticism would run rampant, owner Kirby Schlegel and the management team in
“We wanted to give
The pork industry is essentially
“We wanted to tie the name into an asset,” Chops President Steve Nitzel said. “That was a pretty good asset in the state of
|Visit the Iowa Chops website|
Previously affiliated with the Dallas Stars,
One of the first steps for
While the Ducks had enjoyed success in their three-year association with the Portland Pirates, the travel for players between
|'We wanted to give Iowa a team that they feel is their own," Chops Owner Kirby Schlegel said. "When we really thought about it, one of the things that Iowa is very proud of is they are the No. 1 exporter in the country of pork."|
Providing a solution for both organizations, the Ducks and
Having already been working several months on the task, the next action for
“Crazily and amazingly enough, the only name that met 100 percent resistance at the executive level was the Chops,” Nitzel said. “Anyone who saw it and heard it initially said, ‘I don’t know, let’s look at another one.’ Once everybody reconvened, they said ‘You know what, that Chops thing is starting to grow on me’”
Unanimously agreeing to move forward with the Chops as its name, the team reached a three-year marketing agreement with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, which has had Iowa Chop as a registered trademark since 1982. Under terms of the agreement, the team can use the Chops name and the pork producers will be provided additional promotional opportunities.
With everything in place, the Iowa Chops officially became an entity in
“Sure, we thought, ‘Is there any criticism we’re going to face?’” Schlegel said. “But at the end of the day it was something that was worth any risk. Especially in minor league sports, if people are talking it’s probably a good thing one way or another. It’s been received well.”
Coincidentally, the organization that probably best knows of a high-risk, high-reward team name is the Ducks. On June 7, 1993,
Also fighting off initial skeptics, the Mighty Ducks name became a hit. Team merchandise propelled into one of the top sellers in professional sports and the jersey was named the “most fashionable” uniform in all of sports at the inaugural ESPY awards in 1997.
|"There's no question when Anaheim originally got their franchise and it was named the Mighty Ducks, the people not involved were very skeptical," Chops Assistant GM Bob Ferguson said. "It turned out to be a major marketing ploy. There definitely a parallel with the Chops. It's a very unique name."|
“There’s no question when
Since dropping the “Mighty” in their team name, and establishing a new logo and team colors in 2006 under new owners Henry and Susan Samueli, the Ducks name has continued its dominance in professional sports. “I also like what the Ducks have done the last several years,” Schlegel said. “The brand has created itself way beyond what the movie ever was.”
Under the new affiliation, the Chops also hope to replicate the on-ice success that the Ducks organization has had in the past three years. Along with the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the organization (adding the results of both the Ducks and Pirates) has played in more playoff rounds (14) than any other during that span. Just last season, the Pirates came within one game of the Calder Cup Final before falling to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Along with developing their prospects’ talents, the Ducks stress the establishment of a winning tradition at all levels of their organization. It is something
“They want their younger players to experience winning at those levels because when they make the transition to the NHL level, it’s that much easier,” said
Whether it’s a shared vision of success or initial skepticism in a name, the partnership of the Ducks and Chops appears to be the right fit at the right time.
“I have to say I’m more excited about the AHL team in