Jeff Hunt, president of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, photographed earlier this year. (Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun)
Jeff Hunt, president of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, was the speaker at today’s Ottawa Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel. Much of my story came from talking with him after the event
, but here are some points he made during his speech that didn’t make it into the story.
During a question and answer session, a man in the audience asked what the RedBlacks’ rules will be about local TV blackouts for home games. It seems teams have the choice of whether or not to ban broadcasting games to the local TV audience. The theory is, teams want to put bums in the seats at the stadium rather than leave them on couches. “I’m very much against blackouts,” Hunt said. “I would never want to stop people from watching our product, no matter in what form.”
Speaking of bums in seats, Hunt said the RedBlacks’ big competition isn’t necessarily other live sports in Ottawa. High-definition TV, the rec room sofa and “beer in the fridge” are the real competitors, he said. That’s why the game experience at Frank Clair Stadium has to be so inciting, it will convince people to leave the comfort of their homes and attend the games.
This probably isn’t news to those who know a lot about Hunt, but he told the audience he has been a longtime Ottawa CFL fan, ever since he saw former Rough Rider Gerry Organ speak in the late 1970s growing up in Labrador City, Newfoundland. Hunt’s family moved to Ottawa in the early 1980s and they bought season tickets to the Rough Riders.
Hunt said his father begged him in 1998 not to buy the Ottawa 67s, which was (in Hunt’s description) on a “death watch.” The Senators were being re-established in the capital and the market for the OHL team looked bleak. “I knew not everyone was going to be able to make Ottawa Senators hockey part of their hockey life,” Hunt said. The success of the 67s, he said, is largely to do with marketing — that is, simply telling people when the games are. He can’t force people to go, but if they have the information they can at least make a choice. He envisions the same philosophy with the RedBlacks.
Again, probably a detail football fans will be familiar with, but Hunt said the genesis of the RedBlacks name was during last year’s Grey Cup when a fan suggested “Red and Blacks.” He liked it since local sports clubs have those colours (not to mention the old Rough Riders team) and it resembled another sports team with a highly recognizable brand: The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team.
On the topic of a mascot, Hunt said the team is thinking about fashioning one after a lumberjack or raftsman. He brought up Joe Mufferaw. I didn’t have a clue who he was talking about, so please don’t tell Ron Corbett.
Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.