Mallards leadership shares passion for hockey with Quad City fans
Growing up in Canada, Jordan Melville had hockey in his heart and on his mind. And as the owner of the Quad City Mallards for the past four years, the Vancouver, B.C., native has had the chance to bring his passion to the local sports arena – with noticeable results.
Attendance is up, the quality of the team has dramatically improved and once again, the Mallards are one of the top draws in a booming community.
“I’m happy, I love coming down here, it’s great to see the team successful again,” Melville said. “This really is one of the best markets for hockey. I love the people down here, they’re great hockey fans. They deserve to see a winner and that’s our goal.”
The road to success is often paved with failure and so has been the case with the local hockey club. Upon their initial inception in the mid-‘90s, the Colonial Cup-winning Mallards were a phenomenon, packing the arena and enjoying the fruits of local celebrity. But as the 2000s progressed, the team staggered, slumping in quality and box office until hitting their low with a metamorphosis, from 2007-2009, into the Quad City Flames. With fan interest and excitement at a low, the team was absorbed by their league and came close to being disbanded, until Melville, recognizing the potential inherent in the Quad Cities, stepped in.
“I was an owner of the Central Hockey League, the league took over the team and nurtured it as best we could, we felt this was a great market for hockey, but the team had been mismanaged,” Melville said. “It was a broken toy. We needed to fix it. I’ve been super involved in doing that. It’s been an uphill road but it’s been rewarding to see us get it back on track and successful.”
The steps taken to bring the Mallards back to their beak, er, peak, included hiring top personnel in the front office, including team president Bob McNamara, a former professional player, and coach/general manager Terry Ruskowski, who displayed a discerning eye for talent on the ice as well. Back on track in that regard, Melville and his team concentrated on making the Mallards a sports and entertainment experience that all ages could enjoy, at a great price.
“We want everyone to be able to come out to the games and have fun – whether you’re a group of friends starting your evening here or a family bringing the kids out, we want it to be a great experience for you, and one that’s very affordable,” Melville said. “We cater to the hardcore hockey fans and the casual fans. And to single people and families. People of all ages. You can bring a family of four out and enjoy a game for less than $50, and that’s not something you can say about a lot of other entertainment experiences. You can’t even see a movie for that kind of money.”
Melville noted that there were two keys to the success of the team.
“One is that it’s important for us to be a part of the community, the people here love their sports, love their hockey, and it’s important for them to feel ownership of this team, to feel that we are a part of the Quad Cities,” he said. “The other is that people love a winner. They want to see this team competing year in and year out for a championship, and that’s important to us to give them that.”
In regard to the former, that’s meant more community outreach by the coaches and players.
“We really encourage our players to go out to schools and share their experiences with kids, to have more community outreach at the games, we also seek to expand our base in educating people about hockey to introduce them to the sport,” McNamara said. “It’s important for us to make that outreach and give back to the community.”
One move in the latter regard, to bringing better quality hockey to the ice, was in lining up the Mallards as a “AA affiliate” for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, so that fans would actually get to see players that had a shot at possibly, someday, being in the big leagues.
“That’s always exciting, getting to watch a better brand of hockey and seeing players that, you never know, you might someday be rooting for on your favorite team in the NHL,” McNamara said.
The enthusiasm of McNamara and Melville is palpable. When you talk to them, it’s obvious they’re huge hockey fans themselves, and so it’s not surprising they admire that passion in others.
“That’s what’s really made this so special for me, to see the emotional investment local people have in this team and its success,” Melville said. “That’s what’s great about this market. I love coming down here, I’m really fond of the market, the people, I love the people down here. They’re great. I’m looking forward to being a part of the community for a long time.”