When the Fairbanks Ice Dogs scored three goals in the last six minutes of the North American Hockey League Championship Game to win the coveted Robertson Cup just a few Saturday's ago, it marked the very first Championship in franchise history. A history which began in 1997 when General Manager ( & first Ice Dog Head Coach) Rob Proffitt started the team.
Andy: When you were growing up, did you know in your heart that you would end up involved in professional hockey?
Rob: I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which is a hockey hotbed, so like most kids I definitely had dreams of playing in the NHL. I actually had a serious injury when I was a teenager that put my playing days on hold for several years, but I came back and ended up playing in the West Coast Hockey League when I was 21 (The WCHL merged with the East Coast Hockey League and is a Minor league for the NHL). There was absolutely nothing better than receiving a paycheck for playing the game you love.
Andy: Is an Ice Dog a type of wolf or an Alaskan breed of some kind?
Rob: No, no, no...We actually had a contest among the fans to come up with the name which really caught on. It has more to do with our team being aggressive on the ice. Our original logo has changed from a more passive Ice Dog to the more menacing image you see today.
Andy: I'm quite sure your coaching and management of the team had more to do with the success of the squad over the years (7 straight playoff appearances and 3 straight trips to the Finals) than your super cool logo. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date?
Rob: Certainly putting a consistently good hockey product on the ice is fulfilling. However, nothing has been more satisfying to me than setting up our players with College Scholarships. While it is definitely a goal to have these players make it to the NHL, the reality is that the majority will not. To be able to see our players have the opportunity to get a top notch education and play the game they love, especially during the current economic downturn, is very meaningful to me. As of today we've set up close to 60 scholarships.
Rob: Obviously both were/are phenomenal giants of the game on and off the ice, but I got the opportunity to see Gretzky when he was a 16 year old playing for the Greyhounds (Junior Ice Hockey team from that same city Rob grew up in) and was blown away then. Probably the most significant reason hockey has grown to have teams in Phoenix, Dallas, Anaheim and San Jose, had all to do with when Wayne became a Los Angeles King. There would not be youth hockey in Texas and other western cities if not for Wayne Gretzky.
Andy: In addition to your success on the ice, you've also managed to be very successful in the branding of the Ice Dogs. Tell us how you have incorporated the Original Retro Brand in molding your image.
Rob: Our team takes pride in being a blue collar, hard working, tough outfit with an old school attitude. I believe the The Original Retro Brand flex fit and trucker caps project that same image - they're broken in, roughed up, have a perfect fit, and thus are a perfect fit for us. I know our fans feel the same way because we couldn't keep them on our shelves for long, and before we knew it we had sold through our first big batch.
We love to hear that Coach, and thank you so much for your time today. More importantly we want to say CONGRATULATIONS on winning your first Championship and wish you continued success!
You can find out more about Coach Proffitt and the Ice Dogs by going to the team website.