Tampa Bay Lightning fans cheered for a Chatham-Kent product during their team’s recent Stanley Cup-winning season.
No, not a local minor hockey product. They were applauding an ice-resurfacer replica produced in a Grande Pointe workshop.
Children rode the custom-made vehicle before games and during intermissions at Amalie Arena.
“It’s all about promotion,” creator Robert Carriere, 62, of Carriere Innovations said. “It doesn’t clean the ice. It doesn’t do anything. It’s all about making that four-year-old the big MVP. And the fans love the kids being the MVPs on the ice.”
Carriere and salesman Paul Momney sold the US$10,000 product to the Lightning last summer. It’s made of injection-moulded plastic and a steel frame on top of an electric bike or ATV.
A driver or mascot can sit in a hole in the shell and steer while youngsters are belted into a seat on the back.
Momney and Carriere pitched it to all NHL teams as an advertising vehicle with TV screens mounted on the sides.
Lightning officials decided it would work better with a sponsor’s logos instead of screens and with the kids as passengers.
The ride can also go to parades, trade shows and fairs. Team sponsors can borrow it for their own promotional events.
“It’s all over the place,” Carriere said. “But also when that thing’s parked, kids line up one after another to pretend drive it while the parents take pictures. Even adult fans will sit down and pretend-drive it while their friends take pictures of them.
“It’s an all-around very successful unit for marketing purposes, especially with all the lights going and sound effects.”
As one team official told Carriere, “we’re not in the hockey business, we’re in the entertainment business.”
He calls his creation the Mascoteer, but teams are free to give it a new name. The Lightning call theirs a ZamBaby.
Models come in three sizes. The smallest starts at $3,000.
Carriere has one available for special events in Chatham-Kent. This week, it’s at the Chatham-Kent Home Hardware Building Centre to promote the Chatham Goodfellows’ No Child Without a Christmas campaign.
The smallest model is 0.9 metres (35 inches) wide by 2.4 metres (96 inches) long, seats one child and is pushed.
The 1.0×2.8-metre model used by the Lightning seats two on the back. The 1.2×3.1-metre model seats three and is propelled by a gas-powered ATV.
The Mascoteer shell fits over the bike or ATV. There’s room on the sides for teams to put advertisements.
“Advertising is expensive and this is a great way to reach the public,” Carriere said.
Momney and Carriere have also sold Mascoteers to teams in the American and East Coast leagues. One was delivered to the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League just as the season shut down in March.
“We have one in just about every major league right now,” Carriere said.
He expects sales to rise as more teams see the rides in visiting rinks and want one of their own.
“We were just on the verge of taking off … but unfortunately the COVID sort of put a damper on that,” Carriere said.
Momney also builds storage cases and trunks to hold team gear and medical equipment at his workshop on Riverview Drive in Chatham. He’s made cases for the Stanley Cup and other NHL trophies.
He has more non-Mascoteer jobs coming up in the NHL with the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.
“It’s very exciting,” Momney said. “And when you’re working on a project, just being in a dressing room or being there, it’s a great feeling.”