Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Q&A with Texas Tornado Owner Bill Yuill

Back at the 1st of June, Bill Yuill was officially announced as the new owner of the Texas Tornado after over a decade of Bob and Kirby Schlegel owning the team from when it started till last season. During that time the Tornado have won 3 NAHL Robertson Cup Titles from 2004-2006.

And have been a regular in the playoffs and have been one of the most successful Junior Teams in the Country at any league when it comes down sending players to the NCAA and Professional Ranks. A few of them include the recent success of current AHL'ers Trevor Ludwig, Al Montoya and Ben Bishop have at the very least become regulars in the AHL with a shot of maybe making the NHL in the near future.

Bishop was the starter for the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues AHL Affiliate) and also was the 3rd goalie for Team USA at the recent IIHF World Championships, despite the team finishing in 13th Place.

Meanwhile Trevor Ludwig played some critical minutes and impressed in his opportunities after taking over for Andrew Hutchinson when he got hurt during the Texas Stars AHL Calder Cup Playoff Run.

For Bill Yuill, he's been with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League where he sits currently the team president and has been part of a successful club since the team was first est. in 2003. Which includes having one of the most successful expansion seasons in team history and fielding a winner which includes 3 Division Titles and making the WHL Championship Series in 2004.

In the Q&A, I asked Bill Yuill about why he choose to come to the Texas Tornado, getting the team back to being Championship Contenders, comparing the WHL to the NAHL and so much more including looking to get big time hockey events to Texas like the NCAA Frozen Four and World Championship Events.

Here's the Q&A to Bill Yuill

1. You haven't been in Texas very long, so what made you choose coming to Texas to help run the Texas Tornado? Also what do you think of the D/FW Metroplex as a whole in the short time you have been here?

We feel that the hockey traditions that are being built in North Texas are very strong. The Dallas Stars have done a terrific job making hockey into a mainstream sport and with the growth of Frisco has experienced in the last decade we're very optimistic about the future of Tornado Hockey.

2. What are some of your biggest strategies you and your group are going to use to both bring back the fans and increase media attention. This past year, the team averaged only about 1,600 fans per game during the regular season.

I tell Coach Curtale that he has to win more games then he loses and he has to get home ice advantage in the playoffs. Then we worry about winning the Championship. With 3 National Championships under his belt, it is clear that he knows how to win hockey games and we're very confident that we will continue to win. Our sales staff is aggressively promoting the team at the grass roots level. In addition to gaining more corporate support we're also working hard to increase our group sales as well as our box office numbers. This is definitely a tough media market. We'll continue to pursue the big guys but we're also putting more focus on the smaller media outlets and electronic media.

3. Why did you choose the NAHL Route over the USHL Route? With the USHL being a much stronger league overall then the NAHL. What got you so interested in running an NAHL Team?

The NAHL produces some very strong hockey players and the league is very well respected from a business standpoint. This NAHL has an extremely bright future.

4. What do you think will be the biggest difference will be running the Everett Silvertips in the WHL compared to the Texas Tornado of the NAHL?

We've had a very successful operation in Everett for quite some time. We're talking to many of our operational successes from that team and we're trying to put them into practice in Frisco. Scouting and recruiting players along with developing minor hockey in the NAHL is very similar in the WHL. We hope that our hockey ops in Everett can assist the guys in Frisco with player development and vice versa. From a business standpoint the Everett/Seattle and Frisco/Dallas Markets are not much different from one another.

5. What part would be willing to play to possibly play bringing in a major national or international hockey event like the Frozen Four would you use to come to Dallas?

We've not really considered that it too much but I think that with all Frisco and North Texas have to offer, the market would be very attractive.

6. How much of a distraction could it be to run two teams in the same league as your also going to help operate the Amarillo Team as well. It's one thing to run two different teams in different leagues (AKA Tom Hicks). But are you worried that backlash may occur for Tornado Fans you are also going to run the new team in Amarillo who will most likely be in the Same Division.

We're keeping our hockey operations for the two teams very separate. We're seeing some crossovers in our business operations but I can assure you that hockey operations are completely separate.

7. You have run a pretty successful team in Everett in the Western Hockey League since the team started in 2003. What's been the biggest key to that constant success in the WHL? Keeping that in Mind, How long do you think that Coach Curtale can seriously contend for the NAHL Robertson Cup Championship with how little turnover that's expected with just one player (Ben Bishop) committing to the University of Maine for his NCAA Career?

We've been very successful in Everett because we have a very hard working staff and great network of scouts. They're committed to winning and very good at their jobs so as long as we focus on what has made us successful I would anticipate nothing less then a positive result. In addition to managing a great team on the ice, Coach Curtale continuously prepares for the future. He and his staff are involved in scouting throughout North America and they know the Minor Hockey Programs very well. They respected by University and College coaches for the players they develop and midget coaches trust they'll prepare players for a great future.

8. I know pretty much the entire team has left to go back home for the off-season. Have you been in contact with any of the players since you officially took over and if so, what has the reaction been from current players?

The responses I've heard have been very positive.

9. Going back to bringing back fans to a moment, any major ideas your looking at to help increase the fan experience when the season starts in September?

For starters, we're bringing back our video boards. We know that the fan experience is important and we're making some other changes that should make the show more entertaining and give it a bit more style.

Any final thoughts as you start getting ready for the 2010-2011 season in September?

We are very excited about we've come to learn about the Texas Tornado and North Texas in the past few months. The reception from the fans has been very positive and we look forward to winning some hockey games this year.

Quick Hits

Outside of work, how are you going to enjoy the offseason in Texas?

We don't get much of a vacation in the front office but I'll golf when I can.

Better food to try in Texas? BBQ or Tex-Mex

I'm a little partial to BBQ?

Favorite Hockey Movie?

Do you really need to ask?

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