by Dan Hickling || AHL On The Beat Archive
There isn’t much about the tiny cubicle occupied by Amy Lavoie that would hit you as being remarkable.
Oh, sure, there are some neat knick-knacks, a collection of small stuffed bears dressed in hockey togs, a Miami Dolphins notepad, and a few color newspaper photos of her favorite Boston Red Sox players festooning what little wall space she has.
But nothing that would tell you that Lavoie’s little office, stuck in a corner of the Portland Pirates’ team store, is really the complex nerve center of a world-wide commercial enterprise.
Or at least the computer standing on her desktop is.
It’s with that chunk of hardware that Lavoie, the Pirates’ ebullient director of operations and customer relations, oversees the club’s revamped online store, which celebrate its “Grand Re-opening“ last Dec. 1.
Housed on the Pirates’ Web site (www.portlandpirates.com) and at its own domain (www.portlandpiratesstore.com), the team’s boutique is now capable of serving hockey fans around the world or around the corner, around the clock.
Product presentation, said Lavoie, has vastly improved because of the new on-line presence. And so has customer response.
“The (page) we had before,” said Lavoie, who had previous dot-com stints with the Dolphins, CBS Sportsline and E-Diets, “if you had seen it, there just wasn’t very much going on. It was very basic. We got a lot of e-mails (of complaint) from people. But now, we’ve redone it. Everything’s there.”
Through that cyber-portal, hockey fans can view and purchase the full array of paraphernalia (including jerseys, hats, men’s and women’s wear, and even infant "creepers") of both the Pirates and their NHL parent, the Anaheim Ducks.
In addition, the store features an on-line auction, allowing fans to bid on autographed, game-used items.
The current offering is a one of a kind “checkered flag” stick used in warm-ups by Portland goalie Mike McKenna, with the proceeds earmarked for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center.
“It was Mike’s idea, actually,“ said Lavoie. “He had the whole team sign it. Within the first day, we had three bids on that. Our old store never had that capability. It’s just like eBay.”
As with the AHL’s 28 other teams, the Pirates have found that a strong on-line presence is crucial to growing the business of the franchise.
To the Pirates, it has become a lifeline to their fan burgeoning fan base, both locally, and elsewhere.
“It’s become really important to us,” said Greg Glynn, the Pirates’ broadcaster and VP of communications. “You can find a lot of things on the (new) Web site.”
Fans can freely access Glynn’s audio call of each Pirate game through the site, and can also tap in to the team’s streaming video on a pay-per-view basis.
“These blogs have helped bring us a little closer to our fans,” said Glynn.
Indeed. If you want to tap in to “Weino’s” thoughts about “Secret Santas”, or get “Hoff’s” take on having the pins yanked out of his broken thumb, www.portlandpirates.com is the place to go.
Still, since the Web’s reach is truly worldwide, fans can and often do browse from all corners of the globe.
Lavoie said that she ships plenty of Pirates’ gear to Ducks’ fans in California.
One such “SoCal” die-hard forked over $500 for a Bobby Ryan game-worn jersey.
But even that doesn’t take the prize for the most unusual request Lavoie has had to field.
That honor goes to the chap from Down Under whose e-quiry was waiting for her recently as she clambered into her cozy confines to start commence another day‘s commerce.
“I had a guy email me from Australia,” she said. “He wanted to know how much it would cost to ship a T-shirt to Sydney.”
Then, fishing for an estimate in her UPS guide, she comes up with the figure.
“It averages about $75,” she said.
She’s waiting to hear back from that fan. But if he wants it, that shirt will be in his hands in a hurry.
Lavoie has that much power, even if she doesn‘t have much room.
Not that she needs it.
These days, it’s all about cyberspace.