(Tom Garrity, left, and John King. Photo courtesy OWNER)
What do you get when you take a sports marketing guru and an irreverent advertising executive and turn them loose on Minnesota hockey?
You get Tom Garrity and John King, a pair of creative, hockey-focused guys who have teamed to form OWNER, a sports entertainment firm trying to fill a niche.
"2020 is a lot of creative disruption, and starting something in the middle of this is exciting even though it's a volatile time for sports and entertainment,'' King said.
Hockey fans, especially those of the Minnesota prep game, will remember King for his work on the "State Tournament All-Hockey Hair Team'' video. He and Garrity, the commissioner and president of the United States Hockey League, will feature hockey in a prominent role in their new website, pulltabsports.com. Think of it as a Midwestern version of sports and entertainment websites Barstool Sports and the Ringer.
"We hope to apply that same type of content philosophy but focus more on niches that just aren't covered as well,'' King said. "If you think about high school hockey, we're gonna make a big push into that space. … We found that when you treat high school sports like it's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, that's what it is for these parents and these kids.''
Pulltabsports.com is up and running, and it includes a "Can You Keep a Secret?'' podcast, which features private conversations with public figures. Its current subject is singer-songwriter Martin Zellar. Another coming highlight will be King's "Hockey Parent Hall of Fame.''
"It's not about the mom that takes the kids to the rink at 5 in the morning every day,'' King said. "It's the dad who fell off the rooftop of the hotel at the parent party.''
King and Garrity have worked together on several projects over the years, including when they met while working for the then-Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL.
"He actually introduced me to my wife,'' Garrity said. "… I was doing a two-year stint with the Coyotes, and we hired John at Fallon to do all our advertising during their bankruptcy. We worked together, really liked it, got along really well. And we talked about, 'Hey, at some time we should merge and form a company.' We think the same and we have the same kind of vision.''
When it comes to hockey, King wants to bring out the players' personality, which isn't easy in a team-first sport. He did so this summer with a fashion show from the NHL playoff bubble in Edmonton.
"Even when [Alex] Ovechkin years ago scored 50 or 60 goals and he put his stick on the ice and pretended it was hot, everybody said that was him acting like he was bigger than the game,'' King said. "We look at what's happened with the Hockey Hair Team, what Spittin' Chiclets has done, what Barstool does. We want to loosen the collar of hockey and let its hair down, so to speak.''
One of OWNER's ventures this summer were the TV ads for Red's Savoy Pizza featuring Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck. King described himself as "Flecknitized'' after the shoot.
"We only had him for two hours and we were trying to make two commercials, so that could've gone sideways in a hurry,'' he said. "That guy came out of the box like a Crackerjack. He was outstanding.''
Having fun while pushing the creative envelope will be a goal for pulltabsports.com.
"We'll be making some noise,'' King promised. "We'll be getting into some trouble.''