It didn’t take long for Pat Curcio, a 10-year veteran of the professional hockey ranks, to be branded
The local outlandish radio duo of Lamont and Tonelli designated him that moniker after Curcio phoned the KSAN (107.7 FM) radio station and broke the news that he had just formed the San Francisco Bulls pro hockey team, the newest member of the ECHL, the premier AA league in North America.
“I thought, ‘Who am I going to speak to to help get things going,’” Curcio pondered. “I heard a fellow guy on the radio was Canadian, so I picked up the phone and called him.”
The publicity stunt, at least for the moment, seemed to work.
Dozens attended Wednesday’s Bull’s news conference at the Cow Palace to witness the unveiling of the orange, white and gold team uniforms, giving way to plenty of “Bulls in the Cow Palace” wisecracks.
But livestock jokes aside, Curcio’s bold move will end the Cow Palace’s dormant hockey spell.
“It’s been my dream to have our own team,” said Curcio, the team’s president and head coach. Though he never made it to the NHL, Curcio retired in 2002 and coached from 2006 to 2011. And aside from wanting to be a breeding ground for NHL hopefuls, Curcio believes his business venture will be a success.
“We want to be San Francisco’s team,” he said.
But the arena along the Daly City-San Francisco border has been unkind to hockey teams of winter’s past. The last pro hockey team to play in the Cow Palace was the IHL’s San Francisco Spiders. That was 15 years ago, and the team was disbanded after a single season due to poor attendance.
“It was one of the best times I’ve had playing the game,” Dave Maley, a member of the 1986 Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens, said of his Spiders days. “It was a one-year wonder, but I’ll tell you, the fans were there. The economics just didn’t work.”
Curcio is banking on the hockey boom within the last 16 years, affordable ticket prices and weekend scheduling. Serving as the anchor tenant, the Bulls will get dibs on popular weekend game slots, something that wasn’t the case with the Spiders.
But transforming the 71-year-old facility to modern-day hockey standards has been a slippery slope.
The old compressors and chillers served an ammonia system, which has been outlawed in most states and countries due to environmental hazards.
“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands already, and we plan to spend a lot more,” Curcio said.
The Bulls tentatively hope to launch their 2012-2013 season on Oct. 13, but because of its affiliation with the NHL, they can’t make any roster moves until July 1.
“But hopefully in mid June, we’ll start signing free agents,” Curcio said.
SCHEDULE: 72 games, 36 home homes
OPENER: Scheduled for Oct. 13
THE COLORS: The orange and black are in honor of the Giants, and a tad of gold for the 49ers
THE TEAM NAME: Curcio and his wife were sightseeing at Fisherman’s Wharf and noticed the sea lions when a nosey tourist told them that a male sea lion was a “bull”
OPEN HOUSE: The Bulls will host an open house on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Cow Palace