5.10.23 | read time: 3 min
Steelies Look Hot at 25
A Playoff Run 25 Years in the Making
The Idaho Steelheads have just completed their 25th season in the ECHL with a historic achievement – the winningest season in league history and a rocket launch into the ECHL playoffs!
A Brief History of the Idaho Steelheads
In their inaugural season, the Steelheads finished with a respectable 27-30 record and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. It was a promising start for a team that would go on to achieve so much more. The 2000-2001 season under the tutelage of head coach John Olver saw their first winning season capped off by a loss in the WCHL Taylor Cup Finals.
Three years since the inaugural season and a year after arriving in Boise, Cal Ingraham became the face of the franchise. 116 & West developed a humorous campaign where Cal ran for President. Y2Cal was a successful pivot from early features and benefits marketing which focused on educating the marketplace on hockey.
Over the years, the Steelheads have built a reputation for being a tough and gritty team that could recruit good players to Boise, Idaho. They’ve had some of the most talented players in the ECHL don their jerseys, but they’ve also had players who were willing to sacrifice their bodies and do whatever it takes to win. These players have been honored by the Steelheads with retired numbers – the Godfather being double deuce, number 22, Cal Ingraham.
Cal Ingraham, a former college standout on the University of Maine NCAA championship team, left Florida to join the upstart Steelheads. His skills on the ice and humble persona were an inflection point for the Steelies both in terms of on-ice success and popularity in the Treasure Valley.
The Steelheads have had many memorable moments throughout their 25-year history. One of their most significant accomplishments came in the 2003-2004 season when they won their first Kelly Cup, the ECHL’s championship trophy. It was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire organization and a willingness to think long-term since day one.
The Steelies have built a legacy of excellence and community in Idaho, a state that 25 years ago had limited hockey tradition – an understatement. A significant factor in their success is their marketing strategy which has helped the team grow its fanbase, and the players’ involvement in the community has further endeared them to fans.
116 & West + Steelheads
The Steelheads’ marketing campaigns have consistently been recognized by the league and the advertising industry. In fact, the team has won multiple ECHL Marketing Awards, including Best In-Game Promotion, Best Digital Campaign, and Best Sales Campaign. This success is a product of a collaborative atmosphere in the front office from a team that has held onto its executive talent.
When the Steelheads joined the ECHL with the remaining WCHL teams, 116 & West developed an animated campaign featuring A New League of Action Heroes. A variety of new teams to play from all over the United States became the unique selling proposition of the ‘03-’04 season.
The original Steelheads mascot Bonk was often intimidating to children. 116 & West concepted and developed Blue the Bear, the friendly forest ambassador always looking to catch some fish. Concurrently, 116 & West reimagined the Steelheads uniforms, logo, and alternative logos to better represent the Idaho mountain lifestyle and unique Steelhead fisheries. A little know fact: our CEO Edward Moore and the President of the Steelheads, Eric Trapp were both raised in Orofino, ID – the Steelhead Capital of the World.
As the Steelheads celebrate their 25th anniversary and their historic season, it’s clear that their success is due to a combination of factors: a strong marketing strategy, community engagement, front-office leadership, and the dedication of their players both on and off the ice. Congratulations to the Idaho Steelheads on an incredible 25 years, and here’s to many more years of success and community!