There’s a professional minor league sports franchise on Long Island that offers a family friendly atmosphere, affordable tickets, free parking, in-game promotions, approachable players who are happy to sign autographs, and a mascot that is a large bird. No, I’m not talking about the Long Island Ducks baseball team. I’m referring to the Strong Island Sound of the American Basketball Association.
Long Island has a long history with the original ABA. The New York Nets were a staple of the league and were one of the 4 teams that merged with the NBA following the 1976 season. Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, plied his trade for the Nets in long-forgotten buildings such as The Commack Arena and The Island Garden. Especially after the Ducks proved that minor league sports can not only survive but thrive on Long island, it would be a natural fit to try it with an ABA basketball team.
The ABA was brought back to life in 2000 by people that had connections to the original league. This time it was formed as an independent minor league (similar to the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, in which the Ducks play). The new ABA is using the same red, white, and blue basketball and also has some unique rules that make if special. The old league started the 3-point shot and the slam dunk contest. The new league has the 3-D Rule, 6th Foul Rule, and 3-10-and Out Overtime Rule. There are also a number of former NBA players that have joined the ABA, such as Dennis Rodman and Tim Hardaway.
Long Island was granted an expansion team for the 2005-2006 season, which runs from November to March. The name was chosen last year after a ‘name the team’ contest was held in a number of school districts in Suffolk County. The winning students received season tickets and team apparel. The team had to schedule its games at college venues for the inaugural season. St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue and Suffolk Community College in Selden have been their ‘home courts’. The ultimate goal is to be playing at the proposed 6,000 seat arena on the county-owned land in Yaphank. All of the proposals (including one group from the team) have in their plans to build an arena. So it is just a matter of time before the Sound are playing in a home of their own.
The Sound have had different promotions all season long to offer either free or discounted admission. Regular ticket prices are $12.00. College and high school students are admitted for $9.00. Seniors 55 and over are $8.00. Military personnel are half-price. Different agencies were given free admission for a particular game. There was Teacher Appreciation Night, Health Care Worker Appreciation Night and Correction Officer/Sheriff Appreciation Night. An upcoming weekend set of games will honor the Police Department (February 17th) and Fire Department (February 18th). There was also a Youth League Night where fans wearing their team jerseys were admitted for $8.00. The next Youth League Night will be on March 3rd.
The ABA also has a special promotion that allows teams to suit up a “13th Man Celebrity Player” for a game. This person is in full uniform, sits at the bench with the team, and gets into the game and plays. On January 20th, the Sound were joined by 6’6” 419 pound competitive eater Ed “Cookie” Jarvis. The Long Island native and Sound fan brought good luck to the team in a win versus the Newark Express and their head coach, Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins. The Sound recently announced that comedian Bob Nelson will join them as the 13th Man for the March 3rd game. There are also rumblings that more announcements are on the horizon.
The Sound have played exciting fast-paced basketball. They have rebounded from a slow start and are currently 10-13, 16th in the ABA Power Rankings. The league has 37 teams, 24 of which qualify for the post season. The Sound are in position right now to host a playoff game.
The Sound provide for their fans a lot of in-game promotions to go along with the high-scoring basketball. There are dribble and free-throw contests for the kids and “Remember the ABA” trivia contests for the adults. There are “T-Shirt Toss Time-Outs”. The team mascot is named Sheyken Bayke and is appropriately a large yellow chicken in a team uniform. He invites all the young fans down to mid-court at halftime to join him in “The Chicken Dance”.
The Sound can be a success on the court and off if they can build a fan base. The team’s marketing motto is “It’s an event, not just a game”. By attending one I’m sure that you will agree with them.
LI SPORTS NOTES: Final scores from Friday February 3, 2006
The New York Dragons evened their record at 1-1 in the young season with a 51-47 win at Chicago versus the Rush.
The Strong Island Sound defeated the Express in Newark 113-108.
For more information on the Strong Island Sound visit: www.strongislandsound.com
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