SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/This Week's News

Winter Classic taking Luukko back to shrine of his youth

On his first trip to Fenway Park as a 7-year-old Cub Scout, Peter Luukko’s senses were overwhelmed. Bats cracked during batting practice, the scent of warm hot dogs floated through the air and the grass glowed under the outfield sun.

Fenway Park, he discovered, was every bit as magical a place as he’d imagined.

“You grow up in Boston and hear about how special a place it is, then you walk in and it’s everything you thought it would be,” said Luukko, president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers. “Fenway Park is a shrine.”

Luukko, 50, looks forward to revisiting Fenway and enjoying an entirely new experience there during the NHL Winter Classic, the league’s third annual New Year’s Day outdoor game. That day, he will be pulling for his current team, the Flyers, against the one he grew up cheering and dreaming of working for, the Boston Bruins.

Over more than two decades, Luukko has built a reputation as a hard-working arena operator and effective team president, but he traces the roots of his career in sports business beyond his first job in 1985 at Spectacor Management Group to his upbringing in Massachusetts.

Comcast-Spectacor’s Peter
Luukko at the Winter Classic
announcement in July

During his years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Luukko and a friend arranged bus trips to Fenway Park for college students. They would sell tickets that included the bus trip, bleacher seats for a Red Sox game and all-you-could-drink beer.

“You knew that he was a special guy as soon as he came out of school and came to work for us,” said Tony Tavares, the former Anaheim Ducks executive who first hired Luukko to work for SMG. “He was bright and had a great sense of humor and a great work ethic.”

Luukko has used the ingenuity he showed as a college student over the last four months to help the Flyers make the most of the Winter Classic even though the event is taking place in another market. The Flyers used a portion of the approximately 5,000 tickets allocated for the game to craft a special travel package. For $1,600, fans could buy a package that includes round-trip train transportation and two nights of hotel accommodations. The team sold out all 353 available packages and ran out of available space on the trains.

The club reserved another portion of its tickets for roughly 30 key sponsors it plans to bring to the event, as well. While none of the sponsors are up for renewal this year, Luukko said the event offers the opportunity to show them the added value of being a Flyers team partner.

Winter Classic merchandise sales have been robust in Philadelphia. The NHL expects to double sales of merchandise from the 2009 Winter Classic for this year’s game between the Flyers and Bruins. The Flyers have sold $93,592 in Winter Classic merchandise year to date. When the team played at home Nov. 27, the club had a $7 per cap in part because the Flyers’ official Winter Classic jersey debuted. The team has sold 150 jerseys, 300 knit caps and 108 Chris Pronger Winter Classic T-shirts.

“Even though not everyone can go, they want to buy the Winter Classic hat, gloves and T-shirt because we’re in it,” Luukko said.

Luukko’s excitement about the event rivals that of any Flyers fan. He grew up playing pond hockey and remains a Boston Red Sox fan, so to see a hockey game played at Fenway thrills him.

“I don’t think in anyone’s wildest dreams they would see the Bruins and an NHL game at Fenway Park,” he said. “To be able to go outside like that and have a game that counts in the standings is fantastic.”

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