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Volume 20 No. 42
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Spotlight: Howard Dolgon, Ephesus Lighting

Crunch owner wears another hat at LED lighting company Ephesus

As he celebrates 20 years as owner of the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, Howard Dolgon is taking on an additional role as chief marketing officer of LED lighting company Ephesus Lighting. “You’re going to see the arenas and stadiums across the country recognize that this type of LED lighting is just better,” he said. He spoke with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Bryan Ives.

Age: 56.
New title: Chief marketing officer, Ephesus Lighting. Dolgon has also been the owner of the Syracuse Crunch hockey team since 1994.
Previous title: Founding partner, Alan Taylor Communications.
First job: Baskin-Robbins ice cream scooper.
College education: Brooklyn College, 1978. B.A. in English.
Resides: Boca Raton, Fla., and Long Island. Wife and five kids. The youngest is in college.
Grew up: Brooklyn. “I’m glad I got my college degree, but I think everything I’ve done in my life I credit more my street education and learning how to think on my feet.”
Executive most admired: Alan Taylor, Alan Taylor Communications, David Stern, NBA, and Gary Bettman, NHL.
Brand most admired: Wheaties.
Favorite vacation spot: Aruba.
Last book read: “Once We Were Brothers,” by Ronald Balson. “But I’m a fanatic of dog books. I love reading anything about dogs.”
Last movie seen: “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Favorite movie: “Remember the Titans.”
Favorite bands: Fun, the Who and Pearl Jam.

What is the biggest challenge in your new position?
I’m starting to gain knowledge of the whole LED lighting arena, but I think really it’s an educational challenge because it’s such a new product and our company is really leading the charge in that field. It’s really probably to educate arenas, stadiums, different facilities about just how good this type of lighting is and what it does from both a quality standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint and economically what a huge money saver it is to the facilities that operate it.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Back in 2010, we were the first American Hockey League team to put on an outdoor game and unlike subsequent games, we did it at the New York state fairgrounds and we built a rink on a dirt racetrack. … We had to build locker rooms. We had to bring in video boards. You talk about from the dirt up, that’s what we did. The game was aired on the NHL Network and we wound up breaking the single-game attendance record for the American Hockey League.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Starting a team in [a city] labeled as a hockey graveyard, and there were a lot of naysayers and that only fueled and made me personally more determined to succeed and to take it more personally. Getting the team on board and keeping it and now we are the senior independently owned team of all 30 teams in the American Hockey League.

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
I was one of the founding members of the National Lacrosse League. The first year [in Syracuse] we didn’t do well as a team on the field or off the field and then the second year I thought we did a better job putting a better team together, but we still didn’t win and we really struggled financially for fan support. Instead of at that time selling the franchise and say it’s not working, that was the first time professionally I let my ego get in the way and I said I can turn it around. I gave it one more year and it just didn’t work, and then I wound up selling the franchise.

What career advice do you have for people wanting to get into the sports industry?
If you really want to learn the business and want to learn a lot of aspects of it and learn what it is you’re good at and want to do with it, get in with a minor league team. Get in with a smaller staff where you’re really going to be hands on from the marketing and promotions to the PR to the selling to maybe even working on the team side, because you’re not going to go from college to work with the New York Giants or the New York Yankees.