One of the most successful minor league franchises of all time, the Columbus Chill took the city of Columbus, Ohio, by storm during the 1990s. The city saw a trio of teams come and go in the 1960s and 1970s, but was left without hockey after the Columbus Owls left town in 1977. Looking to fill the gap and establish Columbus as a hockey city, the Chill started in the ECHL for the 1991-92 season and looked to take a radical approach to marketing to create excitement around the team, something their predecessors had failed to accomplish. They also played in the same Fairgrounds Coliseum that the Owls, Golden Seals, and Checkers had done before.
The team's outlandish and borderline offensive marketing campaigns for the time garnered national attention and captured the imagination of the city. Even from a design standpoint, the team bucked tradition and rotated its logo vertically on its jerseys. The team found immediate success and started a sellout streak in January 1992 that would last 83 games, with 80% of all games in franchise history sold out. That would set a minor league record that lasted for a decade. They built an impressive season ticket base of more than 6,000 fans, almost unprecedented in minor league hockey. Although the team's on ice play was closer to average, the team was a hit and a draw at the box office. When they did make the playoffs, they were hampered by a home venue that could not accommodate playoff games, a situation their predecessors also ran into. Facing a scheduling crisis with an unexpected loss of key dates at the Coliseum, Chill management unleashed a public relations campaign, buoyed by community support, that swelled into pressure for a new arena. With it, came attention from the NHL. In July 1997, the NHL committed to a new franchise for the 2000-01 season. While that ultimately spelled the end for the Chill, their efforts established Columbus as a true hockey town and brought a big league team to town.
Read the full story of the Chill in the all encompassing book, Chill Factor.