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'70s icon Peter Puck set for comeback

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Can't believe nobody brought this up already....

Rocky Mountain News

URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/nhl/...5531047,00.html

'70s icon Peter Puck set for comeback

By Keith McArthur, Toronto Globe and Mail

May 10, 2007

Peter Puck, the 1970s-era cartoon character who helped teach Americans about hockey, is getting a makeover and prepping for a comeback.

Again.

For 25 years, Brian McFarlane, the former broadcaster and historian known as Peter Puck’s "father," has been trying to bring back the scrappy puck that dished out hockey rules and history during game intermissions on NBC and CBC broadcasts between 1973 and 1980.

McFarlane obtained the rights to the cartoon character from U.S. animator Hanna-Barbera in 1979. He won’t say how much he paid, except that it was in the tens of thousands. Over the years, he’s worked with various licensing companies and manufacturers to try to leverage the investment, with little success.

"It’s all a blur of talks and conversations and meetings," said McFarlane, 75. "... We haven’t garnered much business from Peter Puck over the years. I felt embarrassed in a way, because I feel it shows that I’m not really a good businessman, perhaps."

Now, finally, a line of Peter Puck apparel is hitting store shelves and an undisclosed national financial institution has secured a three-year deal in which Peter will be its official "spokespuck."

A modest start, perhaps, but McFarlane and Segal Licensing, his latest partner, have big plans for the character, which could involve books, toys, breakfast cereal — even his own computer-animated television program.

Stuart Pollock, the president of Segal Licensing, said there’s been interest from various broadcasters in a half-hour television program depicting the adventures of Peter Puck. The original voice of Peter Puck, Ronnie Schell, would be replaced with a younger actor.

"We think there’s unlimited potential," Pollock said. "We think it will grow as the kids grow."

Others are more skeptical.

"I’ve never had a sense that people are clamoring for the return of Peter Puck. I think the fact that no one has picked it up over the past 20 years ... might be slightly telling," said Bob Stellick, a Toronto-based sports-marketing consultant.

Keith McIntyre, the president of K.Mac & Associates Marketing, said he can see how Peter Puck will appeal to guys in their 40s who grew up with the character. But he said it will be harder to make him appeal to kids, who are more likely to play hockey on Xbox than to watch the game on TV.

"From a nostalgic point of view, it would get my attention," said McIntyre, 46. "From a kid’s point of view, I think it will be a lot more challenging to be relevant."

NBC officials came up with the idea of an animated cartoon to use during their hockey broadcasts as part of an effort to persuade affiliates in the southern United States to carry the games.

McFarlane, NBC’s play-by-play broadcaster, flew to Hollywood to meet with Hanna-Barbera producers, armed with hockey knowledge and books. He said he helped shape Peter Puck, but does not claim to be the creator.

Just 44 minutes of Peter Puck cartoons were made. They aired on NBC and later on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.

McFarlane, who introduced the segments, assumed the daunting task of responding on behalf of Peter to the hundreds of letters that young viewers sent to the cartoon character.

"I fell in love with Peter Puck," McFarlane said yesterday. "I got to be known as Peter Puck’s father around the league."

For a few years, he operated a hockey museum in Niagara Falls, Ont., where one of the big attractions was the chance to view the vintage Peter Puck cartoons. McFarlane isn’t sure why he’s had no success in the past, beyond the Niagara Falls museum venture, with bringing back Peter Puck. He said he was too busy with other projects to put enough time into it. And he thinks Segal brings more expertise to the character than other licensing partners he’s worked with.

For the latest effort at bringing Peter Puck out of retirement, Segal has given him new equipment, with skates and hockey gloves. His two-piece wooden hockey stick has been replaced with a one-piece composite stick.

It’s not the first time Peter Puck has been given a makeover. McFarlane, who said he is a big fan of women’s hockey, stuck a bow tie and eyelashes on a Peter Puck costume to create Penny Puck.

His plan now is to start with Canada, but he said the sky’s the limit.

"I think there’s a huge audience ready to accept him in the U.S. and then I think we should look very seriously at the European and even the Asian markets to see what might transpire there," McFarlane said. "They wouldn’t have a memory of him. He would be quite new and refreshing to anyone overseas."

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Well now the cat is out of the bag. It's true I have a big new TV contract. I'll (try to) remember you fondly, my friends on HW, the little guys. Just think you'll be able to say you knew me when.

"I've never had a sense that people are clamoring for the return of Peter Puck. I think the fact that no one has picked it up over the past 20 years ... might be slightly telling," said Bob Stellick, a Toronto-based sports-marketing consultant.

Toronto continues its inability to recognize true talent even when it's staring it in the face. A few of you may not know that Bob Stellick is the same sports consultant who convinced Ferguson to trade Rusk for Raycroft.

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Well now the cat is out of the bag. It's true I have a big new TV contract. I'll (try to) remember you fondly, my friends on HW, the little guys. Just think you'll be able to say you knew me when.

Toronto continues its inability to recognize true talent even when it's staring it in the face. A few of you may not know that Bob Stellick is the same sports consultant who convinced Ferguson to trade Rusk for Raycroft.

And Stellick shoots his big Leaf mouth off every morning on the FAN Leaf 590.

He managed the Leafs, was a loser then and still is a Leaf loser on a Leaf loser station. (Guess you could say I rarely listen to that station)

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