Bemidji, Minn. -- A CHAUVET® dealer produces pre-game light shows for the Bemidji State University men's hockey team, a rarity for college hockey, earning recognition from the local community as well as from professional hockey teams.
Ben Stowe owns Bemidji, MN-based NFLX Professional, which sells, installs and programs CHAUVET® lighting fixtures and uses CHAUVET's ShowXpress software program. Normally, he doesn't produce shows.
He said his association with hockey started a number of years ago. “We're a lighting company in a small town and were roped into doing some lighting for a figure skating event,” he said. “You just can't say no to 50 little girls.”
That event led to a conversation with the university's Assistant Hockey Coach Bert Gilling who in 2002 asked Stowe if he could produce a pre-game show for his home games. “We put together a simple lighting show, the fans went nuts and every year since, we've had to raise the bar,” said Stowe.
He uses CHAUVET® ShowXpress to program the show, citing its ease of use and the ability to incorporate multi-media files. “I've used a lot of lighting software, ShowXpress is probably the easiest and most intuitive of software to use,” he said.
About two years ago, CHAUVET® introduced ShowXpress Timeline, which allows the user to create shows, drag them into a timeline and have them loop, repeat and stack. Stowe immediately switched. “It was the nail in the coffin for everyone else,” Stowe said of other lighting software programs.
Stowe worked with his own lights he is loaning to the university -- Q-Spot 575 and Stage Wash 1550 fixtures.
The pre-game show he designed lasts for about half of the allotted 20 minutes and is composed of projecting school colors on the ice, timed to music the fans enjoy and videos of game highlights and the team mascot – Bucky Beaver. During the game, lights pulsate when the team scores. “The post-goal celebration includes Q-spots shining on the mascot at center ice along with music,” he said.
Bemidji Athletic Director Rick Goeb said the light show builds excitement among the fans. “We are always looking for something to create excitement and that's what happens with this light show – it's really first class,” he said. “I can't imagine a game without it.”
The university, located on the western shore of Lake Bemidji in Minnesota's north woods, has produced numerous winning hockey teams through its 53-year-old program. The school boasts 55 All-Americans, has won 13 national championships and currently has the best win-loss record in college hockey. According to Stowe, most of the team members go on to play professional hockey.
“This is the big show; we've had National Hockey League scouts come watch kids and many of them have called and asked about the lighting,” Stowe said.
This year's winning record led to hosting the semis and finals for the 2009 College Hockey of America Championship. The team wanted an even more spectacular pre-game show for that event, held in early March.
“The assistant coach came to me with some clips of the Stanley Cup Playoffs' light show and asked what we needed to do that,” Stowe said. “I told him that I'd need 50 feet more ceiling height, $1 million more in budget and about 80,000 watts more power.” Other than that, he joked, “It's a snap.”
The custom gobos of the semi-finalist schools' logos as well as school colors splashed across the ice as each player was introduced. A video with music, photos and stats of each player were simultaneously broadcast on a large video screen.
Bemidji State swept the semi final game, went on to win the final in overtime and advanced to the Sweet 16 held in late March, bringing Stowe's light shows to an end for the season. The following month, the underdog team lost in the NCAA Frozen Four semi finals 4-1 to Miami University of Ohio.
Stowe figures his efforts will pay off. The university will build a new $100 million hockey arena and event facility in two years and Stowe has plans for lighting equipment that will produce “mind blowing shows,” he said. “This can be the keystone for that.”