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Minute To Wing It: Firewolves Fans Risk It All For Free Chicken Wings

Albany FireWolves Albany FireWolves - NLL

For 60 seconds of every Albany FireWolves home game, fans inside MVP Arena wait on bated breath to see if one of their own will earn the right to be called one of the cluckiest people in the city.

The first minute of the second half of every FireWolves home game is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling moments of the night. Before the second half of each game starts, one lucky fan is chosen to participate in Minute To Wing It. In this exciting contest, said fan can choose to either take a $25 gift card to Recovery Sports Grill or risk it all to win free wings for a year at the restaurant chain if the FireWolves score in the opening minute of the third quarter. No one has chosen to take the gift card.

On March 8th, Bobby Colla, also known as Cowboy Bobby at FireWolves games, was the fortunate contestant who was given the opportunity to wing it. He never had a doubt in his mind about what he was going to do. He was going all in for those wings.

Two of the previous six contestants had already won this promotion this season, so Colla felt like the odds of it happening again were against him. That didn’t stop him from taking the risk, though, as chicken wings have played an instrumental role in his relationship with his now-wife.

When Colla and his wife were just getting to know each other 10 years ago, they would go out to their local Recovery Sports Grill with their friends every week for chicken wings and drinks. All of their schedules lined up on a night with a boneless wings promotion, so that’s what they would order, but Collar says he has no preference for his wing style. It was the good times around those wings that brought them closer together.

Colla’s hope for chicken wing glory dwindled as the third quarter commenced, and the seconds began to tick off the clock. Then, with less than 10 seconds to win the coveted prize, Marshall Powless received the ball near the restraining line, found his way around a solid pick set by his teammate, Sam Firth, charged toward the net, and let a shot rip. Powless scored, and MVP Arena went wild. Colla, dressed in his leather cowboy vest and matching hat, was over the moon.

“The last time I looked up at the scoreboard to see the time, it was at 14:08, which means I had eight seconds [left to win the free wings],” Colla said. “I was like, ‘There’s absolutely no way.’ I can’t even remember who scored the goal. I just remember the ball popping over the goalie’s left shoulder and into the net. I hugged Brian Rhatigan [the FireWolves’ in-arena host], and I was just ecstatic; I can’t even put it into words.”

The euphoria Colla felt and the overwhelming joy expressed by the thousands in attendance after he won the free wings for a year were exactly the reactions Tom Gabriel, Director of Business Development at BBL Hospitality, and Jaden Krueger, Director of Game Presentation for the FireWolves, were hoping to elicit when their respective teams came together and concocted this idea before the season started.

“It’s one of the fun parts of the job, coming up with ways to entertain fans during the game and drive some foot traffic for the sponsor itself,” Krueger said. “They [BBL Hospitality] came to us and said they wanted to do this new in-game promotion, and their initial request was that it be some kind of risk-or-reward kind of game.”

“It was a collaborative effort between our organizations to come to the final product on this,” Gabriel said. “This is more on the creativity side. Being a sports grill and sports-themed restaurant, we like to create some type of athletic or sports theme in our marketing.”

It is important to mention that there is some fine print around what “free wings for a year” means. After winning the prize, the winners are given a punch card to bring into Recovery Sports Grill to receive one order of free wings (12 boneless or ten traditional) per month.

Gabriel went on to explain that this promotion has excited more than just the fans at the arena on game night. The contest has been the talk of the town all season long, and now it seems that every sports team or business in town wants to have a chance to wing it.

“We’ve had other partners reach out,” Gabriel said. “Be it other sports organizations, other non-profits, or people just asking if they can either do Minute To Wing It within their organization, or if we’d be willing to donate free wings for a year to their charity, auction, or whatever it might be. So, it’s encouraged others to reach out and inquire about it.”

The only thing more satisfying to FireWolves fans than their team scoring is when their team wins. Having this Minute To Wing It in-game contest gives the fans a little extra something to get excited about. Few things in this world can get sports fans out of their seats better than winning free food or, in this case, watching someone else win free food.

“FireWolves fans are always hoping for a goal, but this takes it up a notch,” Krueger said. “They can… live vicariously through that (fellow) fan. It really provides excitement for that specific moment of the game.”

With one FireWolves home game remaining this season – they host the Toronto Rock on April 6th – only one more lucky fan will have the chance to win free chicken wings.

Whatever the outcome for that fan, we should all be clucking happy that BBL Hospitality and the FireWolves created one of the most captivating and entertaining in-game promotions in the NLL this season.