RIP: San Francisco Bulls (2012—2014)

Sophomore ECHL club shuts down midseason

Maybe the Bay Area can only support one pro hockey team. The San Francisco Bulls — ECHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks — ceased operations on Monday after only a season and a half in action.

It's not difficult to figure out why.

Photos from San Francisco Bulls by Mike Tkacheff

The team's press release tells us they couldn't find a new owner in time. The empty Cow Palace seen above on Jan. 15 tells us why no one was interested in buying the Bulls.

During their brief existence, the Bulls brought us one of the most wretched logos in minor league hockey — except, of course, when it had to be embroidered on the front of a sweater. So I can't say I'll miss this team all that much.

There is one thing they got right, though.

Last season, on Feb. 9 and 10, the Bulls skated in San Jose Sharks throwback jerseys — with that classic Pacific teal and gray. A lot of us miss those uniforms, so it was nice to see them in action one more time. Although they did their best to wreck it with those gradients in the crest.

Thanks for the memories.

Said no one. Okay, well there's that one guy in the middle a few rows up. He's the only one.

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Reader Comments (21)

There's nothing more depressing than an empty hockey arena...

Jan 28 · 10:24 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterMark

The attendance problems were always there, so it's not that much of a surprise. It was nice seeing them play in San Jose for one game. Bay area hockey pride, R.I.P. Bulls.

Jan 28 · 10:46 PM PST | Registered CommenterJustin Wiltron

The owner/coach didn't know to how handle it. He was a poor owner who didn't think well into the future. He didn't know how to take a deal, and was extremely picky. I personally had the displeasure of offering him concept art he shot down. I was offering a "hometown discount", being originally from the bay.

There was nothing like a Bulls game, and if you make fun of it, you weren't there.
It was the closest thing to old school hockey you could get. Cheap beer meant loud taunting. Fans often would yell, the players would love it. The fan/team connection was there. It was a selfish owner who didn't know what he wanted.

I'm truly gonna miss this team. They had so much potential. With a great city, colors, name.....it was bound for greatness.

I actually have some quick raw concepts, if you'd like to see them, Chris.

Jan 29 · 1:02 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterShark-Tank

The one thing I liked about them was the old Sabres cut. I knew it wasn't going to happen, but I was hoping the new Sabres 3rd was going to be a gold version of the goat head jerseys.

Jan 29 · 6:06 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterDylan W.

Those uniforms were such a trainwreck. I personally love when you mix modern elements with past elements (ie a detailed logo and a modern font on a simpler jersey like Dallas has now), but they took the worst of it with a flashy jersey design, blocky number fonts, reverse nameplates, and a circle logo. Also, who decided a bay-area team should rely so heavily on a rival's color scheme (the Ducks?). They should have had a beach-color theme with some red thrown in (since they're the Bulls).

I NEVER want to see a hockey team fail, but a big part of early success is a brand people can get behind. Best advertising would have been people walking around in Bulls merch, but I don't know anyone who would want to buy that.

Jan 29 · 7:17 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterDave

i don't think the logos were THAT bad. they were different and didn't look like everything else. it was a recognizable logo because of that.

think they'd take $100 for the franchise?

Jan 29 · 8:46 AM PST | Unregistered Commenterjonathanc

Attendance problems could be attributed to a rough marketing plan. Also, especially this season, the Bulls had many home games the same time as Sharks home games. The building, despite it's hockey heritage was less than desirable. The best seats in the house are the nosebleeds as the glass seats are almost below the boards.

Icethetic wise, hate to say it but the logo and jerseys (albeit minus the Sharks theme night and the popular black jersey this season) were very disappointing. Never good to use the numbering font from the rival Anaheim Ducks that your new fan base spotted right away. (Of course, they changed to the MLB Giants font) To recycle a design that was banished for the Buffaslug 8 years ago was a sign that this team was going to be cheap.

Also, I know from those I know and worked with in the organization, Mr. Curcio wasn't one to get along with. Many employees went through a revolving door that first season. Assistant coach Tom Pederson was mysteriously gone during season one. The video director filled in as equipment manager for the rest of the season. I was in works for working on their third jersey with a different logo, but of course, they ditched me for the work I already did and was given free tickets as "I'm sorry" to you but we're gonna rip off the Sharks third jersey but thanks.

Jan 29 · 10:05 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterPuckguy14

what happens to the players?

Jan 29 · 10:13 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterMark

Could be the lighting or just the image quality, but the teal jerseys they are wearing looks more like a powder blue as opposed to the pacific teal the Sharks alway had.....Very surprised to see any professional team fold mid-season in this day and age. I would think that emergency funds would be allocated to keep them in operation just to keep the schedule balanced and fair....There was a story about a week ago now on the Killer Bees of the NAHL that forgot to bring their jerseys for a road game and were forced to wear those of their opponent. Very surprised that hasn't been referenced here. Sorry if off topic but thought it was worth mentioning.

Jan 29 · 10:36 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterSean

That's a shame. Is the team moving somewhere else?

Jan 29 · 10:54 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterJoe

@Mark: According to the ECHL, the players automatically become unrestricted free agents. But that, of course, doesn't guarantee them a contract elsewhere. Definitely rough on those guys and any other employee of the organization.

@Joe: No, the players have all been released. The franchise no longer exists at this point.

Jan 29 · 12:04 PM PST | Registered CommenterChris

Instead of just putting players be out of work (I mean let's face it, teams that don't cease operations mid-season already have stocked rosters) by letting them wait for a team to call them, why don't they have a dispersal draft or something similar to that. Is there some logic to this, obviously I'm not a sports financial guru. It just seems like a Players' Association would take better care of its members by not telling them "if your boss sucks with money and has to cover his own ass by taking his ball and going home, you're pretty much on your own finding work overnight."

Jan 29 · 12:31 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterJesse

@Jesse: Fair point. But at the same time, why should one team's failure force other franchises to take on the expense of additional salaries? That assumes your dispersal draft requires all teams to select players. This system may actually be better for players (the good ones anyway) because now teams have to compete for them, leading to better contracts. Highest bidder and all. Just my take though. Like you, I'm no expert on the matter.

Jan 29 · 1:40 PM PST | Registered CommenterChris

To me, the two biggest--and insurmountable--problems were:

1. No one wants to go to the Cow Palace. It's not in San Francisco, it's just on the other side of the border with Daly City. For a city where most people don't drive, it's inconvenient to get to. The Bulls offered free shuttles from the nearest BART station, but it was still just a pain in the ass for a lot of people to get to games, and it took about 45-60 minutes. Also, the Cow Palace is a depressing old dump. SF doesn't have a better arena option, so they didn't really have a choice, but it's just a bad venue for anything.

2. The team did an absolutely horrible job of outreach and marketing. They had billboards up in SF with a fan wearing an orange foam finger and "This is Bulls country!" stamped across it -- When my dad came to town he said, "What the hell are the Bulls?" Practically none of their marketing made any reference to hockey. Not so smart.

As a die-hard hockey fan living in SF, I'm sad to see them gone, but I can't say I'm surprised. Those problems were there since day 1, and were pretty glaring.

Jan 29 · 2:00 PM PST | Unregistered Commenterjared

The Bulls' former owner was Shmuel Farhi, a gready moron land owner out of London, Ontario. This man has no clue what to do with anything he owns. Here in London, he buys up all the property in the city, slaps his name on it, doesn't tale care of it, and sets a very high price for prospected buyers. This doesn't come as a surprise to me. He's an idiot.

Jan 29 · 4:11 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterPhil den Hollander

I've been a Bulls fan since the day their existence was announced. I went to most of the games in the first season and was a season ticket holder the second season. I guess it's fun to make little quips about a team with low attendance going under. But for some of us it was something we legitimately cared about. Having affordable hockey ten minutes away from my house has been a dream come true. And even though it was short lived, it was worth it. I put a ton of money and time into this team and will miss them dearly.

The Bulls' logo really grew on me. It has a classic feel to it that I came to really like. It's not nearly as bad as what Wheeling, Orlando and Eavansville have. The Bulls also had THE best holiday sweater jersey. They also wore a specialty jersey for LGBT night http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/NHL-results-Jan-10-5133603.php#next I think that's the first time that's been done.

Jan 29 · 4:45 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterScott

I got dragged to one of the games last season during the lockout and it wasn't bad as far as the gameday experience goes. That barn could seat 12k for hockey so it was always going to look empty for even a good ECHL crowd.

No one went to the games after the lockout because they were charging AHL ticket prices to watch games in an old barn across the street from the projects in SF. The Cow Palace lease was a death trap on its own not to mention they money they spent on upgrades. It's damn near impossible for any SF sports team to survive on fans in SF alone, and once all the fans from suburbs (the real money that all Bay Area teams are after) turned their attention back to the Sharks (who has a monopoly all the way down to youth hockey in the Bay Area), they had no chance.

Jan 29 · 8:27 PM PST | Unregistered Commenterguam64

Wretched Logo?? I think the logo is pretty cool!! There are a lot worse one's out there in Minor League Hockey. The White and Orange jersey's Suck! but the Black and the Teal (Old School Sharks) jersey's look great!

Jan 29 · 10:01 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterRob S

Well, it's not surprising to see a team go with an arena filled like that.

Jan 30 · 3:16 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterJoe.S

As a die-hard fan of Anaheim Ducks and a believer of hockey in California - and in Florida, and in Arizona, and in any other hot state, this is bad news for me. But I won't miss the logo, indeed. Also, I never understood why a team in Bay Area affiliated to Sharks would wear the colors of Anaheim. When they announced the franchise, they even got the same Anaheim number-name fonts... well, that, we'll never know. RIP Bulls.

Jan 31 · 4:23 AM PST | Unregistered CommenterThiago Leal

I feel bad for the people on here that actually cared about the Bulls. Unfortunetly, there just was not enough support to keep the team afloat any longer. As for their uniforms, the white and orange ones are very bad and even worse since they are supposed to be an affiliate to the San Jose Sharks. As for their black jersey, it doesn't look too bad but what annoys me is how good the Sharks' throwback jersey looks yet the Sharks went with something really, really, really bland so they could be more "Lightweight". Anyway, another thing that bothers me is that half the season is already over and now the players are out of work. I know they ran out of money and ownership interest but they should have been allowed to at least finish the season. If the season just started, then it wouldn't be so bad but 1/2 way through, I feel bad for those players and it sounds like they were actually in contention for a playoff spot too. I know that this is just a Minor-League, ECHL team but nevertheless, I hope that if this happens again, the ECHL will at least find a way to let the team finish their season, especially if it is half-way done.

Jan 31 · 2:28 PM PST | Unregistered CommenterR

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