Portland, ME – When Joyce Ebright accepted the Hall of Fame honor on behalf of her late husband, Tom Ebright, the memories came rushing back to when I was a child going to see the Portland Pirates.
From the time when Mr. Ebright brought the team to Portland from Baltimore, he wanted to instill a sense of civic pride in the organization. It was just as important to him that the team was an integral part of the community as it was to win on ice.
For him, he managed to accomplish both as he won a Calder Cup in the Pirates first season in Portland.
As he was often referred by, Mr. Ebright was not only the owner of the Pirates he was their biggest fan. Sitting in Section D, he would wear his jersey, emblazed with #50 on the back, cheering on the team. When he wasn’t in his seat with his wife Joyce, he was in the lobby area shaking the hands of those who came to the game, thanking them for their patronage.
He did something back then that isn’t done very much in business today.
He was a savvy businessman and he realized the number one rule in being successful.
The customer is always right and he made sure that the customer got what they paid for.
A quick example was when my parents bought season tickets during the Pirates’ second year. My Dad, always the perfectionist, didn’t like his seat so he went to complain to his ticket sales rep. When the rep wasn’t available, Mr. Ebright came out to assist my dad, who explained his situation. Again, remember Mr. Ebright believed the customer was always right so he walked with my dad into the Civic Center and told him to pick out any seat available and he would make it work. Mr. Ebright said that if he weren’t happy with those new seats, he’d give my dad his seat in Section D.
He most likely wouldn’t have given my dad his seat, but it only showed the commitment that Mr. Ebright made to the customer, and how he wanted to make them happy. A happy customer was a returning customer and my dad was very happy with his new seats, keeping them for almost 10 years.
It’s moments like that that showed the type of person that Mr. Ebright was and when he passed away in 1997, it was very sad day in Portland.
Tonight, when Mrs. Ebright walked out to center ice and received a large applause from the crowd, it was a sight to witness. You could almost sense Mr. Ebright standing right next to her, giving a humble speech as he would have been extremely honored to receive such recognition from the fans – after all he was a too.
Today when you walk you into the Civic Center, you can still feel Mr. Ebright’s presence still in Section D, rooting for his team.
He was a one of a kind owner, but more importantly, he was a fan’s fan and our friend.