Sports promoters are forever searching for the next big idea or gimmick to help generate fan interest and ultimately sell more tickets. In today's sports marketing world, plans range from cash giveaways to bobblehead night to traditional fan appreciation events, and just about everything in between.
Back in the fall of 1979, Oklahoma City found itself on the cutting edge of sports entertainment, so to speak " albeit only at the minor league hockey level. As the Oklahoma City Stars began their second season in the Central Hockey League, team owner Ron Norick and coach Ted Hampson set into motion a novel idea designed to make their sport more appealing to the masses.
The idea was the Oklahoma City Starettes, a group of show-skating cheerleaders who were hired to entertain Stars faithful during intermissions. Other teams at various levels had pep squads and cheerleaders who played to various sections in the stands during games, but the Starettes worked the same Myriad ice as future National Hockey League stars Dino Ciccarelli and Curt Giles.
As soon as the Zamboni cleaned the ice between periods, it was showtime for the Starettes and 15-year-old Angela Siekman, a sophomore at John Marshall High School at the time.
"Disco was so big then, and I remember skating to a lot of Donna Summer songs and to 'Boogie Wonderland' that first season," said Siekman. "It was an absolute blast, and I think the crowds really enjoyed what we added to the experience. They had their game, hotdogs, cold beer and the Starettes."
Siekman, who began skating at age 10, was one-fifth of the skating ensemble, all of whom were teenagers and aspiring young entertainers. Their choreographed routines helped distract the fans from what turned out to be some uninspired hockey that 1979-80 season when the Stars finished 11 games under .500.
"We had a few really good individual players in '79, but we were not that great as a team," said Hampson, who led the Stars to a playoff appearance the following season. "We were always trying to find ways to create more interest and bring in more fans. Introducing the ice cheerleaders turned out to be a pretty good idea."
Besides boosting spirits during actual games, the Starettes also did their share of promotional work outside the arena. They made regular appearances at shopping malls and spent additional time at the Myriad mingling with fans and signing autographs.
"There were a lot of publicity events we attended, along with Winger the Penguin, who was the team mascot. It was fun because we felt we were doing our part to help the team," said Siekman. "I liked hockey and since I was a performer by nature, being a Starette was a great experience."
ICE SKATING CHEERLEADERS
Despite the efforts of the Starettes and players like Ciccarelli " who went on to play 21 seasons in the NHL " the Stars franchise lasted only four seasons in Oklahoma City. They departed after the 1981-82 season, and the idea of ice skating cheerleaders never really caught on with other teams.
That same year, Siekman, only 17, left for California to pursue her dream of skating professionally. And over the next 20 years, she performed with such world-renowned shows as the Ice Capades, American Super Dream Show and Holiday On Ice.
"I was trained in dance and singing, but I always found a freedom in skating that you couldn't find anywhere else," said Siekman. "I was fortunate enough to make a career out of skating and was involved in some great shows and got to travel to places like Europe, Japan and Mexico. It was a great life experience. Not bad for a girl who started out as a Starette."
Siekman unofficially retired from skating a few years ago after giving birth to a daughter. She has spent the last decade or so being a mother and doing what she describes as her "reinventing of the single mom." In 2007, she introduced "Sexy Boot Camp," a Los Angeles-based workout regimen created exclusively to, as she put it, "make women feel sexier, healthier, more fit and creative."
"I'm an entertainer. That's what I have done all my life, so this idea just stemmed from all of those experiences. I learned to pole dance, which is an extremely athletic workout, and I incorporated that into "Angela's Sexy Boot Camp," said Siekman, who last returned to her Oklahoma City roots in 1994.
"I'm still performing. You're never too old to live. And this has been my life for so long " it's what I do and what I can give. There is something about it that has always made me feel fulfilled." "Jay C. Upchurch