<
>

ECHL team talks offer to Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber loves hockey, has played it "all my life," grew up in Canada and roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bieber has a new book "Just Getting Started" out today and told Ryan Seacrest on NBC's "Today Show" that he "does not want to be just another teen heartthrob."

Well, here's his chance if this whole music thing doesn't work out -- he's been offered an amateur tryout contract by the Bakersfield (Calif.) Condors of the ECHL.

"If he called us and said he wanted to give it a shot, we’d obviously be fired up and would love to give him the opportunity," said Matt O'Dette, the Condors coach/director of hockey operations, in an email interview Thursday.

This isn't just your average minor-league hockey promotion (it's being promoted with the hashtag #BiebsInBako). O'Dette sees some legitimate potential in Bieber's hockey skills. He's a true #BELIEBER.

"Well, being a Canadian, he’s grown up playing hockey and it’s something that he’s certainly familiar with. He moves well on his skates and has some decent puck-handling skills," O'Dette said. "We hold no illusions of him being better than any of our players and taking any spots away from anyone on our team. That’s not the point of this. We are extending the opportunity to Biebs to measure himself as a hockey player and to maybe fulfill something that he’s always wanted to do and for everyone to have a good time with it in the process."

The 18-year-old pop music superstar and right wing possesses -- according to the Condors website -- "soft hands, a good skating stride, and a devastating wrist shot capable of beating NHL caliber goaltenders. He appears to be strong in shootouts as well."

But could Bieber survive the rough and tumble world of the ECHL -- even for one shift? In January, the Condors and Ontario Reign were involved in an epic contest that featured 278 penalty minutes and this fight that featured goalie Bryan Pitton. It resulted in a YouTube video that has received more than 192,000 views.

"I think he might surprise some people with his scrappiness. He’d probably have a target on his back. We’d have to put him on a line with a couple of our toughest players to watch his back," O'Dette said of the 5-foot-7, 110-pound Bieber. "Maybe the Gimblett (Tyson and Jesse - 6-3, 220-pounds) twins? Those type of brawls are fun for the fans but don’t happen very often ... [Bieber] certainly doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. Especially with the paparazzi."

If Bieber made the Condors, he'd get a standard player deal that would pay the league-minimum of $380 per week. That might be just enough to tip his limo driver. The offer has received coverage across the sports and pop world -- including posts on MTV.com and E! Online. "I’m a little bit surprised. I knew there would be some buzz about it but maybe not this much. We’re just trying to create something fun in the world of hockey. A world that’s currently staring down the barrel of an NHL lockout," O'Dette said.

With 2.845 billion (that's right, billion) You Tube views, and more than 46.53 million fans on Facebook and 27.79 million followers on Twitter, mentioning Bieber's name is can't-miss when it comes to promotion. Bieber's tour will be in nearby Fresno, Calif., on Oct. 5.

The Condors have several notable promotions scheduled this season including "Date a Condor Night," "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night," and "Voodoo Doll Giveaway Night" -- the last two in reference to the rival Stockton Thunder. The Bieber offer and other promotions are a necessary element for any successful minor-league hockey franchise.

"Our organization is known for thinking outside the box. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we like to have fun with our promotions. [The Bieber] offer came about in a discussion about twitter and Justin Bieber's 27 million Twitter followers," O'Dette said. "It evolved into hockey and the fact that Justin grew up playing hockey in Canada. Light bulbs started to go off in all of our heads and the idea just grew from there."

Any NHL lockout would not affect the Condors' schedule - which begins at home against San Francisco on Oct. 12 -- or Bieber's potential ECHL career. "Our league will keep playing and the show will go on. If anything it will give people something fun to talk about rather than the depressing news of the lockout."

What's next? Here's one suggestion from South Carolina.

If you see any offbeat links from your favorite sports site or catchy tweets that might be of interest to others, please pass them along to me @billsperos or bsperos1@gmail.com. Thanks.