Salt Lake Trapper general manager Steve Pearson stood in the back of the room and waited until Monday's press conference was over before he asked Mike Runge the crucial question: "Are you working for me tomorrow night?" Pearson said.
"What's tomorrow?" asked Runge, baiting Pearson.Of course, Runge would be there at the Trapper game Tuesday night to do the public address announcing.
Just because Runge spent Monday afternoon publicly being announced as the Salt Lake Golden Eagles' new general manager, replacing Marc Amicone, who resigned to take a University of Utah marketing job, doesn't mean he won't go on being Mike Man for the Trappers, the University of Utah's football, basketball and gymnastics teams, and half the other sporting events in town. And probably still for the Eagles. He's been their PA man for 17 years.
He'll not have to give up his commercials - Larry H. Miller Toyota, Wendy's hamburgers, Pro Golf shop - or his announcing work unless there's a conflict on a certain date.
In fact, says Runge, whose roots in the Eagles run even deeper than do those of owner Art Teece, his extracurricular jobs will probably enhance his role with the Eagles.
The Eagles have finally gotten a product that is equal to or better than what they displayed at the turn of the decade, when they averaged 7,100 in attendance. They have finally gotten a league worthy of national billing - the International League now has seven No. 1 NHL affiliations.
What they need now is a higher profile within the community, and Runge, ever the salesman, sees that as his role as their new general manager.
When people see Frank Layden in commercials, they think of the Utah Jazz. When Runge appears, now they'll think of the Eagles, he figures.
Amicone worked behind the scenes to get NHL teams to leave the American League and move their farm systems to the IHL, and he quietly helped cut costs. Other IHL teams, once suspicious of the Westerners, found Teece and Amicone true to their words and have rewarded that responsibility by trimming the travel costs the Eagles have to pay for visiting teams and by making scheduling concessions to them to make finances easier.
Those things are done.
The Flames do their own player-personnel work.
So Runge will change the GM's emphasis now to one of marketing and public image-making. He'll work on corporations to buy Eagles the way many have bought Jazz in the past few years.
If they haven't been aware of the Eagles in the past, many people will be aware of them now just because they know Runge, the commercial-maker, the PA man, the disc jockey, the former traffic copter reporter, the national board member of the National Society to Prevent Blindness - one of Salt Lake City's most celebrated workaholics, a man who drives a Jaguar but prefers arena/ballpark hot dogs to steaks.
Runge, 49, a U. of U. marketing grad, was most recently the morning man at KLUB AM-57 radio for about 15 months after leaving his job as program director at KALL AM-910. He'd been at KALL 14 years as helicopterized traffic reporter, disc jockey and programming director. When KLUB became KISN AM-57 and changed its format a few weeks ago, Runge's position was eliminated.