America's favorite pastime may be baseball, but when it comes to stoking the American Dream, the National Hockey League may just have a major league edge. In celebration of the Hurricanes' 10th season in North Carolina, the team has partnered with Raleigh, N.C.-based St. Lawrence Homes to present the "Canes 10th Anniversary Season and Home Prize Giveaway."

SLAPSHOT SWEEPSTAKES: In honor of the "Canes 10th Anniversary Season and Home Prize Giveaway," the St. Lawrence Homes team poses with players and management from the Carolina Hurricanes, sports talk radio personality Mark Thomas of 99.9 The Fan, Carolina Hurricanes Storm Squad representatives, and Stormy, the Carolina Hurricanes mascot. Photo: Courtesy NHL Carolina Hurricanes "We've been long-time supporters of the Carolina Hurricanes' NHL franchise," says Rich Ohmann, St. Lawrence Homes vice president of sales and marketing. "After their run to the Stanley Cup, we renewed a marketing relationship with them and have always gone the extra mile to support our local professional sports team."

A season-long promotion, the event gives fans the chance to register to win 140-plus prizes including game tickets, team merchandise, autographed memorabilia, and more. The grand prize: a 3,137-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home valued at more than $340,000.

After receiving special eDecoders at the arena, participating fans can visit for a chance to win. Grand prize finalists will be selected from among individual winners during the contest time period. A drawing will take place amid the regular season's final game against the Florida Panthers on April 4.

"We have great corporate partners, but this home giveaway is very special and unique," says Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford. "All teams do special promotions, but I think this is probably the first time for a new-house giveaway."

And to hear Ohmann tell of it, the feeling is mutual. "The Carolina Hurricanes have been an outstanding partner for us," he says. "Through the Hurricanes, we were able to deliver extra marketing value to some of our large suppliers who, in turn, donated materials or installed great upgrades to exhibit the best that we could offer."

According to Ohmann, his brother and company owner Bob Ohmann had wanted to participate in a new-home giveaway for years, but had failed to find the right venue or partnership–until now. "His contrarian thinking brought the program to life during a time when housing was getting a black eye from the national media," Ohmann says. "We're breaking the myth that all home builders have gone in a cave until the storm breaks. We're not reacting to the news; we're making the news."

As part of the promotion, live radio broadcasts from the house have been scheduled for local sports talk radio station 99.9 The Fan's afternoon drive time shows through the end of the NHL regular season. Additionally, Pepsi is sponsoring a "Street Hockey with the Canes" event for the community, complete with a full-street rink, block party, and NHL players on hand to play with the kids.

St. Lawrence has also had the opportunity to provide its sales staff with free Hurricanes tickets to give away to prospective buyers and Realtors alike. The team's players have been active in the construction process throughout, and more than 100,000 entries for a chance to win the grand prize have been received to date.

"Remember that a new home is more than a financial decision to your customers; it's such an exciting experience and a dream they hold dear," explains Ohmann. "You've got to get something great in front of your customers–even if it seems crazy on the surface."

Solar Supreme: Lennar Corp.

SIMPLE SENSE: Rather than offering SunTile solar electric systems from SunPower as an upgrade, Lennar includes them as standard features in its San Francisco Bay Area communities. Shown here, the grand opening of Sonata at Dublin Ranch. Photos: Courtesy Lennar Corp. February marks the one-year anniversary of Lennar Corp.'s solar program launch in the San Francisco Bay Area. While Senate Bill 1–which was signed into legislation in 2006–encourages the incorporation of solar energy in new-home construction and solar retrofitting of existing residences, builder and homeowner incentives will not kick in until 2011. Which means Lennar is well ahead of the curve.

As part of a partnership with SunPower Corp. subsidiary PowerLight, Lennar's new sustainability-minded communities feature roof-integrated solar electrical systems included as standard rather than as an option.

"It's what we call the 'Logic of Lennar,'" says vice president of marketing, Les Lifter. "We talk to our customers, find out what they think is most appropriate and what they're looking for most in a home. Solar is just one of many features, but it's one of the most visible, particularly today. ... We did it because we knew it had value for our customers. We wanted to set ourselves apart."

And they have succeeded, according to Lifter, who notes that he has not yet met a prospective buyer who thought solar was a bad idea.

To his fellow builders, Lifter recommends forming a comprehensive understanding of the full impact of solar for an improved customer experience.

"There are benefits to solar that most people don't understand–not until they walk into the home, talk to the consultant, and find out all the upsides," he says. "It's a great way of doing a feature where you get to offer even more good news to someone who had pleasant things to think about before they even walked in."

Builder Bull's-Eye: HomeAid Northern California

Hitting the million-dollar mark right on target, HomeAid Northern California brought the total funds raised by its annual Trap Shoot to over $1,115,000 in 2007. Despite softening market conditions, the event–now in its sixth year–raised a record-setting $265,000-plus, surpassing the $250,000 benchmark set during the home building industry's banner year of 2005.

"The Trap Shoot originated from a board member who happened to be a flooring subcontractor, Mark Williams," explains Julie O'Connor, executive director of HomeAid Northern California. "His biggest client at the time was Pulte Homes. He took Pulte and several of his clients to the Livermore Gun Club as a client outing. ... [After seeing] the spirit of competition among those few people, Williams thought to make it a fundraiser."

The board, which was in the market for an annual event and looking to think outside the box, eagerly accepted Williams's proposal as an alternative to launching yet another golf tournament. "[Williams] recognized that many guys out in the field don't necessarily play golf," O'Connor notes. "Depending on where they live, they hunt or are outdoorsmen."

In addition to its appeal for local sensibilities, the Trap Shoot also provided participants with the opportunity to network with everyone in attendance, rather than just the handful of golfers they may have been paired with in a more traditional tourney.

But in a business environment where fear for one's livelihood has become common currency, perhaps the greatest result of the Trap Shoot has been its morale-boosting effects. "It's no secret that the industry is going through a lot of changes," O'Connor says. "[This] allows them to compete with people outside their field and provides relief from the stress that might be going on in their companies. ... They go all-out. It's just friendly competition."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.