WHL announces Division Nominees for WHL Business Award – Kamloops Blazers

WHL announces Division Nominees for WHL Business Award – Kamloops Blazers

April 4, 2023 at 12:07 pm  Kamloops Blazers, Sports

Calgary, Alta. –  The Western Hockey League announced today the 2022-23 Division nominees for the WHL Business Award presented annually to the WHL Club that best exemplifies giving back to the community and producing an electrifying game-day experience for fans.

All individual WHL Division Award winners will be eligible for the overall WHL Awards, which will be announced from Tuesday, May 2 through Wednesday, May 10. The winner of the WHL Business Award will be announced Tuesday, May 2.

WHL Business Award Nominees
B.C. Division – Kamloops Blazers
Central Division – Edmonton Oil Kings
East Division – Saskatoon Blades
U.S. Division – Spokane Chiefs

WHL Business Award Summaries

Kamloops Blazers: For the second consecutive season, the Kamloops Blazers represent the B.C. Division nominee for the WHL Business Award.

Thanks to the hosting of major national and international events, including the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia and the Canada-U.S.A. women’s hockey Rivalry Series, the Blazers have seen an increase in season ticket and single-game ticket sales. In total, the Blazers season-ticket holder base increased by more than 900 new season-ticket holders. At this time, Blazers attendance is at 90 per cent capacity, which represents an increase of 27 per cent from the previous season. Local sponsorship has steadily increased, as have sales in the Blazers online and brick-and-mortar stores.

The Blazers Community Commitment Program, sponsored by 15 different local businesses, helped to bring 15,000 Blazers fans to games throughout the season. Groups reached through this campaign include Veterans, minor hockey teams, minor soccer teams, and more.

A number of key game nights helped the Blazers to reach new fans, including Indigenous Night, Autism Acceptance Night, and Pride Night. The return of more engaging game-day promotions has helped the Club to reach more casual fans and, as a result, the atmosphere in the Sandman Centre is electric.

An enhancement to the Blazers 50/50 system has resulted in an increase in funds generated, with debit and credit card sales helping to create larger pots on a more regular basis. This has also resulted in local partners engaging in the 50/50 to match donations directed to Royal Inland Hospital.

The Blazers Loge Seating Experience has been a hit with the local business community, with all 23 tables sold out. Because of the demand for this particular seating and viewing experience, the Blazers currently have a waiting list for Loge Seating and have seen ticket revenues increase dramatically since the conversion.

Business_Edmonton

Edmonton Oil Kings: At the conclusion of the 2022-23 WHL Regular Season, the Edmonton Oil Kings led the entire league in attendance per game, averaging 6,501 fans each night. This represents an increase of more than 1,300 fans per game – a monumental accomplishment for a Club coming off a WHL Championship and icing a younger, inexperienced team.

The Oil Kings success at the box office has been achieved due to an ability to provide unmatched family fun at a price point that is affordable for the clear majority of families in the Edmonton community. When families attend the Oil Kings world-class facility – Rogers Place – for as low as $20 a ticket, they are treated to incredible junior hockey and entertained from the moment they enter the building because of the efforts of an incredible Game Presentation and Events Team.

A new Season Seat strategy for the 2023-24 season introduced a reduction in pricing with a no-frills ticket option that is countered by enhanced ticketing options, which provides an increased connection for fans looking to enjoy a premium experience.

This new strategy has resulted in immediate returns, with the Oil Kings seeing their highest Season Seat early-bird renewal rate in 10 years. The Oil Kings have also recorded their largest amount of new Season Seat Members in the past five years as a result of this new initiative.

The Oil Kings Group Sales Team has done a tremendous job attracting groups from across Edmonton, helping to generate significant gross revenue through various initiatives, including: ceremonial puck drops, national anthem performances, flag bearers, colour guards, stage performances, intermission minor hockey scrimmages, and the always popular Hockey Hooky Day.

In the community, the Oil Kings continue to serve as a leader in the WHL, raising more than $15,000 and collecting over 13,000 bears for 630 CHED Santas Anonymous. Another $8,600 was raised for the Edmonton Food Bank through the Oil Kings 2023 Superhero Jersey Auction.

A number of other important initiatives saw the Oil Kings connect with various groups through the city, including the first-ever Edmonton Oil Kings Chili Cook-Off in support of Food Banks Alberta; the Oil Kings second Pride Night in support of the Pride Centre of Edmonton, Capital Pride, Pride Corner on Whyte, Outloud St. Albert, and the Fyrefly Institute for Gender and Sexual Diversity; and the Oil Kings United Against Cancer Game.

The Oil Kings introduced a number of other unique initiatives that had a positive impact in the arena, including personalized goal songs for players and new, two-tone alternate uniforms that have been a popular merchandise item.

Business_Saskatoon

Saskatoon Blades: The Saskatoon Blades are the WHL East Division nominee for the WHL Business Award. Recognizing their good fortune of having a quality team on the ice, players engaged with the fans and community, as well as outgoing coaches, the Blades business office set to work on showing people why the Saskatoon Blades are for everyone, welcoming fans from all walks of life into the Blades family.

By focusing efforts on the sale of flex packs and single-game tickets while delivering a full entertainment experience every single night in venue, this season saw the Blades win over fans, resulting in season-ticket holder numbers returning to pre-COVID levels. Attendance at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon is up approximately 30 per cent from 2021-22 to 2022-23, thanks largely in part to a new focus on digital sales methods, including a texting platform to reach fans directly.

A rejuvenated relationship with Saskatoon Minor Hockey saw the hosting of theme group nights such as Captains Night, Goalies Night, and Officials Night. Each weekend of the season, the Blades welcomed minor hockey groups from a designated minor hockey zone to a game.

Other initiatives such as Girls Rock!, Building Relationships, and PRIDE Night in support of OUT Saskatoon have proven to the community that Blades games are for everyone – not only are you welcome, you are celebrated. These special theme nights helped to engage new fans and created a fun environment that welcomes new fans back for future games.

To close the regular season, the Blades registered back-to-back sellouts of SaskTel Centre – the first time ever that a Blades game sold out the 14,768-seat arena.

A $40 Family Pack was once again a popular option this season, particularly with in-game entertainment focused on families and children. The three sections designated for Family Packs were routinely sold out.

During the pre-season, the Blades partnered with the Prince Albert Raiders to play an exhibition game on Big River First Nation, celebrating the opening of the Jim Neilson Sportsplex. As a part of the event, the Blades participated in a pow-wow, engaging with local community members in a powerful setting.

Beyond the exhibition game on Big River First Nation, the Blades put an emphasis on developing a strong partnership with Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. This season, the Blades filled 5,000 backpacks for inner city youth at White Buffalo Youth Lodge, returning in December to host a hot dinner during the holiday season. Assistant Coach Wacey Rabbit along with players Conner Roulette and Josh Pillar have made it a priority to share their journeys as Indigenous players, whether it be visiting Rabbit’s home of Kainai First Nation or meeting with other Indigenous groups.

Two separate theme night initiatives saw the Blades provide proceeds back to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, including the RE/MAX presents Nickelodeon Night in support of the Children’s Miracle Network, as well as the wildly popular Saskatoon Bananas night. Since Bananas takeover was first since in April 2022, it has spawned similar initiatives as other WHL Clubs experiment with the concept.

Business_Spokane

Spokane Chiefs: Having finished the season with the second-highest average attendance in the WHL, the Spokane Chiefs are the U.S. Division nominee for the WHL Business Award.

In total, the Chiefs average attendance is up over 30 per cent from 2021-22 to 2022-23, representing the largest increase of non-playoff teams.

The Chiefs saw increases in all areas of ticket sales, but most impressively in group sales, which saw an increase of 133 per cent from 2021-22 to 2022-23. Leveraging their ticketing software to gather and analyze customer data, the Chiefs tailored outreach and activation efforts in order to enhance the fan experience. At the same time, the Chiefs expanded customer service options for ticket purchasers, resulting in a 94-per-cent renewal rate with full season-ticket holders, which is up from an 87-per-cent renewal rate prior to COVID-19.

The Chiefs “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative not only included additional group ticket sales, but most importantly it helped to raise funds and awareness for a variety of causes, including Neurodiversity, Pride, Special Olympics, and Women in Hockey.

The Chiefs first ever Neurodiversity Night represented a unique opportunity to reach new fans and offer an enjoyable, inclusive experience that differed from a typical Chiefs game. Including a toned-down in-game production, the Chiefs also offered two sensory rooms and sensory kits for those in attendance. The sensory kits remained available throughout the season and were offered to any family or individual in need. As a part of the preparation for the night, the Chiefs full-time business staff and key personnel from the Spokane Arena participated in a Neurodiversity seminar, which provided a valuable experience that will be utilized moving forward.

Returning to the community following the challenges of COVID-19, the Chiefs logged more than 2,000 hours’ worth of community service, averaging 338 hours per month. Community initiatives supported by the Chiefs included school reading sessions, goal setting seminars, teddy bear deliveries, and floor hockey days with elementary schools.

A redesigned fundraising program resulted in over 11,000 in group ticket sales sold with more than $25,000 raised for local schools, youth hockey programs, children’s museums, and other charities. School Nights presented by Shriners Hospital for Children–Spokane, raised $17,000.

On February 24, with the help of the sale of 5,000 tickets to various schools throughout the community, the Chiefs sold out Spokane Arena for the first time since the 2019-20 season, bringing in 10,366 fans to take in a division-rivalry game against the Portland Winterhawks.

Aside from running its own full-production streaming broadcast for WHL Live, the Chiefs developed their own television broadcast that is fully sold, staffed and produced independent of any other production company or television station. This has allowed the Chiefs to offer partners and sponsors the opportunity to be a part of 10 live television broadcasts on SWX, six of which take place from Spokane Arena.

About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.

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