Call it a relaunch. Call it an overhaul. Call it a facelift.
Whichever buzz word you choose, junior A hockey in metro has a whole new look.
The Metro Marauders — formerly the Halifax Lions — were unveiled yesterday at a flashy press conference at their new home rink, the Dartmouth Sportsplex, in the latest bid to keep the Maritime Junior A Hockey League alive in the circuit’s biggest yet most challenging market.
“We wanted to really separate ourselves from any junior A hockey in the city in the past,” said Marauders president Matt Hill. “We wanted to start fresh with our new team name, team logo, building and identity.”
The Marauders want to do things differently than more than a half-dozen past incarnations of junior A hockey in the area that have struggled to build fan support over the past decade.
The Lions, for example, finished 10th out of 11 MJAHL teams in attendance last season with average crowds of 473 at the Forum. But the Marauders say they have a strategy to build a loyal following of as many as 1,000 regular fans.
“We’re not going to stay the course of the template that’s been used in the past,” said Hill, who spent the past four years working in sales with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We want to branch out, reach out with some different ideas, and do something different that hasn’t been seen before.”
With the backing of major corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s and Molson Coors, the Marauders plan to host home games on Fridays at 7 p.m. — carefully scheduled around the Mooseheads’ home dates — and want to build the fan base with local minor hockey players. A pirate theme tying into the Marauders brand is hoped to enhance the fan experience.
“We’re all aware of the ups and downs junior A hockey has had in this region,” said head coach and general manager Troy Ryan, “but we’re planning to be part of the up.”
The press conference, which was a who’s who of the local hockey community, was only the first step.
“We’re not naïve to think that just because we had a press conference today, everybody’s going to start coming to hockey games,” Hill said.
“We know it’s still going to take a lot of work but we’re looking forward to it.”