For the second straight season, the Eastlink CeeBee Stars have kept the financial wolves from their door.
A late push for hot seat holders, in conjunction with the addition of new sponsors was enough to pull the senior hockey club back from the brink.
Oct. 29 was the deadline given by the club to themselves to sell an additional 330 hot seats or face folding the team just seven months after winning the Herder Memorial Trophy and the title as top team in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
This was not the first time the CeeBees have been faced with financial difficulties. Just weeks before the conclusion of the 2012-2013 regular season ended, word broke that the team could not afford to finish the season.
However, players pledged to play without pay in order to finish the season.
What happened next is the stuff legends are made off.
The CeeBees won the last two games of the season to make the playoffs, fired their high profile head coach and then proceeded to knock off the top-seeded Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and the second seeded Clarenville Caribous en route to the championship, going 8-2 in the process.
The playoffs were marked by unprecedented fan attendance and enthusiasm around the team.
That brings us to today.
While the final number of hot seat sales was unavailable, CeeBees executive president Nick Saunders said they were “significantly improved.”
This improvement, coupled with renewed dedication from some corporate sponsors plus new sponsors and a revised budget has given the CeeBees an extended lease on life.
“It was enough there for us to make a conscious effort,” said Saunders.
Even with this dedication to move forward, Saunders recognized there was still “much work to be done.”
“We want to thank fans for their support and to ensure fans that we will have a good product on the ice and work with them to address the concerns raised to the executive during this process,” he said.
Saunders said the executive has had fans come up with the intention of buying tickets to all 12 home games at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
“That was something different, which was good,” he said.
Moving forward, it will become imperative for the CeeBees to further increase its fundraising efforts.
Saunders recognized the club’s need to listen to suggestions from fans.
“We’ve got to be more in tuned to and listen to what fans say,” he said. “If fans say that a season ticket is the way to versus a hot seat, then we have to look at that. If fans say, ‘do me up a package, I want to be able to buy three home games at a time’ … we have to listen to it.”
Along with Saunders, there is a new executive in place.
There are some are new faces, while others have been around the team before.
This mixture of old and new is sure to generate new initiatives and fan support.
An example of this will see the CeeBees selecting a school of the week.
For each home game, the club will select a school from the Trinity Conception region. A varying number of students from the selected school will then be given tickets to a home game.
“People are coming back and saying the executive is visible, they have faces to go with the names and we’re approachable,” said Saunders.
The next order of business for the CeeBees will be preparing for the home opener in Harbour Grace and the raising of the Herder banner.
The team kicks the season off against the returning Mount Pearl Blades at 7:30 p.m. at the Glacier in Mount Pearl on Nov. 1.
On Nov. 2, the CeeBees kick off the season at home at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re excited for Saturday night,” said Saunders.