IROQUOIS FALLS – The Abitibi Eskimos appear well on their way to hitting their target of selling 300 season tickets by May 31.
“Our season ticket drive is going extremely well,” said Scott Marshall, president of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League club, noting that 210 season tickets had been sold as of Thursday morning.
“That is significantly more than the last few years. I think we would have sold maybe 60 by this point in those years.
“And even more exciting is the fact that I would say out of the season tickets we have sold 50% of them are brand new people and that is extremely encouraging.
“If it was 200 people and they were all renewals we would say oops.”
The bulk of the season tickets were sold during the 23rd-annual Iroquois Falls Sportsman at Trade Show at the Jus Jordan Arena.
“The response has been all positive,” Marshall said.
“Everything that has occurred since the community meeting (held at the Iroquois Falls Curling Club on April 24) has been positive. Everybody is gung ho. They are all excited. It has been great.”
Another spinoff from the community meeting has been the formation of the Abitibi Eskimos Booster Club, scheduled to hold its inaugural meeting on Thursday, May 15 at the Iroquois Falls Curling Club, from 7-8:30 p.m.
“That is not an initiative of the board,” Marshall said.
“That is something that came out of the public meeting. I think they have something like 25 people signed up already.
“I don’t want to assume too much here, but from what I have heard, they are going to be conducting some fundraising activities to support the hockey team and also looking at community involvement projects … community activities that involve the players and the fans and so on.
“Fundraising will be one of the components, but it won’t be their only focus.
“I was talking to one lady on the phone and she said she couldn’t wait for the meeting.”
The other two main components of the Eskimos off-season, off-ice game plan involves raising $100,000 through corporate partnerships and $25,000 through donations to the team’s honour wall in the Jus Jordan Arena.
Unlike the season-ticket campaign, however, those goals are not linked to the May 31 date.
“Our focus until the end of May is really on season tickets,” Marshall said.
“We have had some money come in for the honour wall, I think we are up around $1,500, which is great too, but our focus, until the end of May, is going to be season tickets and then we are going to shift our focus to some of the other areas.”
One fundraising effort is already underway, however.
The Eskimos are currently selling tickets for a club car draw, with a $6,000 custom gas-powered golf cart decked out in the team’s colour.
“We are hoping to raise $5,000 for the hockey team,” Marshall said.
“We have 5,000 tickets printed and if we sell them all we are going to do much better than that, but it is the summer and we have a limited sales force.”
The winning ticket will be drawn at the Eskimos Three-Person Scramble at the Abitibi Golf Club on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Golfers interested in signing up for the tournament can do so by visiting the team’s website, www.eskis.com.
“Typically we get about 100 golfers (between 30 and 40 teams) taking part in the tournament,” Marshall said.
Marshall, coach and general manager Paul Gagne, other members of the team’s staff, many of the Eskimos players and a number of the team’s alumni will take part in the annual event.
“It’s a fun day,” Marshall said.
“We roast a hip of beef on a spit. The food is great.”
The Eskimos, like other Canadian Junior Hockey League franchises, are not allowed sign players for the 2014-15 campaign until June 1, but they have been busy doing their homework.
“Paul and (assistant coach and general manager) Dan (Dube) just returned from a showcase event in Grand Rapids, Mich.,” Marshall said.
“And we have some other things planned, as well, in terms of recruiting.
“We are trying to be more aggressive. We have a great program. There are not a lot of no-fee Junior ‘A’ programs in Ontario and we just need to do a better job of getting the word out there.”