Marauders Expected To Make Several Moves

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Marauders expected to make several moves

David MacDonald is a firm believer that junior A hockey can work at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.

To that end, the president of the Metro Marauders said his Maritime Junior Hockey League franchise will return to the Dartmouth rink, where the team has struggled to draw fans since moving there two years ago.

“There’s definitely going to be a future (at the Sportsplex) for our franchise,” MacDonald said in an interview Tuesday night.

Without getting into specifics, MacDonald said this off-season will bring some significant changes, including the team’s name, moving home games from Friday night to a weeknight and possibly bringing in new sponsors or advertisers.

“We’ll be making some announcements in which we’ll be taking a different direction,” said MacDonald, who was hired as Marauders president and team governor in January. “We’re just waiting for the league to get back to us. The changes we want to put in place we’re hoping will mean we’re in this for the long term. They’re very significant and very appealing and will catch people’s attention.”

The Sportsplex has long carried a reputation as the last stop on the way out of town for financially ailing junior teams. The Dartmouth Oland Exports, after four seasons, relocated to the Halifax Forum in 1998. Four years later, the Dartmouth Blizzard moved to Yarmouth after only two seasons.

This past season, despite a winning regular-season record (27-19-6) and a playoff berth, the Marauders struggled at the gate with a woeful average of only 268 fans per game, dead last in the 11-team Maritime circuit.

But MacDonald is optimistic that a proposed renovation of the 30-year-old Sportsplex, construction of a new Metro Transit bus terminal adjacent to the rink and parking upgrades will work in the junior team’s favour.

“There’s great opportunity for us at that rink to take advantage,” MacDonald said. “It’s becoming a better property than it was three or four years ago.”

The lack of local Dartmouth fan support and the perceived reluctance of Halifax fans to go to the Sportsplex have hurt the Marauders. The team even staged three home games this past season at the Sackville Arena and averaged more than 200 fans at that rink than they did in Dartmouth.

While scheduling home games in Lower Sackville isn’t in the cards for next season, MacDonald said switching regular home dates from Friday night is a must.

“That was a battle for sure,” MacDonald said of the poor turnouts on Friday nights. “You’re really torn in what to do.

“On one hand, you’re trying to attract young people to follow the team but parents are reluctant sometimes to bring them out on school nights. Then you try to do something on the weekend and there’s competition out there for the discretionary dollar. There are so many things to do in Halifax on a weekend. Hopefully we’ll find a niche.”

MacDonald would like to make the team as minimally dependent on gate revenues as possible.

“It’s pretty hard to rely on the gate with junior hockey in Halifax when only 200 fans are coming to the games,” he added. “That’s not a lot of revenue when you’re running a $300,000 budget. There’s a big gap there. Fortunately, we have very patient shareholders. We’ll be putting together some really neat marketing programs to bring more people through the gates and get the business community interested in us.”

MacDonald said he would like to release the details of his team’s new direction prior to the league’s annual general meeting in June.

MJHL teams must inform the league by Monday whether they will return for next season. The deadline for teams to submit their preferences for dates and times for home games is Tuesday.

Note: Julie Marston resigned as general manager of the Marauders last week. Head coach Stan Hennigar has taken over the GM duties.

Glenn MacDonald

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