This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with and getting to know Maribeth Hayes, Owner of the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons.
Its not too often that Family Advisers get to sit down with Owners, usually all of out work is done with Coaches and Scouts. So, I looked forward to getting to know why this lady from California Owned a hockey team in Michigan. There had to be a story there.
I anticipated some kind of story involving someone talking her into how much money she would make owning a team in Port Huron. While in the beginning it may have been seen as a business opportunity, Maribeth Hayes is in the game for all of the right reasons.
The whole time we spoke it always came back to doing something for the kids playing the game, moving them on to NCAA programs and sharing in their success in life and not just those taking place on the ice. A commitment to investing in people first and athletes second.
Maybe it comes from being a mom. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Maribeth Hayes is all soft when it comes to operating a successful hockey franchise. The lady understands the game, and she is one shrewd business woman. She is not a woman simply spending the family money as some have said, she is a very successful real estate professional in California who is used to working with and going head to head with the boys.
Sitting with Maribeth and Head Coach Michael Gershon, it was easy to see why the team has success on the ice, because the working relationship between owner and coach is one that is about team work. The atmosphere was not one coming from a top down management style, but one of contemporaries working toward a common goal.
While everyone in the Falcons organization admits there have been challenges along the way, not one person believes they have not given their best effort in the community.
With roughly 900 in attendance Saturday night, in part due to an autograph signing session with Red Wing great Tomas Holmstrom, the Fighting Falcons came a way with a shoot out win. Watching the game, I personally cold not help but wonder why local hockey fans were not showing more support. Too myself I questioned the viability of a market that has a winning team, great coaching, active in the community with an owner that is committed when only 900 show up for a special event like this.
As a resident of Michigan I am lucky to have so many hockey choices. NHL, AHL, NCAA, OHL, USHL, NAHL, Tier III, High School, Midget and everything in between. So much competition for the disposable entertainment dollar, with so many different levels of play. Frankly, I am surprised at how well the Falcons have done in such an economy, and while trying to replace decades of pro hockey with the OHL surrounding them.
Looking at the other junior options throughout the State of Michigan it seems as though nearly everyone’s numbers are down. While things have clearly gotten better in Port Huron, can they get any better? The Falcons have been committed to the Port Huron community, and they have put their money where their mouths are, but one would have to imagine that things can not continue to go as they have.
One thing that is certain is that Maribeth Hayes and Michael Gerson are committed to the success of this franchise and the players who proudly represent it. Walking away from the conversation, one thing was crystal clear, Maribeth Hayes “gets it”. She is in it for the right reasons and is doing all of the right things. She is committed, and she will do what it takes to make sure her franchise is successful, those qualities can not always be found in an owner who has lost a considerable amount of money every year since joining the league. One can only hope the other owners in the NAHL appreciate her as much as her players and staff do.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher