SHERWOOD PARK, AB – There was a different feeling to the Sherwood Park Arena in the 2016/2017 season, and not just due to the changes in the Crusaders personnel department. Throughout the year, it was a priority of the Crusaders to connect with the youth in the community on a higher level than season’s past.
“I remember when I was a kid, myself and a few of friends would always beg our parents to take us to Crusaders games,” Liam Horrobin told us, “it’s important to make sure that we get youngsters to come out to games more often. It’s the one place they can be as loud as they want and we want it to be loud at our arena”.
In looking to inspire the next generation of future Crusaders, the organization held numerous events aimed at their younger fans through the 2016/2017 campaign. A major component of the Crusaders off-ice youth movement were Kids Club Sunday’s, in which young Crusaders fans were invited to the dressing room after taking in a Cru game for a full tour, along with a meet and greet with the squad. Along with the on-ice returns of intermission favourites such as the trike races, Sunday’s were always among the loudest crowds this season.
In addition to intermission classics, a new fan favourite made its debut in the 16/17 season. Sponsored by Vimy Ridge Acadamy, the Donnan/Vimy Hockey Shootout was a highlight of the second intermission throughout the year. Select SPMHA squads were invited to take part in an NHL style shootout in front of parents and teammates during a Crusaders game of their choosing.
“It was such a highlight for us throughout the year,” said Crusaders volunteer-turned-marketing coordinator Chelsea Lefurgey. “Seeing the kids light up when they watched the teams come off the ice for intermission was amazing; you can tell they really look up to each of the guys in the room. And the shootout itself was awesome; honestly, some of the celebrations from the kids after they scored were NHL level already.”
“The Donnan/Vimy Hockey Shootout with the Crusaders was a great campaign for us this year.” said Travis Bouchard, communications director of Vimy Ridge. “Getting to go out on the ice and see these local players lock horns in a friendly mini-competition on a big stage was a great treat for our staff. Community involvement and fostering a love for the game are major focuses of ours and it was a pleasure to work toward these goals with the Sherwood Park Crusaders.”
With events like these, it was no surprise that the Crusaders were able to set a single game attendance record on February 17th, as the Crusaders held Brentwood School Night with the Camrose Kodiaks in town. Over 1,100 individuals attended the game, with over 700 representing elementary school children in what can only be described as the loudest game the Arena had seen in years. While local players Tyler Maltby and Joe Tambasco were the star attractions, it was goaltender Jake Morrissey who stole the show with 31 saves and the first goaltender goal in over three years in the AJHL.
In addition to the game-day activities, the Crusaders were more active in the Sherwood Park community than ever before. With events such as the Dreams Take Flight golf tournament, Read-In Week, Fanuary and more, the Crusaders achieved their season-long goal of being more accessable to their fans – something they hope to continue throughout the 2017/2018 campaign.
“We’re lucky to have the fans we do, and we want to show them how appreciated they are. Even more than last year, we’re going to bring the Cru to the fans!”
– Story by Spencer Love