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Blacksox 05-12-2020 10:56 AM



Recruitment of potential OHL players is not reliant on any one singular component but requires many facets of an OHL organization working in juxtaposition to assure that players feel comfortable, confident and excited to be a part of that organization.

The “Key Components” to recruitment are: Hockey Operations (eg., GM, coaches, scouts, trainers and medical staff); Business Operations (e.g., ticket sales, group sales, promotion, marketing, game day operations, retail); Location, Travel, Facility; Fan Base; Billet Families; Education; Community Support; History.

What can the IceDogs sell to prospective players and what do they need to improve on? As we take a closer look at recruitment in Niagara, we get started with a few of the Niagara IceDogs’ first-rate selling features…

The Niagara Region (12 municipalities) is part of the largest megalopolis in Canada and the “Niagara” IceDogs have unquestionably used that large population base (450,000) to their advantage. Surrounded by Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, Niagara is only an hour away from Toronto and thirty minutes from Buffalo. The unique natural landscapes and fertile lands make the Niagara Region an important centre for agriculture and tourism in Canada (e.g., Niagara Falls, Niagara Wine Route, Bruce Trail, Fort George). The most important agricultural enterprise is winemaking and more recently craft beer and cannabis. Internationally renowned Niagara Falls is one of Canada's major tourist attractions and along with the Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Canal Days (Port Colborne), Wine Festival (St. Catharines) and the historic Welland Canal, Niagara receives up to 12 million visitors each year.

A closer look at our home…

VIDEO FOOTAGE CREDIT: Niagara Region, Realtor Jameson Walsh, Hoo-ahh Drone
MUSIC CREDIT: Home - Machine Gun Kelly, X Ambassadors, Bebe Rexha; Home - P.Phillips

The Niagara IceDogs are located close to many OHL teams - making road trips not nearly as taxing on the players who have to get up early for school. Compared to SSM, Sudbury, Ottawa, North Bay, Owen Sound, Erie, Flint and Saginaw, those teams have less than desirable locations in terms of travel.

The Meridian Centre is a state of the art 5,300 seat arena in the heart of downtown St. Catharines. Home of the IceDogs, River Lions, concerts, shows, events (e.g., Scotties) and the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame (that could use some improvements). The Meridian Centre and the IceDogs have become an integral part of the downtown revival and has become a place symbolic of a great night out in Niagara.

An in-depth look at our house from the ground up…

VIDEO FOOTAGE CREDIT: City of St.Catharines; Cogeco (The Source / YourTV), World Mix Entertainment, Fourgrounds Media Inc.
MUSIC CREDIT: My House - Flo Rida


Blacksox 05-12-2020 10:56 AM


What Niagara IceDogs’ Business Operations team has accomplished over their years, at The Jack and The Vault, is nothing short of spectacular - and the average attendance over those 13 seasons speaks for itself. NOTE: 2019-2020 average attendance figures were the 2nd highest in franchise history (4907) and were still growing before the season was cut short by Covid-19.

The work being done in the head office and in the community is outstanding. Win or lose, IceDog fans come out and support this team - the promotion, marketing and merchandising of the IceDogs’ brand is a standard that other OHL teams should strive to achieve. They have made the IceDogs “a big deal” in Niagara.

Congratulations to this extraordinary team :cheers2:

The facilities, the team being “a big deal” and the fans plays a huge part in the recruitment process, as it did not go un-noticed by recently signed D - Alec Leonard…

“The recruitment of players is helped by our location, facility, fan base and the program we have put in place. Our fans are a huge part of the recruitment pitch. We definitely sell the fact that Niagara has one of the most loyal and knowledgeable fan bases in the OHL. Our fans are a huge boost to our recruitment process. We are fortunate to have that to sell to prospective players.” -Joey Burke

The 2019-2020 season confirmed what we already knew – hockey fans in the Niagara Region are the best (and most passionate) fan base in the OHL. Players, coaches, scouts, opposing fans and parents will tell you the same thing - the IceDogs’ game / fan experience is second to none, the best in the OHL.

Elijah Roberts, “When I came to Niagara I figured that it would be quieter (than Kitchener), but it was sometimes louder. A lot of kids screaming at the top of their lungs and people getting season tickets whether the team was in first or last place. Every night playing in front of those fans made it extra special.”

Oliver Castleman, “I remember coming down for the playoffs and the barn was sold out and so loud.” Castleman loved the fan support. “In Niagara, you have people from Welland, Grimsby and Lincoln — it doesn’t matter where. They love their hockey and they are passionate about it.”


Alex Nedeljkovic
(3:00 - 5:30) “Every home was a highlight in itself. How amazing the crowd was. It was one of the coolest experiences – one of the best hockey memories I have. Playing in the Meridian Centre in front of all those fans, yelling and chanting. That was something truly special. They (fans) we all on board. They were all into it. You couldn’t ask for a better place to play then in Niagara”

(12:00 - 13:20) “Niagara really is a special place to play…playing games in that arena, even in the regular season had a special atmosphere about it – and then come playoff time it was just at whole another level. I just can’t say enough good things about my time there.”

Past and present players can often be your best recruiters – not sure how much the IceDogs tap into that recruitment avenue?

If they are not, they should start.

A recent video group chat, with the 2012 IceDog players, a couple of guys made this comments to Joey – “let me talk to those American kids I’ll get them to come to Niagara.” Not a bad idea, Joey! Those players, including Ryan Strome and Brett Ritchie, mentioned how their time with the IceDogs was the best time of their hockey careers.

How important or what impact being an IceDog have on these players? Do they recognize or appreciate the fan loyalty and support? Just listen to what players say about their experience – and not just our most recent graduates, but those similar experiences shared by: Akil Thomas, Ben Jones, Dougie Hamilton, Andrew Agozzino, Luca Caputi, Mark Visentin, Vince Dunn, Brendan Perlini, Alex Nedeljkovic …

The words of our most recent graduates…

Ivan Lodnia “The last two years I’ve been with this organization was the best time of my life, with no disrespect to anyone else, I wish I was drafted by these guys. The way they treated me from the get-go was first class. From the staff in the office to the owners, they treated me like my own family.”

“This team mean more to me than I can put in words…to Mr. and Mrs. Burke, thank you for always taking care of this team and making us all feel at home…I was part of the best fan base in the CHL. From every community appearance to every game…every day I came to rink was the best day of my life.”

For any parents of a 16 year old, this idea of “family” is both important and reassuring…

BPSportsNiagara: Joey Burke, clearly has a vision for his organization; family. “We are one big family. When we bring a player into the IceDogs’ family, they know that for the rest of their lives they’re a part of this organization and this family.”

“I consider the Burkes my second family. The way they’ve taken care of me and my family is special,” Lodnia said.

Roberts was equally emphatic, “Niagara has always been a family environment for me. No matter where I am in the future, I’ll be checking in, for sure,” he said.

Castleman has found a home-away-from-home. “Niagara will always be home. I love the city of St. Catharines, from the fans, to my billets and coaches, every little detail. The best four years of my life happened when I was in Niagara. We were so lucky. Bill, Bill Sr. and Denise, they took me in with open arms and taught us so many life lessons that can’t be taught anywhere else. We’re so lucky to have that second family at the rink.”


Recommendation for Improvement (assuming this practice is not being done):
1. Reach out to some of the more prominent IceDog Alumni requesting assistance with recruitment when required and / or available.
2. Hire “Fourgrounds Media Inc.” to pull together a slick recruitment video featuring IceDog graduates with messages of their experience in Niagara.


Blacksox 05-12-2020 10:57 AM


Billet families are an essential and invaluable part of the OHL. Recruitment is helped by the fact that the IceDogs have secured the assistance of some outstanding local families – that take a lot of pride in their responsibility of assisting these players pursuit of a dream. Entrusted to act as their second family and provide them with love, support, care (and home cooked meals), the billet/player relationship is one of the most important factors in their success as a player – and you see that on the ice (Billet Appreciation) and you hear it off the ice…

Following the OHL Priority Draft the IceDogs hold an informative orientation day, introducing potential players to many of Niagara’s these first rate features, such as Billet families, but would a return of this event be a nice addition to that day?

It is our mission to create a world-class culture of champions: on the ice, in the community and in the classroom. The goal of developing solid hockey players on the ice and young men of character off the ice is something we all strive to achieve.

The majority of IceDog players are enrolled at Governor Simcoe (DSBN) and receive direct support from an academic advisor. Parents place a huge importance on education, since a small percentage of these players will actually have a pro career – a good education becomes imperative. Governor Simcoe is an excellent local school, with many outstanding and highly respected teachers. Along with their academic classes, Simcoe offers students a wide variety of co-curricular/extra-curricular activities to make their high school experience memorable.

For those players enrolled in post-secondary classes, the Niagara Region has two equally exceptional options.

Brock has one of the highest employment rates in Canada with 90% of their students finding work within the first 6 months of graduating. Along with the traditional under-graduate studies, Brock offers some unique and specialized programs: game design and sports management, which produced one of Brock’s most famous graduates Kyle Dubas (GM Toronto Maple Leafs).


At NC, 83% of their students are hired within the first 6 months of graduating. Niagara has transformed itself into one of the top Ontario colleges and has expanded its programs to include some unique, specialized and award winning programs such as Culinary, Broadcasting, Game Design, Brewmasters, Winery, Cannabis, Hospitality and Tourism, Paramedic and Sports Management. Niagara and Brock work closely in partnership – and offer collaborative programs between the two educational institutions

VIDEO FOOTAGE CREDIT: niagaracollegecanada video; Cogeco (YourTV)

This is interesting (and impressive)…

In 2012, the Barrie Colts were the first OHL team to establish its own hockey academy and offer private education (Blyth Academy – Barrie) to their players. A program providing student athletes with elite athletic training and personalized learning. Sam Blyth, “With athletic training led by the renowned Dale Hawerchuk as well as personalized education there is no better option for student athletes.”

In 2013, Ottawa 67’s Governor Jeff Hunt announced, “Our partnership with Blyth Academy – Ottawa gives players a better opportunity for success on and off the ice.” Blyth Academy customizes class times to accommodate the 67’s practice and travel schedule. Blyth also provides an optimized learning environment with far lower teacher to student ratios and increased educational resources.

In 2013, the London Knights partnered with both Blyth Academy - London and Total Package Hockey (TPH). Students take part in off-ice training sessions by TPH, on-ice curriculum by the Knight’s coaching staff and TPH, video sessions by the Knights coaching staff, as well as personalized, focused academics taught by Blyth Academy. “The small classroom environment, flexible schedules and personalized attention offered at Blyth have proved key to our elite athletes’ success both in their chosen sport and academically,” said Sam Blyth.

These partnerships are a win - win - win – win situation for those OHL teams, Blyth Academy, the players and the parents.

Very few OHL teams utilize private schools, so I’m not sure of the logistics? Are these partnerships created through negotiation of monetary measures or simply reciprocal value to both the team and school? Do the IceDogs have the means to create a similar partnership with Ridley College and Gillard Elite Hockey that would benefit all parties involved?


Blacksox 05-12-2020 10:58 AM


The “Hockey Operations” thread updated to include all transactions in 2019-2020. No OHL GM has a perfect track record, but Joey Burke has been fairly successful as a buyer and seller. Also, Burke getting Niagara’s top 4 selections signed quickly this year is a positive sign for the IceDogs’ recruitment process.

With all the uncertainty, imagine the dark cloud hanging over this franchise if Phil Tomasino was still an IceDog. No one could have predicted the extent of this pandemic, but even so, based solely on the massive return received in that deal, it was an astute and franchise saving trade.

The majority of IceDog fans agree that a new voice, a new direction and a new philosophy behind the bench would be beneficial to team success and recruitment - someone with a higher profile. Coaches such as Ted Nolan, Jay McKee or Mike Pelino fit that criteria but a change is highly unlikely – so I guess the alternative is to surround the HC with talented assistants. A few years ago, Associate Coach Ted Dent was that person and following his departure, Jody Hull was hired in that role. Along with a long NHL career as a player, Jody Hull has an extensive coaching career in the OHL and has established strong ties with Hockey Canada: Head Coach Canada (Team Red) 2019 U-17 World Hockey Challenge; Head Coach Canada U-18 2016 Hlinka Gretzky Cup; Assistance Coach Canada U-18 2018 WJC.

Credit for the fine job the scouting staff has done assessing, trading and drafting players over the last 4 years, but the bottom line - this scouting staff is too small. Money needs to be invested into hiring more scouts. Scouting is the single most important component to building a team. Even look at the possibility of hiring interns or volunteers willing to be an extra set of eyes at games. The more input, the more times you see someone play – the more likely you are to get that pick right.
RECOMMENDATION: Hire someone like Mike Pelino to the scouting staff. He could fill multiple roles for the IceDogs: scout, recruiter, advisor, consultant and mentor. Pelino would give the IceDogs organization considerable credibility in the hockey world.

Oliver Castleman (March 2020) “Coming to the rink every day, I always knew I would be learning something new or getting better,” he said. “They worked so hard off the ice and on the ice to develop you into young men and get you ready for the real world if hockey doesn’t work out. He (Billy Burke) was at the rink for such long hours — all the coaches were like that.”

From a player development standpoint, coaches are responsible to plan and implement quality practice sessions: 1. Conditioning; 2. Technical (e.g., skill development); 3. Tactical (e.g., game details); 4. Phase of Play; 5. Feedback/Assessment (e.g., one on one, video, analytics).

After that, the BEST thing a coach can do for a player`s development is allow them to play – and by that I mean play a lot and play in all situations. If a coach provides quality training sessions and an opportunity to play, they’re doing their part in “development” – now the onus than falls on the players themselves. Do they have the talent and motivation? If the player is a PLAYER, he`ll develop.

The IceDogs have some notable NHL names that recruitment can point to in terms of development: Alex Pieterangelo, Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, Dougie Hamilton, Vince Dunn, Brendan Perlini, Carter Verhaeghe, but more importantly, the current hockey operation staff can reference: Ben Jones, Kiril Maksimov, Ryan Mantha, Ivan Lodnia, Akil Thomas, Phil Tomasino – and although they were only IceDogs for a short period of time, Jack Studnicka and Jason Robertson had their most OHL success wearing an IceDogs’ jersey.
<> Studnicka: 30GP - 24G - 49 PTS = 1.63 PPG (Previous high: 1.13 PPG)
<> Robertson: 28GP - 25G - 79 PTS = 2.07 PPG (Previous high: 1.58 PPG)

Ben Jones is the classic example of opportunity, motivation and ability. As a 7th rd NHL pick, Jones earned an ELC soon after being drafted by the Vegas Knights. After the team traded away Knott and Paquette and handed Ben Jones the keys to the bus, the development of Jones was rapid. Similarly, once Akil Thomas and Kiril Maksimov’s playing time and role increased, we saw their quick accession on the NHL Central Scouting Rankings. Phil Tomasino was a textbook example of development. As soon, as he got his opportunity (Akil Thomas’ injury), Tomasino flourished and developed into a 1st Rd NHL pick and one of the best players in the OHL.

The team of Chris Trivieri, Nick Hornby, Nick Tamburri and Dr. David Dec proved their worth and expertise x1000 on December 12th, 2019. The life saving response by that team will never be forgotten.

"There was a point where he could have died on the ice due to loss of blood," said Joey Burke, IceDogs general manager. Doug Stacey (London Knights) and Niagara’s athletic therapist Chris Trivieri rushed into action. Stacey is widely considered one of the best hockey trainers in the country said, "You could see the experience in the staff. There was no ego and the point was just to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible and get him in ambulance." Stacey credits the Niagara staff, “Chris Trivieri did an unbelievable job in terms of… he was there, he was calm, cool, he’d already stabilized like in terms of locating where the wound was and right away was giving me direction.”

Honouring IceDogs Heroic First Responders


Blacksox 05-12-2020 10:58 AM


UPDATED: Includes 2019 playoffs. No playoffs 2020

Scoring System: Total Points (1 pt each round) ÷ 12 seasons = Average Rounds Per Year (rd/yr)
OP = Out of Playoffs

1. Niagara Ice Dogs 2008-2019
<> Rd-2, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-3, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-2 <> (25 ÷ 12 = 2.1 rd/yr)

2. Oshawa General 2008-2019
<> Rd-3, OP, OP, Rd-2 , Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-3, Rd-4 (Finals*), Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-3 <> (23 ÷ 12=1.9 rd/yr)

3. Brampton/North Bay 2008-2019
<> Rd-1, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-3, Rd-2, OP, Rd-1, Rd-1 <> (22 ÷ 12 = 1.8 rd/yr)

4. Barrie Colts 2008-2019
<> Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-4 (Finals), OP, Rd-2, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-2, Rd-2, Rd-3, OP, Rd-2, OP <> (21 ÷ 12 = 1.75 rd/yr)

5. Belleville/Hamilton 2008-2019
<> Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-3, OP, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-3, OP, Rd-1, OP, Rd-1, Rd-4 (Finals*), Rd-1 <> (19 ÷ 12 = 1.6 rd/yr)

6. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors - Steelheads 2008-2019
<> Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-3, Rd-4 (Finals), Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-1, OP, Rd-1, Rd-3, Rd-1, Rd-1 <> (19 ÷ 12 = 1.6 rd/yr)

7. Ottawa 67s 2008-2019
<> Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-3, OP, OP, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-4 (Finals) <> (16 ÷ 12 = 1.3 rd/yr)

8. Kingston Frontenacs 2008-2019
<> OP, OP, Rd-1, Rd-1, OP, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-2, Rd-3, OP <> ( 12 ÷ 12 = 1.0 rd/yr)

9. Sudbury Wolves 2008-2019
<> OP, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-2, Rd-1, OP, OP, Rd-1, OP , Rd-2 <> (11 ÷ 12 = 0.9 rd/yr)

10. Peterborough Petes 2008-2019
<> Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-1, OP, OP, OP, Rd-2, Rd-1, Rd-1, Rd-2, OP, Rd-1 <>(10 ÷ 12 = 0.8 rd/yr)

Honour, Celebrate and Share Niagara’s hockey history with prospects…

The St. Catharines’ Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Meridian Centre. However, unlike the Oshawa and Peterborough arenas, the Meridian Centre space is too small to commemorate the entire scope of sports history in St. Catharines - one sport on display every two years is hardly a Sports Hall of Fame. With a storied sports history, the city does need a proper Sports Hall of Fame! That space on the concourse would be an ideal location to celebrate the hockey history of St. Catharines (e.g., Blackhawks, Teepees and IceDogs). Therefore, when prospects are touring the building, the recruitment team can share the history and stories of hockey in Niagara. Walking through the Oshawa and Peterborough Sports Hall of Fames makes one respect those historic franchises even more.

The area could be a display of all the team pictures (along with a video highlight reel of memorable IceDogs moments over the years); recognition of the IceDog greats: A.Pietrangelo, A.Agozzino, M.Visentin, D.Hamilton, R.Strome, B.Perlini, V.Dunn,… on an "IceDogs Wall of Fame".

And maybe even, recognize legendary IceDog greats by raising a banner into the rafters, in their honour. Someone as decorated as Alex Pietrangelo: NHL All-Star; Team Canada Junior and Senior level: Gold Medal 2009 WJC; Best Defenceman: 2010 WJC and 2011 Men's WC; Gold Medal 2014 Canadian Winter Olympic and 2019 Stanley Cup Champion.

Celebrate the team’s history, those historical ties leave a lasting impressions…



Blacksox 05-13-2020 10:54 AM

Part II Updated (Business Operations)

Dogs Enthusiast 104 05-13-2020 07:16 PM


The Niagara Region is the largest megalopolis in Canada
Is this a test to see if I am paying attention?

NiceDawg 05-13-2020 08:17 PM


Originally Posted by Dogs Enthusiast 104 (Post 133999)
Is this a test to see if I am paying attention?

Oh good, I didn't want to be the only one wrinkling his nose at that. Niagara is "part of" the largest megalopolis in Canada, but it doesn't comprise it.

Blacksox 05-13-2020 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by Dogs Enthusiast 104 (Post 133999)
Is this a test to see if I am paying attention?

A professor reamed me out for writing, midway through my philosophy of education essay, “If you are still reading this, place a check mark here ___.” So, no - not testing you. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe that references the number of municipality join together (12) and not the population (450,000)?

three dog night 05-13-2020 09:06 PM

He might be talking about Niagara being part of the Golden Horseshoe

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