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Old 05-12-2020, 10:56 AM
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Default ICEDOGS’ RECRUITMENT

ICEDOGS’ RECRUITMENT

PART I LOCATION / TRAVEL / FACILITY

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…

LOCATION
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

TRAVEL
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.



FACILITY
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

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Last edited by Blacksox; 05-13-2020 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 05-12-2020, 10:56 AM
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PART II BUSINESS OPERATIONS / FAN BASE / ALUMNI

BUSINESS OPERATIONS
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.

https://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attenda...h.php?tmi=7121 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 https://niagaraicedogs.net/business-staff


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…https://twitter.com/OHLIceDogs/statu...62578643034112



FAN BASE
“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.”

ROD MAWHOOD NIAGARA SPORTS REPORT: https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/a...1?mode=Article

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.”


ALUMNI
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…https://niagaraicedogs.net/video/mes...iver-castleman

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.”

#players-can-be-your-best-recruiters

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.



***

Last edited by Blacksox; 05-15-2020 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 07-28-2020, 10:21 PM
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ALUMNI
[b]Past and present players can often be your best recruiters – not sure how much the IceDogs tap into that recruitment avenue?

An outstanding job of recruitment by Joey Burke during a pandemic, but this IceDogs' Alumni news...

...is noteworthy. Five different sources have two former IceDogs’ (Alex Pietrangelo and Dougie Hamilton) as projected members of the 2022 Olympics Team Canada roster

THE HOCKEY NEWS
https://thehockeynews.com/news/artic...canadas-roster


SPORTSNET
https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/...ojXAilVmFaITSU

TSN
https://www.hockeyfeed.com/nhl-news/...-2022-olympics

THE SCORE
https://www.thescore.com/nhl/news/1981658

THE HOCKEY WRITERS
https://thehockeywriters.com/project...c-hockey-team/



...and this could be interesting. Pietrangelo and Dunn raised the Stanley Cup last year – will one of these former IceDogs be next?

IceDogs’ Graduates Participating in the NHL’s 2019-20 Return to Play
https://niagaraicedogs.net/article/1...return-to-play


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Old 08-15-2020, 11:00 AM
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An outstanding interview with Steve Clark, the voice of the Niagara IceDogs, discussing the history (and future) of the IceDogs

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Old 09-23-2020, 09:18 AM
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One of the many outstanding billet families assisting the IceDogs create that family culture within the organization.

IceDogs home away from home
https://www.bpsportsniagara.com/iced...way-from-home/

“Chris and Bryony were amazing,” Hunter said. “They did everything possible to make me feel comfortable. From my first day there to the last, it felt like home. Every time that I needed help they were there for support. Any time of day and night they would do what they could for me to make me feel better.

Chris doesn’t regret a second of the experience. “We have had quite a few kids over from the team over the last few years and you get to meet them all and they are all really good kids,” he said. “You heard horror stories and there are jerks out there but we’ve never seen that with any of the IceDogs. They have all been really respectful and nice.”
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Old 09-30-2020, 10:33 AM
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The Journey…

2011 OHL PRIORITY DRAFT
RD-2 #38 Niagara IceDogs - Carter Verhaeghe; Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs Minor Midget AAA

2013 NHL DRAFT
RD-3 #82 Toronto Maple Leafs - Carter Verhaeghe; Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

2015 (09-17) NHL TRADE

Toronto Maple Leafs to New York Islanders

2017 (07-01) NHL TRADE
New York Islanders to Tampa Bay Lightning

2020 (09-28)



In the last two years, three players (Pietrangelo, Dunn, Verhaeghe) that were drafted and developed by the Niagara IceDogs have lifted the “toughest trophy to win in all of pro sports.”

Carter Verhaeghe is an extraordinary story of perseverance. What an amazing moment for CV - and even for IceDog fans who remember when this journey began in 2011.

I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to lift the Stanley Cup


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Last edited by Blacksox; 09-30-2020 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 05-12-2020, 10:57 AM
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PART III BILLET FAMILIES / EDUCATION

BILLET FAMILY
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…https://niagaraicedogs.net/video/to-...lies-thank-you

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?




EDUCATION (Part I)

https://niagaraicedogs.net/icedogs-education
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 UNIVERSITY
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).


VIDEO FOOTAGE CREDIT: ApplyBoard

NIAGARA COLLEGE
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)


EDUCATION (Part II)
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.”
https://barriecolts.com/colts-launch-hockey-academy

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.
https://ottawa67s.com/67-s-partner-with-blyth-academy

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.
https://blytheducation.com/news/lond...blyth-academy/

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?
https://gillardelitehockey.ca/


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Old 05-17-2020, 04:18 PM
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BILLET FAMILY
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?
Unfortunately, this is not an area where Niagara shines. Taking, nothing from the many caring and supportive billet families, there are also some that are double and even triple booked. There has been a shortage of quality homes and recruitment is down. Why? Part of the problem is limiting the catchment area to Governor Simcoe (even those that don't go to high school any more) and for the compensation that is paid to billet families which at times doesn't cover the athlete's food. I am not even delving into the conflicts that have existed! Parents want assurances that their children will (all) be going to good homes and be well cared for.
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Old 05-17-2020, 07:07 PM
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Unfortunately, this is not an area where Niagara shines. Taking, nothing from the many caring and supportive billet families, there are also some that are double and even triple booked. There has been a shortage of quality homes and recruitment is down. Why? Part of the problem is limiting the catchment area to Governor Simcoe (even those that don't go to high school any more) and for the compensation that is paid to billet families which at times doesn't cover the athlete's food. I am not even delving into the conflicts that have existed! Parents want assurances that their children will (all) be going to good homes and be well cared for.
I could be wrong, but I don’t recall the situation being as dire as you mentioned. Being paired up in a billet home is not that uncommon, even London does that. Last year, I saw many families with single players, some were paired up and there was one group of three.
Check out the Billet Appreciation pictures from last season…
https://niagaraicedogs.net/gallery/g...arch-10th-2019

As for the compensation, is the amount pre-established amoungst all OHL team? For example, Ottawa pays their Billets $550 per month. Are some teams able to pay more or less? Do you know what Niagara pays?

Also, are you sure they are they limiting the catchment area to those in the Governor Simcoe school zoning? I guess that would make sense, but you are right, that would make recruitment of billets difficult. The Billet application form does not specify a specific area of St. Catharines - and I'm pretty sure there are billet families in Welland and NF.

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Last edited by Blacksox; 05-17-2020 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 05-17-2020, 07:49 PM
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May I add to that as well.
You are forgetting NiceDawg that these are teenagers and many many teams have problems with billets and players.
So saying that Icedogs dont shine in this department in my opinion is a little far fetched
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