Danny Williams was excited by the St. John’s IceCaps’ three wins at the St. John’s Board of Trade awards Wednesday — they helped put to rest his concerns about the team’s early losses.
The losses in question were not on the ice, but in the hockey team’s financial records — the ones that are written in red ink.
“When we were first presented with the financials for this company, I gotta tell ya, we were looking at losses. And we were looking at big losses,” Williams, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier and the president and CEO of the IceCaps, told the packed St. John’s Convention Centre for the board’s annual Business Excellence Awards. “Given some of the expenses that we had to incur for travel and other expenses, our losses would have been through the roof.”
Williams credited IceCaps staff for their “hard work and their skills, and their passion, the energy and the intelligence” in turning that around.
A string of sellouts since the team’s first game last year, as well as strong merchandise sales, hasn’t hurt either, and the organization’s success earned it the board’s top award, the Business Excellence Award, in addition to the Community Impact Award for a company with fewer than 20 people (for donating more than $500,000 to more than 200 organizations across the province in its first year of existence) and the Marketing and Promotional Creativity award (for building a network of strategic partnerships and its AHL is Back season ticket drive).
After the awards ceremony, Williams said despite the projected losses he wasn’t worried about eventual success for the organization.
“I really honestly believed that this city was ripe for it,” he said. “We’re prosperous here in the city right now. It’s a good hockey town, it’s proven to be a good hockey town in the past that supported the Maple Leafs, and I thought the time was right.”
He said he was flabbergasted by the awards hat trick.
“There’s a lot of extremely competent, successful, well-run businesses in this city, and for us to get this, a fledgling organization that’s only been in operation a year and a half, and to rise to this pinnacle and be recognized by the Board of Trade, it’s just a credit to all the people involved, to all my staff, to our advisers, to the hockey team, to the organization and to True North Sports and Entertainment, who have been great partners.”
Other winners include Johnson, Bennet Group of Cos. and Destination St. John’s
Ron Ellsworth was named the Community Builder Volunteer of the Year for his work with Brother Rice and McDonald Drive schools as well as with the Cancer Society and the Kidney Foundation.
“You never do the volunteer work for recognition, but it’s always nice to get recognized for your efforts in the community, certainly,” he said.
Ellsworth said his struggles growing up are what drive his volunteer work today.
“I grew up in a single-parent family, the youngest of five, struggled through school most of my life, certainly had some black times in my life growing up. Through the efforts of mostly teachers in my life, but also community leaders and community volunteers, I was given the opportunity to move forward and do something with my life. My wife, Paula, and I, our four kids, enjoy a great standard of living, and we enjoy a great life, and we have a responsibility to give back to our community but we also have a responsibility to assist those who need help in our community to give them the same opportunity we had.”
Dallas Mercer Consulting was named Leader in Growth and Sales, for its 82 per cent growth in the past two years. The workers’ compensation consulting business was started by Mercer in the basement of her home 10 years ago and today has a staff of 23 with operations throughout Atlantic Canada and in Alberta.
“We’ve worked really hard. I think the biggest reason is that we believe in what we do. We have a lot of passion, and every day we all have that passion,” said Mercer. “We show up for work with a belief that we’re doing the right thing for companies. Every single company in the province needs us, it’s just that some of them haven’t realized it yet. I think that as time goes on, our growth will just get better and bigger.”
Insurance company Johnson, last year’s winner of the Contribution to Community and Community Service award for companies with more than 50 employees, won the workplace excellence award, with the board citing its list of accolades, including being named one of Canada’s Top 100 employers and a top family-friendly employer.
The Bennett Group of Cos. won the Community Impact award for companies with more than 20 employees for its work with more than 100 charities in the arts, health care, education and public policy sectors, including the Ronald McDonald House project in St. John’s that was spearheaded by the group, which has donated more than $250,000 in the past two years to its various endeavours.
Destination St. John’s won the Customer Service and Reliability award, which the board credits for building St. John’s into a desirable host destination for the city’s average of 100 conferences per year. Boutique shop Whink won the Entrepreneurial Spirit award for its strong sales in just three years on Duckworth Street.
Steve Power, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade, said the roster of winners this year is strong, and called the IceCaps’ triple win “fantastic.”
“For anyone who’s been down to the games over the past year and a half, it’s been phenomenal,” he said. “I know I get down to most of them, and it’s fantastic entertainment.”