The Eastlink CeeBee Stars need fan support, now more than ever.
Without additional support, there is a chance the team will not be holding its Nov. 2 home opener at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
The CeeBees have 170 hot (holding) seats sold, but the team is looking for, and needs, more.
“It just isn’t to where it needs to be,” said CeeBees’ president Nick Saunders. adding he and the rest of the executive were stunned by low pre-season sales.
“We were taken aback,” he said. “We thought from the generic buzz that our fans were excited to come on board. It was a big, big surprise.”
Heading into the season, the club set a goal of 500 hot seat sales, believing momentum from its 2013 Herder championship would continue.
“We thought it was respectful. We thought it was attainable,” said Saunders.
“We haven’t gotten to that goal yet.”
So the team is asking fans for additional support, to the tune of 330 more hot seats sold by next Tuesday.
“We thought it was fair to the general public, we thought it was fair to our fans and we were comfortable with that,” said Saunders. “Combine that number with the corporate sponsorship we get, and we’d be great.”
A common criticism of past hot seat sales has been their unavailability to fans who work during the day, as they have been traditionally sold during regular business hours.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, the CeeBees have moved sales out of the Harbour Grace arena to the Harbour Grace Tourist Chalet. Sale times have been shifted from noon to 8 p.m., and fans can now purchase tickets by phone and credit card.
The CeeBees ran into financial woes during the 2012-13 campaign, but managed to finish the season, capping it off with a run to the Herder Memorial Trophy championship.
In the off-season, the CeeBees made roster moves that involved a number of popular local players.
The biggest such transaction was the trade of Keith and Ryan Delaney of North River to the Clarenville Caribous for another pair of brothers, Matthew and Mitchell Bragg, as well as Brandon Street and Andrew Hill. The team also traded former captain Matthew Thomey of Harbour Grace to the Western Royals, with Thomey’s teaching career taking him to the province’s west coast.
Also not returning are goaltender Mark Yetman and Harbour Grace native Robert Slaney, who left to pursue an education at St. Francis Xavier where he is playing for the X-Men.
Saunders said the team’s corporate sponsors have “expressed excitement” about the upcoming season. But historically, the CeeBees faithful have taken a wait-and-see approach when it came to ticket sales.
Whether it was waiting for the playoffs to truly show support, or waiting a couple of a games into the season in order to judge the talent level on the ice, fans have waited before stamping their support on the club.
“Unfortunately in this league now, a team cannot survive on playoff numbers,” said Saunders. “They need the support throughout the season, in order to put the product on the ice and to maintain it.”
Compare that support to counterparts in the province-wide league. The Clarenville Caribous and the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts routinely get 700-800 season-ticket sales, plus both have waiting lists.
“The amount of corporate support we get exceeds everything out there,” said Saunders. “Unfortunately, the amount of up-front support and ticket sales we get … we trail behind by a large number.”
Saunders praised the CeeBees’ fans as “the best in the league.”
“We need them to be the best now,” he said, adding that the stakes are high for the franchise
“If we don’t obtain this goal, there is a very big chance that we may not ice a team this year,” he said.
Any fans wishing to purchase hot seats can do so at the tourist chalet in Harbour Grace, located just below Jamie’s Way, between the noon and 8 p.m. starting today.
Tickets can also be purchased by phone (709-589-6815) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The C.B.N. Compass,
with files from The Telegram