© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Prince Albert Raiders head coach Cory Clouston was a keynote speaker at the annual Chamber of Commerce Raider Luncheon on Thursday. A large crowd was in attendance to hear of the Raiders' preparations for the upcoming Western Hockey League season.
This is always an exciting time of the year as the Prince Albert Raiders once again begin the long journey towards winning a Western Hockey League championship.
With the regular season beginning tonight in Saskatoon, the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce did its part on Thursday by hosting a noon luncheon at the Travelodge to send out the message that the community is behind the organization.
The event, which was sponsored by the Prince Albert Daily Herald, attracted a large crowd of supporters and the message was clear: the Raiders are a big part of the community.
“Win or lose, this is a great opportunity to partner with the Raiders,” said Herald publisher John Morash. “We share many of the same values as the Raiders.”
Morash went on to highlight numerous activities the newspaper performs to support the Raiders including the annual “Bums in the Seats” promotion which will be Dec. 11 this year, free on-line subscriptions to the players’ parents and grandparents and an association with the Raider Reader Program. There are also the countless promotional stories and photos that are presented in the paper throughout the season.
After Morash delivered his speech, it was the Raiders turn to say thanks to the business community, the fans and the volunteers.
Bruce Vance, the Raiders’ business manager and director of marketing, says that with 95 per cent of the inventory sold out for advertising, the Raiders are a benchmark for the league.
Last year the community-owned franchise averaged 2,674 fans per game which translates into 103 per cent capacity at the Art Hauser Centre and they hope to surpass that this season as more than 1,600 season tickets have already been sold.
During the offseason the Raiders decided to rebrand the team and after 17 years will be saying farewell to the pirate-head logo and black colours to welcome back the traditional green and white along with a more modern logo. The new jerseys will be unveiled on Saturday when the Raiders play their home opener against the Saskatoon Blades.
“Rebranding is a huge challenge, but the energy that exists is very rewarding,” noted Vance. “It will be a lot of fun on Saturday night.”
The Raiders will also retire its first jersey in its 43-year history on Nov. 1 when Mike Modano’s No. 9 is raised to the rafters.
The off-ice affairs are well taken care of and new head coach Cory Clouston concluded the luncheon by stating that the on-ice product will be different as well.
“We changed a lot of things,” stated Clouston, the 13th head coach of the franchise who joined the team in June. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is a lot of work to be done.”
“It’s not just about the success of one year, but we want to pass it down to the young players,” added Clouston. “We are creating a foundation on and off the ice.”
Clouston, a two-time WHL coach-of-the-year and winner of the Canadian Hockey League’s top coach award on one occasion says a lot goes into building a team that people don’t see during the two to two-and-a-half hours that they are on the ice.
The first opportunity to witness all of the hard work is Saturday and from the excitement shown at the luncheon, Prince Albert is ready for a long season of hockey.
Before the crowd dispersed it was announced that the Chamber of Commerce would make a donation to a charity of Clouston’s choice, which turned out to be the Canadian Cancer Society.