The Cranbrook Bucks are the newest franchise in the BCHL and are set to begin play in September 2020, and MyEastKootenayNow.com has published a three-part series that is taking a deeper look into the league and the team as they near closer to their inaugural game.
Part 3 of “Cranbrook Bucks: Road to the BCHL”, which concludes the series, takes a deep dive into the Cranbrook Bucks’ plans to improve fan experience, while Part 1 provided a look into the BCHL and Part 2 provided an overview of the team’s hockey operations.
With the Cranbrook Bucks marking the return of Junior hockey in the community, the franchise is looking to provide the premier experience for fans in the entire BCHL.
How the Bucks hope to do that is by installing a new video jumbotron at Western Financial Place, a key facility feature that was required when the Kootenay Ice were playing in the WHL, but now serves as a symbol of significant improvements and renovations to the Bucks’s home building.
“Yes you want a good product, yes you want to have a great competitive team and these are all good things, but I think there is a lot of ways you can make that fan experience really exciting beyond that,” Nathan Lieuwen told MyEastKootenayNow.com, Majority Owner and President of the Cranbrook Bucks.
The video board will have instant replay functionality, which will be simulcast into the luxury suites at Western Financial Place. Lieuwen said they’ve installed new flatscreen TVs in those suites, greatly adding to the overall experience at home games.
“It just creates a whole other side to what people are watching, they can see what happened, on close calls, everyone can be in suspense watching what’s going on and reacting and it’s a whole other way for us to see the game.”
With the video jumbotron, Lieuwen is in the process of securing a video team to operate the various cameras around the rink, playback the replays, and operate digital features on the screen such as a “kiss cam” among other jumbotron staples one would expect at a hockey game. The jumbotron will be installed over the summer when the ice is taken out, and will officially be in place before Training Camp.
Western Financial Place will also be getting new boards and new glass to update the aesthetic of the facility, while the Cranbrook Bucks continue their significant renovations of the former Kootenay Ice dressing room and training room to make it uniquely their own space. Lieuwen said they have completely overhauled the coach’s room, are installing new cabinets and counters, updating the player stalls, and more, all with the aim of providing an efficient and professional environment.
Besides the facility, the Cranbrook Bucks are also looking to improve fan experience when they are on the road. The BCHL utilizes HockeyTV as their place for online webcasts of every game. HockeyTV is also the home of most other Junior A leagues in Canada, the CSSHL (Canadian Sport School Hockey League), and other junior leagues in the United States.
“It gives a lot of flexibility for fans to watch a lot of different hockey. I have an account now and I watch a ton of games on it and it’s a very smooth software that gives fans the ability not just to listen but to watch the game with some pretty good feeds in some different arenas.”
Some games are available to watch for free, including some BCHL games, although the online service is worth $30 a month or $250 for the year for fans that are interested in having access to all of the Cranbrook Bucks games, among the other leagues featured on the site.
Back inside the arena, Lieuwen said the Bucks will have a family-friendly face of the franchise at all of their home games and at community events.
“We’re looking to bring in one mascot and just have that kind of be our staple, we want a mascot that really represents what we’re all about,” Lieuwen told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “I know it sounds silly, it’s just a mascot, but on the finer details we really want to make sure that it’s a unified effort as to what we’re trying to do here.”
Lieuwen said the team’s mascot and name will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Following the announcement of the team in October 2019, the next biggest month for the Cranbrook Bucks is February 2020. The organization is officially making season tickets available to the general public on Saturday, February 1st and will be hosting a community event at Western Financial Place to commemorate the launch.
Previous season ticket holders for the Kootenay Ice had until December 20, 2019, to claim their old season seats before the Bucks release the remaining seats to the public.
“For a lot of people, they’ve been in those seats for 20 years, they’ve been loyal hockey fans here in Cranbrook and we want to appreciate that,” said Lieuwen. “That’s why we did that campaign and a lot of people were very grateful that we offered them that opportunity.”
“Here come February 1st it opens up to everybody, there is a lot of good seats available. We’re really excited to get the rest of the community involved and really reach out at the people that were hockey fans but lost out on something along the way, whether it was price, or whether it was product, or whatever it was, we’re really excited to bring those fans back into the fold.”
Early Bird Prices for Cranbrook Bucks season tickets are in effect from February 1st until March 13th, costing $350 for adults, $330 for seniors, and $160 for a child or student. Although, Lieuwen said all children under the age of 10 will have free admission to Cranbrook Bucks games as they want to build a family-friendly atmosphere.
“We really just want to make this an environment where everyone from Cranbrook can feel apart of this big community. I’ve said it before, that we want this team to be a big family, and our fans are a big part of that family, our community is a big part of that family, our corporate sponsors and partners are a big part of this family and all we really want to do is bring our whole family here and have a great time.”
While the Bucks continue to check off all the boxes and complete their running checklist ahead of their opening game in September 2020, the team is taking inquiries and building lists of volunteers for different jobs, billets for the players, among other positions and roles. Lieuwen said the team is openly taking phone calls and emails from the public and that any questions can be sent to [email protected] or phoned into 250-426-8889.
That formally concludes 107.5 2day FM and MyEastKootenayNow.com’s special three-part series on the Cranbrook Bucks. Below is the full series of articles on the BCHL’s newest franchise.
Cranbrook Bucks: Road to the BCHL (Part 1) – a look into the BCHL
Cranbrook Bucks: Road to the BCHL (Part 2) – a look into hockey operations
Cranbrook Bucks: Road to the BCHL (Part 3) – a look into fan experience
Previous: Nathan Lieuwen Leading Family-Focused Cranbrook Bucks Franchise (October 16, 2019)