The Battlefords North Stars have always been engrained in the community, but this year they're taking it to another level.
Not only will some North Stars players help guest-coach at Battlefords Minor Hockey Association practices when they can — like they did last year on occasion — but this season all registered BMHA players will receive a free season pass to attend all North Stars home games.
"I think it's a win-win for both organizations," North Stars vice-president Kyle Kellgren said, who is also the vice-president of BMHA. "For Battlefords Minmor Hockey, it's a win because it gets their kids to the rink. It gets their kids to follow their idols who are the North Stars. And then when you look at it from a North Star advantage, you're just looking at putting more people in the rink. We've got availablity for over 2,000 people, so you take 500 kids from BMHA and if they each brought somebody, we're looking at 1,000 people alone."
The pass is available for any BMHA player, from initiation, right up to midget. All players under 10 years of age must bring an adult with them to the game, who must pay for a ticket.
North Stars marketing manager Caitlyn Gray said the team's attendance was very good last season, but it can always get better.
"A lot of these kids maybe didn't come to games in the past. So we're hoping this gets new people here, it get their parents here," Gray said. "We're always looking at ways to get people here and get people in the arena and we want to work with the community more."
Kellgren said the idea was brought up by a board member that had noticed some teams in British Columbia were doing the same thing with their local associations and that it had brought in a significant amount of people.
He also added that although the North Stars are 'giving away' potentially hundreds of free tickets, they're not really losing any revenue.
"We're making the money from the adult [that attends with the kids] and then plus once they get in the door, it's all the extras," Kellgren said. "You look at canteen, 50/50, merchandise sales, it all kind of goes hand in hand."
As for helping out with practices, that will be done whenever North Stars players have time.
New head coach Brandon Heck has been pushing to continue the tradition of North Stars doing whatever they can to help out.
"There's tons of [minor hockey] teams, so I'm sure they always need help and lots of their coaches are volunteers," Gray said. "There's always new things in the community that [the players] are kind of expected to volunteer where needed. They always get excited about doing those kind of things."
For the minor hockey players, meeting some of their idols at one of their practices can go a long way.
"Take an atom team. You put out Layne Young. You can't tell me they're not going to listen and be in awe of a Layne Young or Troy Gerein or a Levi [Kleiboer] or a Cody [Spagrud]," Kellgren said. "We've got some great players in our organization that are great ambassadors for the game and it's going to help out both ends."
The partnership between the BMHA and North Stars has always been close, and Kellgren said there's also a long-term goal in mind.
"We're trying to be the feeder system for the North Stars," he said. "A few years ago, there was I think a peewee AA team that had [graduates Connor] Sych and [Kendall] Fransoo and [Logan] Nachtegaele.
"We're trying to get our kids more involved in hockey, get them more excited about hockey and get them to try to achieve the level that these young men have."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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