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Wellington Dukes hope roar of fans will lift hockey spirts and support County’s hospital

Former Dukes Ben Roger and Zach Uens, NHL draft picks with the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, respectively. – Sharon Harrison photo

By Sharon Harrison
Eager for the season to begin Oct. 1, the Wellington Dukes Junior A Hockey Club held its first season ticket drive Saturday in the parking lot of home ice at the Wellington and District Community Centre.

Those who came out got to meet Ben Roger and Zach Uens, both recent former Dukes and now National Hockey League draft picks, with the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers respectively. The young stars signed autographs and chatted with the public, and fans were also given special edition hockey cards.

Diehard supporters, local fans and those new to the Dukes experience were encouraged to come out to reserve the best seats in the house for all the live games of the upcoming season.

Wellington Dukes president Randy Uens runs hockey operations and the business side of things and said the club trying to get back to normal in the COVID-19 pandemic, and wanted to support the hospital at the same time.

The Dukes are helping the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Back the Build campaign for a new hospital, though fundraising events and season ticket sales.

“What I like is when you tie it together with the hospital, a very good cause, it just makes a lot of sense,” Uens said.

“They [PECMH] have a sponsor that is going to match us times two,” said Kelly Leigh Martin, director of sales and marketing with Total Sports. “Our $20,000 could turn into $60,000 (matched 2:1 by the Paul B. Helliwell Foundation).”

Total Sports has teamed up with the Wellington Dukes this season to help lift the team’s presence in the community and to get the fans to come out and support this favourite Prince Edward County team.

Uens noted how the last two years have been tough. Two years ago, they lost the playoffs and the rest of that season, and then they lost all of last year due to COVID-19.

“This is important for us to get out and get some interest and get people back into the seats,” said Uens. “The basis for every hockey club is fan support and to get that season ticket drive going is critical for us for sustainability and to keep our team moving forward the way we want to and as people are used to.”

He said the losses have been significant, so coming back this season is important.

“The way we are set up as a hockey club, we rely solely on money coming from our fans and our advertisers and a lot of that is built-up on the back end of our seasons,” he said. “We get more of our fan support as we make the playoffs, so we’ve got to invest in players to get us to the playoffs.”

Betty Masterson has been volunteering with the Dukes organization for 31 years, 20 of those in ticket sales.

“It’s nice to be back doing this as it has been a long time,” said Masterson, who noted the last game played at the arena was in early 2020.

“It’s been almost two seasons we’ve lost because of COVID.”

Masterson also spoke to how having the players in town was nice, especially as some families billet the young players.

“You get to know everyone, but it’s important to look after the fans in a small town,” she adds.

Martin says they have a lot planned for this year.

“We are going to feature a local charity at every game and raise money for the local charities every single game this season,” she said.

They are also working on a ‘shoot-to-win your tuition’ with a sponsor campaign.

“It’ll be a tournament for students every game and at the last regular home game, somebody will win their tuition.”

Martin noted how the hockey club has suffered financially as a result of losing a full season plus part of a season as a result of the pandemic.

“We have suffered big time, like all other hockey and sports clubs, so we are really hopeful we can get the fans to come out this year and support us rather than watch it on TV.”

Having worked with the Ontario Junior Hockey League for 15 years, Martin says she is very excited about working with the Dukes.

“Now there is a value add with the Total Sports publication, as well as the hockey team, and now you are creating a whole marketing platform that is valuable to an advertiser,” explained Uens. “The reach we have is far more than being a hockey club now.”

“We really need the fans to come out; this is a small community and the only way we can keep a team in Wellington is to make the playoffs and have the fans cheering on the team,” she says.

While season ticket holders have fluctuated over the years, they average 250 to 400 per season. This year’s ambitious goal is 1,050.

“The reason we picked 1,050 is that is the number of people we would average when we would have our games against Trenton for example; those games we get a 1,000 people, so why can’t we get 1,000 people consistently,” said Uens.

The arena holds 1,550 and Uens says they have filled the building many times when big games have been held there.

“We also get over 6,000 homes watching our games on TV live, so we know there is interest in the games.”

The Wellington Dukes are trying to grow the corporate side of things and are looking to get corporate individuals involved so tickets can be utilized as a fan promotion, for customers or employees.

“It is a low cost way to support the hospital and us,” he said.

Uens speaks nostalgically of a “real community spirit”, something that happens during the winter in Wellington when there are fewer other activities to do.

“If we can get a 1,000 people in here every game, it will be exciting. “

Season tickets may be obtained by contacting Don Boucher at 613-813-3943 or Betty Masterson at 613-848-9609 or by visiting www.wellingtondukes.com or request tickets by email at dukesseasontickets@gmail.com.

 

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