By Daniel Austin, Canmore Leader
With their immediate future in Canmore secure for next season, the Canmore Eagles have begun taking steps to ensure their long term stability in the Bow Valley. That process began with the recent hiring of John Ross as club’s new marketing and sales director.
Ross is a seasoned sales and marketing professional in the sporting community, having worked previously as the Sales and Marketing Director for the Lake Louise Ski Area, Sunshine Village and the Canada Olympic Park. He’s also worked previously as a Western Hockey League sports reporter for the Calgary Sun.
Ross said he saw his role as helping to get the Eagles back on stable financial footing and to help increase support in the Bow Valley. He said he saw the club’s recent reincorporation as a potential turning point for the franchise and believed renewed efforts to reach out to fans and the corporate community should go a long way to securing the team’s future in Canmore.
“There’s a couple of things that are very important for the team and one of them is to increase our fan base and get them back in the stands,” Ross said. “The other is to increase our corporate awareness through sponsorships and promotions.
“It’s got to be fun to come to the rink, and the rink holds under 700 people and it shouldn’t be that much of a challenge.”
Ross said his experience in the sports sales and marketing industry led him to an understanding of the value of attention to detail and following up with clients — corporate or fans — and thought that would be the keep to making the franchise successful.
But he also stressed the economic benefits of having the team in Canmore, including the money generated by having visiting teams regularly coming and staying in town during the winter months.
“When I look at it as a big picture, I think the Canmore Eagles should be an economic benefit to the Bow Valley. The visiting teams bring in a lot of money. They need a place to eat and sleep and stay and have fun,” Ross said.
In addition to the economic benefits of having the teams themselves visiting Canmore, Ross sees opportunities to market Canmore as a destination for fans of other Alberta Junior Hockey League Franchises from across Alberta. He likened the team’s potential as a road trip destination to the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation, where fans travel from across North America and fill the stands in Phoenix.
“Theoretically, if we can go to Drumheller and Olds and Spruce Grove and convince them that they want to go on a road trip, Canmore would be a great place to come and package it up with a dinner voucher and a game ticket. I think that’s an avenue to be had,” Ross said.
Eagles coach Andrew Milne has been the team’s sole paid employee for much of 2011, and the hiring of Ross will allow him some reprieve from the marketing and sales responsibilities he’d been doing so that he can instead focus on the team’s on-ice product.
Ross has been living in Canmore since last fall and said he saw the position with the Eagles as a way to contribute to the community.
He said he lives only a couple blocks away from the arena, and after a long time away from the game of hockey was looking forward to getting involved with the sport again.