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Valley Wildcats an important part of community

Members of the Valley Junior A Wildcats hand out treats during the Berwick Gala Days Street Parade.
Members of the Valley Junior A Wildcats hand out treats during the Berwick Gala Days Street Parade. - Contributed

Hockey fans are gearing up for another season, ready to cheer on their favourite teams and players. But for fans of the biggest clubs, a ticket for a seat in the rafters of a twenty thousand capacity arena, and some overpriced souvenirs and snacks might be as close as they get to the team.

In Berwick, and in towns around the twelve team Maritime Hockey League loop, the experience is much different.

The Valley Junior A Wildcats are inviting fans from across the region to a Meet The Team event, Sunday, September 22 from 2 until 4pm at the Berwick Lions Club, located inside the Kings Mutual Century Centre. Members of the public will have the chance to meet the players, coaches, and team staff, just as the season begins to get into gear.

“It's absolutely imperative that our club is involved in the local community,” says new Wildcats General Manager and Head Coach, Brandon Benedict. “What we do on the ice is important, but what we do off it is just as important.”

Building links with the community, especially young fans, is critical for the health and stability of franchises around the MHL, and in other leagues across North America. While jam packed crowds have happened at the Apple Dome over the years, attendance has declined in recent seasons as the team has rebuilt, and wins came less frequently. Last season, Valley averaged around three hundred fans per game, the lowest average in the league.

Benedict says a chance to get to know the team is critical for building those links, and turning those attendance figures around. “Events like this are great for the community to come out, meet the players, and get involved.”

Players and staff have already started making themselves visible in the community. The Wildcats took part in Berwick Gala Days at the beginning of September, marching in the parade, playing games, and getting soaked in the dunk tank.

On the 22nd, Coach Benedict will introduce his roster for the season, and the players will be available to sign autographs and mingle with fans. Refreshments will also be served.

Fans can see the team in action prior to the Meet The Team event on the 22nd. The Junior A Wildcats host the Amherst Ramblers on Friday, September 20 at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick. The opening faceoff is set for 7 p.m.

This article appeared in the Valley Harvester.

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