Kelly McCrimmon is hoping his team’s rise in the standings will be reflected in season ticket sales this year.
Five p.m. today is the early-bird deadline for fans to purchase season tickets at a reduced price and be eligible for a big Blue Jays prize package, and the head coach, general manager and owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings is looking for a boost at the box office.
“We want to be ahead of last year and if we’re not significantly ahead of last year, I would be disappointed,” McCrimmon said this week while attending the WHL’s board of governors meetings in Vancouver. “I think there’s a lot of excitement around our team, the finish to our season was good for our fans and I think people have high expectations for the next few years with our group. And we hope that translates into more season ticket sales as well.”
With first overall bantam draft pick Stelio Mattheos signing on the dotted line, the Wheat Kings’ pipeline of prospects is the envy of the league. The likes of blue-chip first-round selections Nolan Patrick and Kale Clague and Brandon-born Tanner Kaspick are among those expected to make the jump this season to join a team already stocked with young talent led by 2014 NHL draft candidates John Quenneville and Jayce Hawryluk, among others.
That impressive young core helped the Wheat Kings bounce back from a dreadful 24-40-4-4 season two years ago to a 21-point jump in the standings and a 34-29-6-3 record this past season that was capped by a first-round playoff sweep of the Regina Pats before falling to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings in Round 2.
The Wheat Kings offered playoff packages as part of their early season-ticket renewal this year, with 962 diehard fans taking advantage of that opportunity to give the club a nice head start heading into this week’s deadline.
“We did complete a lot of renewals during the tail end of the regular season heading into the playoffs … and I guess really we’re going to get a feel for how effective that strategy was when we see our numbers here on Friday with the early-bird deadline,” McCrimmon said.
“If we are going to look to make headway with our season-ticket base from the early bird to opening day seems to be a pretty steady number, so if we are behind at early-bird deadline it’s a real challenge to make up those tickets and in the last two or three years we haven’t.”
The Wheat Kings hope to surpass the 1,630 packages sold by last year’s early-bird deadline as they look to reverse a trend of slipping sales that left the club with 2,361 season ticket holders last season and a game-day average attendance of 3,529.
The early returns are modest but promising, with Brandon a little more than a hundred ticket packages ahead of last year’s pace heading into deadline day as the Wheat Kings hope for a last-minute surge.
With the Wheat Kings expected to challenge for a WHL title over the next few years, the club has held up its end of the bargain with the product on the ice. It will be interesting to see how fans respond at the ticket counter this year.