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Off and running in Abbotsford

by Dave Sheldon || AHL On The Beat Archive

The whirlwind of activity surrounding the Abbotsford Heat continues to spin. Just two weeks into their inaugural season, the players and staff of the AHL’s Pacific coast team can now take a deep breath and begin to evaluate.

For many teams in start-up mode, the journey to get from concept to puck drop can be a year or more. For the Abbotsford Heat, warp speed kicked in early as they had to get it done in three months.

“For our club, the key component is the people that we have brought in to get us going in the right direction,” states Heat president Tom Mauthe.

“The mandate of the ownership group and of the franchise is to grow the brand. To show people of Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley what the American Hockey League is all about and to invite fans out to take in affordable, accessible, professional hockey in their own backyard. To do this, we had to get the right people in place that can deliver what our fans need and tell our story. We know that we have done this.”

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The Heat also has an unenviable task of being dropped into a hockey rich market. The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks have been in the region for over 40 years, while the CHL’s Western Hockey League has two franchises within one hour of the front door of the brand-new, state-of-the-art Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, the home of the Heat.

Lots of choices for the hockey consumer, and Mauthe wouldn’t want it any other way.

“We recognize that we are not a replacement for the Vancouver Canucks,” Mauthe comments. “However, what we are is a professional hockey team, with a great product, that allows many people to take in a good hockey game in their own backyard. We have 900,000 people within 30 minutes of our building. We can offer a professional, fan friendly, family atmosphere at a value that allows families to come to our games. Add to that the calibre of hockey, these players are hungry, and you have a recipe for a great night out.”

So the people are in place, the message is clear, and the hockey is now being played. Mission accomplished, right?

Not so fast.

“The season beginning for us marks another step in our franchise,” says Mauthe. “We know that we have so much more to do and so much more to offer to our fans, community and sponsors. Our role now that the clock has struck midnight and that we are playing AHL games is to continue to focus on our business plan and assess what it takes to get us better. People forget sometimes that while there are those out there that look at a countdown clock and see zeros across the board, that the job is complete. What it really means is that the clock is still ticking and there is much more to do. Our team, from top to bottom, has that awareness, and that is what will allow us to be successful.”

With the Heat off to a nice start to the season, Tom Mauthe and his team will look to build on that success, on the ice, and in the community.