Red Deer Rebels fans will have a chance to support their team by buying tickets for a new 50/50 draw, announced Monday by the provincial government.
The Western Hockey League and the Alberta Junior Hockey League are getting the chance to fundraise through Junior Hockey Jackpot Draws. This will make teams more viable, giving fans a chance to show their support at a crucial time when no spectator tickets can be sold during the pandemic, stated Alberta’s minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women Leela Sharon Aheer.
“Protecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans includes ensuring that junior hockey remains a social and economic driver in our province,” said Aheer.
She noted that provincial policy has been changed so the WHL and AJHL can now raise funds online to support their operations directly from fans in their communities.
Jackpots For Junior Hockey, a joint 50/50 draw launched by the Western Hockey League (WHL) and Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), will share proceeds with Alberta’s five WHL teams and 15 AJHL teams to help offset revenues lost because of the pandemic and the suspension of play.
The Jackpots For Junior Hockey 50/50 will run each weekend in March.
As part of the program, teams will be required to share a portion of proceeds received with local charities.
Merrick Sutter, senior vice-president of the Red Deer Rebels said, “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the WHL, AJHL, and Alberta government in creating an online 50/50 for all clubs in March…
“Clearly, with no fans permitted in venues, every junior hockey team across Alberta has been challenged in generating revenue to offset costs,” Sutter added, noting junior teams “create huge economic and social benefits for their communities, so this is a way for fans to support those clubs and make sure these benefits remain.”
The minister said the new coronavirus has impacted every aspect of junior hockey — from cutting seasons short to disrupting arena ticket sales, which have historically paid for 90 per cent of team costs.
Junior hockey is an important contributor to Alberta’s economy, she added, as teams have poured $100 million into Alberta communities annually. As well as impacting teams and communities, the pandemic is also impacting players, who potentially face fewer opportunities for professional and international play.
Aheer said the provincial government “wants to give junior hockey a chance” by opening up the kind of 50/50 ticket sales draws that have proven a successful fundraiser for big-league teams like the Edmonton Oilers.
The Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis Commission has approved the online ticket sales and 50/50 draws to raise proceeds for use of teams, including the Red Deer Rebels.
The season opens Friday without fans in the stands, so hockey officials are welcoming this fundraising opportunity to ensure that junior teams can remain in communities.
Ron Robison, commissioner for the WHL praised this new Jackpots for Junior Hockey initiative, saying 20 Junior Hockey teams are otherwise at risk of becoming not viable.
“The WHL is excited for the launch of the Jackpots for Junior Hockey 50/50. As largely fan-dependent leagues, the future of many of our junior hockey teams is in jeopardy in Alberta,” said Robison.
Ryan Bartoshyk, commissioner, Alberta Junior Hockey League, said, “The strength of the AJHL is its communities… Although the challenges over the past year were new and unfamiliar, the community support and passion for our teams has been unwavering and we are excited to capture that passion through this initiative.”