Renfrew Wolves look to fill the seats with cut out fans
RENFREW -- On any given Saturday in any other given year, the Ma-Te-Way Centre arena in Renfrew would be packed with hockey players, parents, and fans.
"You can hear a pin drop in these rinks right now, and that’s not Canadian in any way," says Renfrew Wolves General Manager and head coach Ryan Leonard.
His Junior-A team new to Renfrew this season, play the Pembroke Lumber Kings Saturday night. The teams paired together in a type of hockey-bubble, allowing them to play games, but only against each other.
On Saturday night, a majority of the 700 seats at the Ma-Te-Way Centre will remain empty for the Wolves’ game, but the team is hoping to change that with their "Fill the Stands" campaign.
How will they fill their stands? With cardboard cut outs of fans.
"What a great idea," said Leonard. "We watched Major League Baseball do it, the NFL did it, the NBA did it."
Fans of the Renfrew hockey team can pay $115 to have their picture (or picture of their choosing) on a cardboard cut out at every one of the Wolves’ remaining home games this season. The Wolves say $50 of the purchase will go towards the purchase of a season ticket for next season. The team is hoping to fill around half their stands with the cut outs. Proceeds from the campaign will cover the cost of wrapping the team bus in new logos.
"Without having the season tickets and having fans in the stands, that takes away about probably 40 per cent of our budget," says Leonard. "We bring in $80,000 to $90,000 in gate (per year)."
Team captain Paul Larabie had his face put on the first promotional cut out. He says many on the team and in the community are getting behind the idea.
"I think a couple of the guys are going to put their pets in, their dogs or their cats so that would be hilarious too. But we’ve had tons of support throughout the community here," said Larabie.
Leonard says there’s plenty of seats left to fill with the campaign just starting, but they’ve even received support from a Renfrew native currently in Florida who bought a cut out.
"We’re just going out on a whim here hoping we can fill half the seats with fake fans. And hopefully at some point this year, maybe April or May, whenever playoffs start, they’ll allow us 50 per cent capacity and we’ll have a full rink."
If you would like to buy a cardboard cut out, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.