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New Bandits ownership keen on building community support

Community ProfileNew Bandits ownership keen on building community support

The Brantford Bandits of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) will be led by a new ownership group composed of seven friends who are committed to building a winning team with the support of the community. Eric Boissonneault, who is the Director of Operations and one of the owners of the Bandits says, “The engagement with the city [has been] fantastic…[and] our players are all invested. The time they spend volunteering at these [events] like movies in the park and…other events we have coming up [all] the players are on board. You see the excitement.”

Jason Stangl, who oversees marketing and sales for the Bandits and is part of the ownership group, has been focused on driving community excitement for the team including developing outreach events with the city of Brantford. “I’m working the pavement…getting in touch with the city to [to be at] events like ones at Harmony Square. If this team is going to be successful, the key is we need people coming out.” Stangl continues, “I’m calling people including our sponsors from last year [as well as] I’ve got a lot of my clients in Toronto [who] actually like really helping us out.”

Several of the Brantford Bandit players are pictured including team captain Ethan Ingram (in the jersey). The Bandits are looking to engage with the community throughout the summer and gain support via events such as Movies in the Square. Photo courtesy Brantford Bandits.

However, before the group took the reins, the Bandits had been struggling for a while; this provided a chance for new ownership to step in. Boissonneault explains the opportunity for acquiring the club. “It was just a matter of us sitting down and deciding how we wanted to approach it. And then making a phone call to the previous owner, Mr. [Darren] DeDobbelaer who was fantastic throughout the process. I spoke to him and I had a previous relationship because I was involved in the legal aspects already. And we verbally came to a price. And then it was just a matter of the details. So, from conception to offer, it was about two weeks.”

Despite some rumblings that the team was going to move to Kitchener, Boissonneault has been quick to note that the ownership group is committed to playing and thriving in Brantford, however, support is key. “We’ve got a fun group [that] wants to change the culture for the Bandits [and] who want to show the fans that we care. The only other thing I could say is we’d like the fans to show us that they care as well—to come out to the games, get season tickets, and give us ideas on what you’d like to see. We’re going to give the fans a good product, we just can’t survive without the fans. We just need them to support us.”

Eric Boissonneault (left), who is the Director of Hockey Operations as well as one of the seven owners of the Brantford Bandits, shakes hands with newly appointed team captain Ethan Ingram. Photo courtesy Brantford Bandits.

As the pieces were coming together for the purchase of the team, the new ownership group was focused on a no-nonsense approach to the product on ice as well by hiring veteran junior coach Gerry Skrypec. Skrypec notes, “My biggest goal this year is to be a team that’s hard to play against [and] in order to play against big opponents, you [have] to work your tail off.” Skrypec continues, “At the end of the day, to turn things around, it’s about keeping it simple.”

However, Boissonneault, who has been a successful business owner himself within the technology space notes, “When you own your own business, you can’t just give up every time something doesn’t go according to plan. To be successful in business, you have to learn to read the market, you have to be able to get knocked down and get back up again.” Boissoneault continues, “I think that the biggest thing is perseverance [and] that translates onto the ice and into the change room. If the players are able to see the perseverance and the dedication that the ownership and the management have, why wouldn’t they do the same?”

Success, Boissonneault believes, will come as a result of having such a rich ownership group. “I think Mr. [Darren] DeDobbelaer was spread a little thin. He was running three different hockey teams at three different levels and he was trying to do a lot by himself. Now we own one hockey team, there’s seven of us [and] we’ve put together a fantastic staff that knows the sport.”

Boissonneault says, “It all starts with focus [and] through preparation and evaluation…we’ve decided that a younger team is probably the way to go. We can [then] start to change the culture. We’ve got a lot of players who’ve never played at this level before. We’ve shown that we are dedicated and focused on the team. So even our returning players are very excited for the upcoming season. They see the change already. They see what we’re willing to put in. Everybody’s on board with what we’re doing. We’re quite excited about it.”

The home opener for the Brantford Bandits will be against the Ayr Centennials on September 16, 2023. With a new ownership team along with a slew of newly signed players and coaching staff led by Gerry Skrypec, the Bandits are looking to build a winning culture. Photo courtesy Brantford Bandits.

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