Building a fan base

 When the Belleville Senators Fan Club heard that their future AHL team was go­ing to play in Toronto on Family Day, they knew it would a great way to rally their hardcore fans. They decided to organize a bus trip, bringing fans from Belleville and neighbouring areas to the Air Canada Centre – all to support their future team, the Binghamton — soon to be — Bel­leville Senators.

“We put a bus together and we were absolutely overwhelmed at the amount of support and response. We subsequently sold out four buses for today’s game,” said Gina Hannah, an executive member of the Belleville Senators Fan Club, and one of the organizers of the trip.

Families from Belleville, Trenton, Pic­ton, Madoc, Kingston and even Camp­bellford joined in the bus trip. Some even drove on their own vehicles, but bought their tickets with the group.

“It’s a great way to spend Family Day, watch­ing our favourite past time sport and support­ing our new pro-hockey team. As you can see, the event’s a success and even attended by His Honour Mayor Christopher,” she adds.

TheCity of Belleville and its rabid hockey fan base were devastated when they learned that their beloved OHL team, the Belleville Bulls, were sold and moved to Hamilton. For almost two years, the city was left with no hockey team to cheer for, but their fan base never stopped trying to bring a hockey team back to Belleville. That is why, when news came September 2016 that an AHL team was coming to town, they were ecstatic and ready to support their new team.

Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher was credited as a major force in bringing back a hockey team to the city. He says that he is looking forward to November when they’ll be dropping the puck in the season opener back in the city.

“This is a changing moment in sports for the city of Belleville. We have a profes­sional hockey team coming into our city and this is a great way to show our sup­port to the team,” the mayor said.

To spread the word about the trip, the fan club got coverage in The Intelligencer, and utilized their social media page, but ultimately, they attributed the success of their promotion to  word of mouth.

Mike Bergeron, a Belleville native, said he went because of the reasonable price of the tickets.

“I’m having a good time, butthe Sens need to shoot the puck more!” he said as the Senators trailed by two.

At the end of the game, the Senators lost 4-2, putting them further off from playoff contention but Mike Blunden, who plays right wing for the Sens said in an interview after the game that he is looking forward to playing in Belleville for the fans.

“The support has been unreal and we’re really looking forward to going there. Ev­erything that we’re hearing about the fan base is just great things. We’re really excit­ed and looking forward to playing there next year,” Blunden said.

On Feb. 21, the team practised in front of their fans at the Yardmen Arena in Belleville. They were also treated to a tour around the facility to show them the progress of the reno­vations happening in the new arena.

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