October 31, 2010
Earlier this month, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they would be the 24th NHL team and the first Canadian club to add a Cheer Team to their in-game entertainment at Rexall Place. "This is another example of the Oilers responding to the wishes of our valued customers," said Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge.
Of course, this announcement was met with disdain as some fans, both male and female, voiced their displeasure at the decision. An online petition was set up in response and currently has close to 1,400 e-signatures.
There seems to be no middle ground when discussing Ice Girls and cheerleaders inside your local arena. You're either against them because you feel they distract from the action on the ice and have no place in hockey, or you're for them because you believe they add something to your game experience after you've shelled out $40-50 for a ticket.
The debate over Ice Girls and Cheer Teams has involved only the voices of fans. We wanted to hear from the ladies in question, so last week we reached out to Maggie and Lauren, two members of the Carolina Hurricanes' "Storm Squad," to have them defend presence of cheerleaders inside NHL arenas.
"I think the biggest difference about our situation as opposed to the upcoming Oilers [cheer team] is our necessity to grab an interest in hockey in our community," said Maggie. "We live in a southern state where football has reigned for years. The 'Storm Squad' became a marketing resource used by the organization to get the word out about hockey in the Carolinas."
Fans thinking they're there just for during games is one of the biggest misconceptions noted by both ladies, considering the amount of off-the-ice marketing done to help the Hurricanes.
"Hockey fans might only see what we do in the RBC Center during games, but we're extremely active outside the arena, 12 months a year -- making appearances at charity events, spending time with younger Canes fans, getting folks excited for the upcoming All-Star Game and even helping the team reach out to the corporate community," said Lauren.
"Each member of the squad is required to do yearly volunteer events such as promoting Blood Drives, walks for different causes and school visits," said Maggie. "Being that our job is in promotions and fan development, that's exactly what we strive to do: build a bigger fan base and provide a more enjoyable experience for our current and future fans."
As we noted earlier, Edmonton will become the 24th NHL team to feature cheerleaders, a sign that cheer teams won't be going away and will continue to be a main point of your in-arena game experience. In Carolina, the "Storm Squad" has been around for a decade and over time it's made an impact on the fan base.
"I think you could ask just about any Caniac how they feel about the Storm Squad, and you'll find that we often make a fan's day, whether it's through interaction on the concourse with fans of all ages, before the game family-friendly promotions, or slinging T-shirts into the crowd," said Lauren.
The RBC Center is known as one of the loudest rinks in the league and according to Maggie, the presence of the "Storm Squad" has helped the team reach that achievement.
"Getting the crowd involved is important to motivate the Canes on the ice, and being the ‘Loudest House in the NHL' we have tried our best to achieve just that."