Friday, March 28, 2013
Running hockey teams is nothing new to Gregg Rosen and Cary Kaplan— the men behind the new Central Hockey League team that will begin play in the minor pro league next fall at the Powerade Centre.
And they will use that past experience as they head into uncharted waters with the first Central Hockey League team ever in Canada.
“It’s all behind us now,” said Rosen, referring to the hurdles his group had to overcome to get a deal in place with the City of Brampton, Realstar Group (owners of the Powerade Centre) and the Central Hockey League itself. “At times I thought it wasn’t going to happen.”
But eventually it did, and now the “fun” begins as Rosen and Kaplan refer to it.
Rosen, the majority owner of the CHL franchise, hopes he'll find the same success he encountered when he first took over the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He turned a struggling franchise into a Royal Bank Cup contender and his team became one of the larger drawing teams in the league.
Rosen, 53, gave up that team a few years ago for health reason but now has a clean bill of health and is ready to start fresh.
“I never played the game,” admitted the president/owner of KIMCO Steel in Kingston. “I can't skate.”
But that didn’t stop Rosen from enjoying the game, even at a young age with the rest of his family.
Like most youngsters growing up in Canada he watched Hockey Night in Canada regularly.
And when his son Cody, who is finishing up his fourth and final season with Clarkson at the NCAA level, started playing, Rosen got involved in the administration end of the game.
“When you commit your life to the rink you might as well get involved,” added Rosen. “It’s in your blood. You give up holidays for tournament.”
But that was only the start for Rosen, who sat on local minor hockey executives and got involved in sponsoring teams.
Before he knew it he was the major sponsor of the Kingston KIMCO Voyageurs, eventually taking over ownership of the team.
It became a family venture, with wife Marla acting as team president. Rosen’s eldest daughter, Samantha will take on a role with the new team when she completes her undergraduate studies in Sports Management in Boston. She will assume the presidency of Northlight Entertainment, which owns the majority shares of the hockey club. Rosen’s other daughter, Alexis, 17, is till honing her skills as a boxer. And, of course, she prefers to use the short version of her name— Ali.
Rosen’s partner in this venture is Kaplan, the former president of the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs and current co-owner of Cosmos Sports Management in Mississauga, along with his wife Amelia.
But just how Rosen and Kaplan hooked up is rather interesting!
“We met at the National Women’s Hockey League finals in Kingston,” said Rosen. &ldCommissioner Susan Fennell introduced us. It really is a small world, isn’t it?”
That meeting would lead to the two working together on a bid to bring the Royal Bank Cup to Kingston and Rosen’s eventual selling of the OJHL club.
They’ve been working together ever since.
“Without the mayor, this deal would not have happened,” said Kaplan. “The mayor was the glue. Without her commitment we wouldn’t be here.”
Kaplan, who attended the University of Toronto and Dalhousie, was a self-admitted sports junkie, opting to take sports marketing in 1994 and landing a job with the new Hamilton franchise when the Cape Breton Oilers announced a move to Ontario.
That’s where he met his wife. Amelia was one of only two employees to move to Hamilton with the AHL club.
Kaplan rose up through the ranks, eventually becoming team president before the team was sold.
The pair both resigned their positions and started their own sports marketing company in Mississauga.
They have promoted everything from the NHL, CFL, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, and OHL squads since they opened their business.
“We’ve probably worked for 500 teams,” admitted Kaplan. “But this is the biggest single project.“
And while Kaplan knows there are major hurdles to jump, he feels his group is prepared.
“There are a lot of people who think this won’t work,” noted Kaplan. “But we’re very confident of an over/under of 3,500 per game.”
“People look at the past,” added Rosen. “Unfortunately the past has left. This is a whole new product.”
“We’ve got an unbelievable team ready, able and excited,” continued Kaplan. “We’ve got a great opportunity and a phenomenal location.”
And the duo have heard the talk.
“We know there are skeptics out there,” said Kaplan. “ We’re not upset. We don’t blame them, but this is going to be exciting. There are no concerns about success.”
That’s good considering they’ve just signed a 15-year lease to play out of the Powerade Centre and committed major funding towards a new electronic scoreboard.
We’ll be doing some unique things,” said Kaplan of their marketing plan. “You will get 50 per cent off your ticket price if you buy Founder’s Club seats and are offering a money back guarantee if you aren’t happy after one game.”
According to Rosen and Kaplan, they will be looking to provide entertainment for Brampton hockey fans.
“It’s all about the fans,” concluded Kaplan.