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Halifax Mooseheads shoot for the student market

On Sunday, the Halifax Mooseheads – the local affiliate of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or (QMJHL) – played the Moncton Wildcats in a pre-season game held at the Halifax Forum.

“The Forum,” as locals call it, is a north-end venue that is both smaller and less modern than the Scotiabank Centre, the Moosehead’s regular 11,000-seat arena.

The Forum is an old building that’s rife with structural flaws, chief among them being the large steel beams situated at each corner of the rink that partially obstruct the view from virtually every seat in the building.

Even from the elevated press box you are forced to crane your neck and lean over a precarious wooden barrier in order to see the action on the stretch of ice adjacent to the near boards. The whole thing would send Mike Holmes into a fit.

While the setting was a bit ramshackle, the on-ice action was anything but. A number of players from both teams have either already been drafted by NHL clubs or highly recruited by NHL scouts.

As a result, the spectator is given a glimpse into the future of professional hockey.

In contrast to the NHL, where a player is motivated purely by his will to win, the motivations of players in the QMJHL are twofold: to win, and to garner the attention of NHL scouts.

For QMJHL players, every game is an opportunity to prove to scouts that you can cut it in the NHL, meaning that every player is giving his maximum effort from the beginning of the first period to the buzzer in the third.

Aside from the good atmosphere and high caliber of hockey, the Mooseheads organization is providing extra incentives to specifically attract members of the student population in Halifax to games.

Jamie McGinnis, the Game Day Operations Manager for the Mooseheads, is among the members of the organization spearheading the effort to attract students to the Scotiabank Centre.

Chief among his efforts is the establishment of the ‘Student Night’ promotion. On select Thursdays during the regular season, students can buy tickets for the discounted price of $9 (usually $12 with student ID), and for the price of admission they also receive cover-free (usually $5) entry to Cheers and The Dome, a downtown bar complex that’s long been a hub of student nightlife in Halifax.

The Mooseheads are making efforts to tweak the in-game experience to make it more appealing to students. This includes changes to the regular playlist in order to “create a more dance-y, fresh student atmosphere” and attempts to involve students in promotional activities during game breaks.

On the evolution of the idea, McGinnis, himself a graduate of St. Mary’s University, said, “We had these Thursday games where we could play with the atmosphere however we want and Thursday night’s a good night for students, so it just seemed like a good fit.”

Last season, the Mooseheads repeated the Student Night deal four times. On the last night, roughly 700 students converged on the Scotiabank Centre, the largest contingent among them coming from Dalhousie, with smaller but sizeable groups from Mount St. Vincent, St. Mary’s and NSCC.

Encouraged by the success of last season, McGinnis and the rest of the Mooseheads organization have decided to schedule three student nights for the upcoming season: November 24th against Quebec, January 19th against Chicoutimi, and February 2nd against Acadie-Bathurst.

Student Night is a nice added bonus for attending games where the charged atmosphere and talented, eager young players are already incentive enough.

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