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The Brampton Beast are looking to build on the great strides taken last season — on and off the ice

Cary Kaplan discusses the leap his team made in 2016-17, and outlines his future plans for the club.

Beast

The Brampton Beast will be entering their fourth season as an ECHL franchise, and the organization is coming off of their best season yet.

The Beast averaged over 3,000 fans per game in 2016-17, which is a record for the city of Brampton, even when you include the 15 seasons of the OHL’s Brampton Battalion.

It was “a watermark year” said Cary Kaplan, the President and General Manager of the Beast. “Sixty-two percent capacity. We can see the light. When we started off we were at 43%. That’s a long way off. In two years our attendance grew 20 [percentage points], which is first in the league.”

The big story with the franchise is the pending partial sale to a group of local investors.

“We’re in a unique spot,” said Kaplan. “There are 12 professional hockey teams in Canada: seven NHL teams, four AHL teams, and us. The other 11 are all owned by the NHL. The concept of selling off a percentage was very interesting. It was an opportunity for local people — ‘local’ used broadly — to own a part of a professional hockey team affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, which is a very interesting and cool proposition for a lot of people.

“Gregg Rosen [current 97% owner] is from Kingston, and he gets here when he can, but it’s difficult. We made a decision that local ownership is a bit of a game-changer for us. It’s going well, and there are lots of discussions with people, and we hope to have a press conference sometime in October to introduce the new owners.”

“We are four years old. We are still pre-schoolers. We are a very young hockey team. We’re growing, our base is growing every year, but we still have to build our brand, and we think that the community ownership will help speed up the process of building that brand.”

In terms of on-ice performance, the Beast finished with 88 points, tied for second in the North Division, which was a franchise record and also qualified the club for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Brampton went on to win their first series, as well.

“We saw the biggest jump in the league for winning percentage. In addition there were only three new teams in the playoffs last season. It’s hard to make that jump. Now the trick is to sustain that. It was a big turning point for our franchise.”

And indeed it will be a trick to sustain last year’s pace as the Beast will be without three of their top scorers for next season. David Pacan, David Vallorani, and Luke Pither all moved on.

“They got some big opportunities in Europe and they won’t be around this season. I think we will be a little younger this year. We won’t know our final roster for a bit more time. We have a number of scouts that look all over the place, including Europe. We also look at universities and players who are not re-signed. The ECHL only allows four veteran players [those with more than 260 pro games]. At this point in previous years we were full, right now we are at three.” (The Beast have signed several more players since this conversation took place.)

Forwards Brandon MacLean and Brandon Marino, as well as defenceman Jordan Henry (who Kaplan states is “as good a defenceman as any in the league”) were the first to re-sign with the team, and will be the veteran core that will be expected to lead the squad this season.

“... [T]he captain and two assistants are back, I think that we will build around those guys. We don’t want to drop in scoring, we made a big jump and made some headway, and I think that there will be some other players who will come in and fill the voids.

“We’d like to be in the same place, and we think that we can get there.”

“And there is certainly no shortage of talent who would be willing to play for the Beast,” claims Kaplan, given the geographic location, not to mention the benefit of being under the Canadian health care system.

“We have a competitive advantage. We have a 27-team league where 52% of the players are Canadian. Being the only Canadian team we have players who want to play in this area.

“There are a couple of players we are in conversation with who played in Europe who are from Ontario. If you look at our roster it’s no surprise that 80 to 90 percent of the roster is from the area. That allows us to have conversations that are harder to have if you’re in Wichita or Rapid City.” He noted there are similar advantages for southern US teams, as players with a choice of where to play professionally prefer those destinations for the weather.

As to when the Beast expect to have a completed roster, Kaplan says: “Colin Chaulk [Director of Hockey Operations and Head Coach] is being very proactive. He speaks to people every day. Some players wait right until the last minute to try and sign a one-way AHL deal or want to see what happens at training camp.”


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