SHERIDAN — For a total of four seasons, the Sheridan Hawks hockey team has been walking a $300 tightrope between breaking even and coming up short. Due to the fact that this is a junior team, there is little or no profit, so Sheridan Hawks president Brent Milner said his job has been to keep the organization afloat, with a goal of raising $300,000 annually.
The team relies on a number of fundraisers, including the Sheridan Hawks Cup Golf Tournament and a variety of auctions. This year’s golf tournament will take place on August 12th, with registration starting at 11am and the event starting shortly after at 1pm, all located at The Powder Horn.
Other sources of revenue come from ticket sales and merchandise sales at individual games. There is also a beer garden for seniors, which brings in cash for the organization.
Milner noted that all the people who work in the stands or bring the games to life are volunteers. The only paid people are the coaching staff.
Lisa Garstad, an outstanding volunteer, serves as the chief off-ice official, overseeing all those who officiate the game. Garstad was also one of the founders of the club. To get the organization off the ground, each founder gave at least $10,000 to become part of the Founders Club.
“We had enough community support on the front end to get that money,” Milner said. “I appreciate his contribution to the club.”
The Sheridan Hawks hockey team is also a paid league, meaning players must pay a minimum fee to be part of the team. Players also pay a fee when they play for a team away from home. Billeting is a situation where a local family hosts one or two hockey players, providing shelter and food between games.
“Our goal is to create a safe environment for our players and our billet families,” said Sheridan Hawks Billet Coordinator Carla Dunham.
Players pay about $300 a month to stay in another house and eat fresh food.
While housing could be centered around hotels, club organizers said that form of housing would not create the ties to the community that the leveraged program does. When placed in a home, these players connect with local families, according to Dunham.
“The heart of the show is family, and a hotel doesn’t do that as well as a billet family,” Dunham said.
One of the biggest contributions fans can make to the organization is to be part of the booster club.
“The booster club is a group of people who want to support the team a little bit more,” said Lisa Wells, coordinator of the Sheridan Hawks Booster Club. “Booster club funds help with financial support for the team during ice time, supporting uniform costs, travel expenses and even food while they travel.”
Each booster club member receives season tickets.
Previously, the booster club hosted a mid-season pancake breakfast for the players and also hosted watch parties. Watch parties allow fans to support the team when they are on the road. These parties happen often because of the 22 games played throughout Wyoming and Montana.
Sponsors are one of the biggest parts of the hockey team’s fundraising efforts, all highlighted with banners at the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center.
“They all operate very similarly,” Milner said of the other teams in the NA3HL league. “We operate as a non-profit organization, separate from the track. The team is here to support the track and the track, in turn, supports the team. Except for Yellowstone, all the other teams are from private property”.
While sponsors, boosters and founders help make the program work, the expenses add up. Travel costs, equipment and more tip the scales. If the team had to pay additional staff, keeping a team in the area would be difficult.
“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers,” Wells said. “In any capacity, we’d like people to just come up and connect with the team. We’d like to get people involved and grow not only the team, but the community’s involvement and support.”
Marly Graham is an intern at The Sheridan Press.