Carolyn Kellaway pulled two white jackets from a box before the June press conference in which the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres were first unveiled—one for her and one for team vice-president Nancy Gardiman.
She put it on, then noted the logo was the wrong shade of red and the jacket hung off her small frame.
“We’re oversized,” she joked at the time.
She explained that there was no time to check the jackets beforehand as the pair live in Thunder Bay. But since day one, Kellaway has insisted on keeping everything in the franchise local—even through her own personal inconvenience.
“That was our whole plan right from the beginning,” she said. “We wanted to make this a Fort Frances team, so everything about the team we want to keep in Fort Frances.”
That plan isn’t pure altruism, of course. Like everything in pro sports, it’s business.
“I believe that if I support the town, the town will support the team,” she reasoned. “It’s a business decision. It’s in the best interest of the team, and that’s the only thing I’m interested in—running the team with the support of the community.”
So it’s something of a small surprise that these hometown Sabres are the talk of town council regarding their current requirement to pay “non-residential” ice rental fees for use of the Memorial Sports Centre for home games.
Kellaway said she honestly doesn’t know which way council will rule on the matter, but here’s hoping they recognize the commitment the Sabres’ ownership has made to making this a team for Fort Frances, and not just in name only.
Everything from the coaching staff to the jersey design has come from local sources, as well as about a quarter of the roster. And the team is providing jobs throughout the town beyond the hockey staff, with scorers, ushers, and trainers being hired to work the games.
Just about the only thing “non-residential” about the team, said Kellaway, “is the fact that I, as the owner, live in Thunder Bay.”
Besides which, she said Fort Frances has quickly become a home away from home.
Asked what her favourite thing about the Fort is, she laughed and replied: “Everything. The people that we have met have been unbelievable. . . . We’ve made friends there, every place that we’ve gone has just been welcoming and positive. . . .
“It’s always positive, it’s always good, it’s always congratulations, glad to have hockey back,” she added. “It’s been a very great experience for us.”
Council’s ruling is set to be delivered at its meeting next Monday (Sept. 10)—the day after the Sabres’ last pre-season game and just four days before their first regular-season game.
Kellaway is interested in council’s decision, of course, but the Sabres’ first exhibition match against the Dryden Ice Dogs this coming Friday is the big thing on her mind right now.
“We can hardly wait ‘til [Sept. 7],” she enthused. “And according to the people [in town] that I’ve talked to, they can’t wait, either.”
If the Civic Centre is hearing the same thing, it should follow Kellaway’s initiative and allow some inconvenience to pronounce the Sabres as truly being Fort Frances’ team.
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