Junior A hockey fans can expect a much more interactive in-game experience this season.
The Okotoks Oilers have installed a state-of-the-art jumbotron at Pason Centennial Arena paid for in full by a generous donation from Chad Niehaus – a close friend of head coach Tyler Deis.
“I grew up with Tyler Deis, played hockey with him, baseball with him, our wives are best friends,” said Niehaus. “Since the time that he’s been with the Oilers I’ve watched how the organization and Wayne (Oilers chairman of the board Wayne Lauinger) have set everything up and how the town supported the team.
“Spending that much time with them, at one point I said how could I help the town, the community and the team?”
Inspiration came in enemy territory, for supporters of the Green and Gold at least.
Niehaus took in a Brooks Bandits home game at the Centennial Regional Arena where its jumbotron entertains the legions of Bandits supporters.
“I sat there and said, 'There it is,'” he said with a laugh.
The team has looked into adding a jumbotron for a couple of years.
Lauinger and Oilers associate coach Kyle Schussler travelled to Humboldt in the pre-season of 2018 to see first-hand the Broncos’ new jumbotron after being quoted by the same company that did the work for the Saskatchewan junior team.
“We started to think about it two and a half years ago,” Lauinger said. “Last year we stepped up and actually took the trip.”
At that point it was a matter of finding the funds to make the vision a reality as the jumbotron comes with a hefty price tag.
“As much as I want to help the Oilers I think the whole town will benefit from the opportunity to use that facility,” Niehaus said. “It’s a great facility, I’ve played hockey and been around and I really believe it’s a top notch organization, with Wayne leading that and meeting some of the board members.
“It’s something I felt was good for myself and my family to support and felt that was a good way to do it."
Family is a big part of it.
There will be a tribute element to the new scoreboard in memory of Chad's younger brother Jeffrey, who passed away in a car accident at the age of 18. Both of the Niehaus brothers played hockey together with the Calgary Royals.
“It’s a great sport that really teaches a lot of life lessons and character building and I know that’s the values that Tyler, Wayne and Kyle and everyone bring to the team and if I can help support that and get them to the next level that’s what it’s all about," Niehaus added.
The four-sided jumbotron will take the in-game experience to another stratosphere.
“As soon as the play has happened we can recreate the playback instantaneously,” said Lauinger. “The atmosphere for the fans is going to be tremendous because they’re going to be able to see was it a penalty? Was it not a penalty? How was a goal scored?
“Instantly we can replay all of that and that’s the advantage to all of this.”
The highlight packages will also help in the recruitment process as individual player videos can be packaged in a more streamlined manner to attract the attention of NCAA and U-Sports collegiate hockey programs.
“We think it takes the whole arena to the next level, the atmosphere, the opportunity to create more revenue through sponsorship and advertising,” Lauinger said. “You look at places like Brooks and Fort McMurray, who have those situations in place, and now Humboldt, it’s picked up over there, it’s a help with the advertising and the sponsorship.”
The Oilers have the technology to formulate their own advertising in short videos, for example. Wrapping around the top of the square scoreboard is a constant digital display for items such as short-term messages and important dates with the hockey club.
“It becomes an asset for the town,” Lauinger said. “We will run it if another group wants to run it, they would have to hire our people to work it. That becomes a revenue source as well.
“It’s a big deal. It’s pretty exciting.”
The jumbotron is installed and is expected to be up and running for Okotoks' home opener on Sept. 20.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca