By Madison Fessler
The Youngstown Phantoms hockey team participates in outreach projects in the community to attract people to attend games.
The team visits schools, community events and the Youngstown State University campus to gain interest. Its season begins in September and ends in April.
Megan Heckert, a social media coordinator and intern for the Phantoms, said many steps are necessary to get an outreach project approved. There is a big discussion about potential projects and who on the team would be selected to go.
“[Phantoms] outreach projects are decided throughout the office. We reach out to a bunch of people in the community and see who wants to have us out there, and then we go out there and do the projects,” Heckert said.
Heckert and other Phantoms office staff decide which players would be a good fit for an outreach project. Ultimately, player participation in these activities is voluntary.
“We reach out to the coaches and [Phantoms players] and say like, ‘Who wants to come along with us?’ and then we narrow it down and bring them out to do that project,” Heckert said.
On Valentine’s Day, five players visited campus for several hours to hand out Phantoms-themed Valentines. The team moved around campus to find the spots that had the most students present.
Left-wing for the Phantoms, Shane LaChance, said he enjoyed walking around YSU’s campus and interacting with the fans and students on Valentine’s Day.
“Just walking around campus, you know, giving out tickets and interacting with some students. It’s nice to see where people are from, ‘cause they come from all over the place … ask them if they’ve ever heard of the Phantoms, if they’ve ever come to a hockey game,” LaChance said.
Andrew Centrella, defenseman for the Phantoms, said this was his favorite project the team has done.
“[The cards were] pretty neat how they had some funny sayings on them, and obviously getting another chance to meet more fans,” Centrella said.
The cards featured some of the players with hockey or name-themed puns. One card had Phantom’s forward James Fisher’s photo and read, “You’ve scored a place in my heart.”
The team also engages in other outreach, such as reading and making crafts with school children.
Brandon Svoboda, center for the Phantoms, said his favorite project has been assembling hockey equipment with elementary school students.
“The school visits, like building the hockey nets with the second and third graders, that was pretty special,” Svoboda said.
Heckert, Centrella, LaChance and Svoboda said they want to do more outreach at YSU. LaChance said the players enjoy meeting and interacting with college students.
“I’d like to get out in the community more — just kinda interact with YSU students a little more since they’re so close. So I think that’d be a great opportunity for us to collaborate with them a little bit,” LaChance said.
YSU students can purchase Phantoms tickets for a discounted price of $5 at the Covelli Center box office. For more information on the Phantoms visit youngstownphantoms.com.