GARLANDS CROSSING, N.S. — Growing up, Ben Bennett fondly recalls his Friday nights spent at the Hants Exhibition Arena attending Windsor Royals hockey games.
So when the Avon River Rats’ Junior C hockey team faced copyright issues earlier this year and opted to rebrand themselves as the Windsor Royals, who were a defunct Junior B team, Bennett felt compelled to lend his expertise.
“It was a bad situation for them and I felt horrible knowing that they were in that situation. We wanted to help correct it if we could,” said Bennett, who is a partner and co-creative director of Buoy Marketing and Production.
“Hockey is big for us as a company. We do a lot of hockey (marketing and design) from the CHL to NHL level,” said Bennett.
“We wanted to get involved in the community, especially where I grew up here.”
A professional redesign
Mike LaPierre, the head coach of the Windsor Royals, said rebranding was the easiest way to avoid copyright infringement.
Earlier this year, the team and the president of the Nova Scotia Regional Hockey League received an email from McKinley Griffin Design and Advertising informing the River Rats about the copyright infringement and requesting them to stop using it.
After looking into the claim, LaPierre said the decision was made to start over from scratch.
The defunct Junior B Windsor Royals brand was available — the franchise, which has roots dating back to the 1960s, had requested a leave of absence from the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League in 2012 but when the Valley Maple Leafs filled the Junior B void in their absence, the Royals didn’t return to active play.
After consulting with some members of the hockey community, the River Rats decided to revive the Windsor Royals. But they wanted to rebrand, give the Royals a new logo and new uniforms.
When Bennett learned of the situation, he reached out right away.
“The Royals were very open to what we wanted to do,” said Bennett.
“We said that we wanted to create a very amazing brand for them that was comparable to the work that we do for NHL-level teams. They agreed and said ‘listen, we cannot get the funding to be able to put this together on our own’ so they were very grateful and appreciative of what we were able to do for them,” he said.
They said “it was worth the wait for them so we were glad that we had the creative freedom to be able to put it together,” said Bennett. “We’re super excited that they were happy with the end result.”
The main logo is a lion — a creature that’s fearless, confident and demands respect. The lion is wearing a crown, similar to the former Windsor Royals logo, and has shapes in the crown that serve as a subtle nod to the name’s rich history.
The secondary elements that make up the rebrand, which appear on the uniform’s shoulder patch, helmet or pants, “take a simplistic approach to the same message” portrayed in the Royal’s primary emblem. They tie together to help make a cohesive brand.
LaPierre said Bennett brought forward a professional quality redesign at no cost to the team.
“I really like it. It’s really professional looking. It’s clean,” said LaPierre, who was attending the official unveiling of the Windsor Royals rebrand at Bubba Ray’s Sports Bar in Garlands Crossing on Aug. 8.
The jerseys are still in the process of being made, but the head coach says they should arrive in time for the start of the season. He says they hope to have the matching socks this season but that's not guaranteed.
“We’re looking at getting the matching pant shells as well but that’s still up in the air. If not, that’s something for us to strive for in the near future,” said LaPierre, noting purchasing uniforms is an expensive undertaking.
The team relies heavily on fundraising and sponsorships to cover their primary expenses, like league fees, Hockey Nova Scotia fees, and ice rental costs, and are appreciative of the community support.
“I’d just like to thank all of the fans and the community for coming together and helping us out when needed,” said LaPierre.
Due to the cost of fielding a Junior C hockey team, the Windsor Royals have several fundraisers underway.
One of the main ones is a chase the ace at Bubba Ray's Sports Bar on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8 p.m., with the draw taking place shortly afterwards.
Janet Laybolt, who was volunteering at the chase the ace event Aug. 8 alongside fellow Windsor Royals board of directors member Angie Connors, said there were 40 cards left in the deck. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Bubba Ray’s Sports Bar or at Cuticles Nail Salon. The draw is conducted live on Facebook, with the winner being contacted via phone.
Another fundraiser is a co-ed slo-pitch tournament taking place at the St. Croix Recreation Centre Aug. 11-12. Games start at 8 a.m. on Aug. 11, with 18 games scheduled to be played over two fields. The quarterfinals, semi-finals and championship matches are scheduled for Aug. 12, with the first match starting at 9 a.m.