Results of the Trois-Rivières Lions | The weightman recipe

(Trois-Rivières) If you’re considering starting a professional sports franchise in Quebec, there’s no need to hire Mark Weightman. But it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Posted at 5:00 am

Simon Olivier Lorange

Simon Olivier Lorange
The press

The president and CEO of the Trois-Rivières Lions on Tuesday took stock of the Canadian subsidiary’s first year of existence in the ECHL (see other text).

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the team has met its ticket sales target and is said to be one of the league’s most followed teams on social media. Weightman also spoke on behalf of club owner Dean MacDonald of Newfoundland and said he was “very proud” of the results achieved in this first season, despite the heartbreaking defeat he suffered in the first round of the play-offs.

Weightman herself is very impressed with how much the organization has achieved in 11 months. Because on June 10, 2021, he recalls, the Lions name and logo were unveiled. That’s about the very small group of people who worked to create the new team at the time, long before the players and coaches joined the adventure. The franchise’s big boss feels like he’s “lived three years at a time”.

This is obviously good news for the Lions. But when you look at Weightman’s journey, it’s no surprise. When he left Groupe CH in 2020, the man who was president of the Laval Rocket and head of operations at Place Bell left behind a healthy organization. The Canadiens’ training club has developed its own brand, adopted by hockey fans in Montreal and the northern suburbs.

Here, in addition to his role with the Lions, he is now associated with the Montreal Alliance, a new franchise of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (LECB), which will play its first game in its history in the coming weeks. He acts more as governor there, but the fact remains that it is again a new team that will grow before his eyes. “A great challenge”, sums up the director involved in an interview.

“It’s nice to be able to team up in my own way,” he said. I’ve been in professional sport for 27 years, I’ve seen some things done well, others less so. Today I have the chance to do things differently, in the way I think is best. †

“Hope I’m right!” ‘ he adds with a laugh.

Modernize, build

Over the years, Weightman has specialized in organizational transformations. He did so at the end of his tenure with the Montreal Alouettes, a team he worked with for two decades, and rose through the ranks to the post of president, which he held from 2013 to 2016.

He held a similar mandate at Linköping HC, in the first division of the Swedish Hockey Championship, “a bit of an old-fashioned organization” whose business approach he had “modernized”.

With the Lions and the Alliance, Weightman is of course not in the chair of someone who has to modernize, but rather builds.

At Trois-Rivières, he prioritized a ‘regional vision’: we are pleased with the influence the club has had throughout Quebec, but we have developed the Mauricie market as a priority.

With the Alliance, the challenge is very different. Often misguided attempts to install high-level basketball in Montreal have never really been successful. And above all, we attack a sports market monopolized by the mammoth that is Canadian. Since the LECB is a summer competition, we infer that the competition will come from CF Montreal and the Alouettes. However, it goes much further, Weightman nuances. In fact, the competition comes from all the entertainment on offer. “I could make the list of festivals, but I would never finish it,” he illustrates.

In this context, how can people be persuaded to spend the dollars they planned for this part of their lives?

Despite the sheer size of the market, Weightman points out that for several years now, the industry has been at the center of a change that no longer relies on mass requests, but rather on “surgical” approaches. Online databases, real gold mines for promoters, make it possible to target potential supporters.

There was a time when the only way to boost ticket sales was to make some noise and try to stand out from the crowd. We are no longer here. Now we are trying to get people’s attention without being on the front page of the newspaper.

Mark Weightman

With the Alliance, we want to attract on the one hand basketball fans who have never had the chance to live their passion in Montreal, and on the other hand the curious, sports fans or not, who want to get a taste of the atmosphere we will create in the Verdun Auditorium, where the club will play its local matches.

Regardless of the strategy chosen, the goal remains the same: “Raise your hand higher than the others to get noticed. †

History does not say what success the Montreal Alliance will taste. But in light of the Rocket and Lions’ experience, the Weightman recipe seems to work.

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