GENEVA – The cheering. The travel. Game 5 of the 2017 Clark Cup after failing in Game 4.
It was a ride many Steel fans will remember for a long time. It was a postseason Steel players, coaches and staff will never forget.
The reminder of what was this past season still remains in the Steel front office in the form of a Clark Cup Trophy and the joy it has brought to an organization which had never seen one in its 20-year existence.
“I certainly enjoyed the experience,” Steel president Dan Lehv said. “We as a club and as fans of the sport of hockey are all passionate about what it means to go through a season and then be the team who wins its last game.”
Lehv said he allowed himself some time to enjoy winning the Clark Cup. He also knows that just because you win a league title it does not guarantee the people who showed up during the regular season and subsequently, the postseason will be back again next season.
“For us as an organization, it’s how do we capitalize on what we achieved last season and get to the point where we are filling up the Fox Valley Ice Arena for every home game next season and beyond,” Lehv said. “It was just great to play in front of 2,100 fans for Game Three and Game Four of the [Clark] Cup final. I wish it could be that way every night. It just shows that there is growth and opportunity ahead of us.”
This offseason is filled with opportunity and growth potential. Last offseason it was simply a matter of putting a staff together for Lehv. What a difference year makes.
“When I took over on August 17 of 2015, the front office staff consisted of just me” Lehv said. “We had to build an office staff from the ground up and get pricing structures in place and promotions in place. It was kind of like changing the tires on a car while it was still moving. People came on board while the season was going on.”
For the Steel this offseason it will be a matter of going after families and local corporations and getting the name out there. Of course, having a USHL league trophy to carry around and show doesn’t hurt either.
However, if there was one negative in winning a league title, it kept the front office from beginning to plan for next season.
“We actually lost some valuable time in planning for next season because of our run during the playoffs this past season,” Lehv said. “This offseason, we wanted to maximize our presence in the community which meant being at more events and bringing the Cup with.”
One of the many front office staff who was along for the Steel championship ride was Director of Ticket Sales Dave Campione. He ended up traveling with the team for each road playoff game the Steel were involved in.
Except for Game Five in Sioux City.
“I was actually taking my son to a Cubs game that day because I did not think the Steel would go that far into the playoffs and so I stayed home and watched on TV Game Five with some friends and family,” Campione said. “But just because we won the Cup doesn’t mean we will fill [the stands] for next season. We have to get our name out there and let people know about our ticket promotions.We cannot take our foot off the gas pedal.”
When asked what he feels like each morning as he walks into the Steel offices and sees the Clark Cup staring at him, it makes him smile. It also makes him realize that the plan he had for growing the team in Geneva is ahead of schedule in a way.
“The Cup makes me think of the commitment from ownership and from the players on the ice who want to win and to make sure we have that relentless pursuit of winning championships each season.”