The owners of the Sudbury Wolves franchise are committed to bringing the enjoyment of the game to hockey fans. In addition, the Burgesses are community-minded folks who impress on the players their sense of duty.
The Burgesses are the longest serving private owners of any Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise and their success has become a model to other team owners across Canada. The Wolves were purchased by the late Ken Burgess in Nov. 25, 1986.
"To say that my father saved junior hockey in Sudbury is an understatement, says Mark Burgess. "The team had multiple owners and was struggling. They had missed the playoffs in seven out of eight years and had little support. The team was literally crumbling on the ice. He bought the team and went to work turning it around. In a few years' time, we were leading the league in attendance and were in the play-offs."
Top notch employees such as Blaine Smith, Curtis Hall, Ken Mackenzie as well as a love of the game are key to running a successful franchise, says Burgess. He finds working with young players particularly rewarding.
"For 25 years numerous young men have come through the doors of the Wolves. My staff and this community have helped these boys mature and face them with challenges that in turn make them leaders.
"Every boy who now plays for the Wolves receives a full university or college scholarship if they do not sign an NHL contract. When the boys return to their communities, we have helped develop great young men who give back to their cities. It makes me proud we are continuing to nurture, teach and develop world class athletes and great young men."
The Burgess family invested $2 million in improvements at Sudbury Arena, which included new club seats, corporate boxes, washrooms, a video score clock and a speaker system.
Ken Burgess established the Minor Sport Bursary Fund, which in the past decade has contributed more than $200,000 to local minor hockey organizations to help cover registration fees and equipment for players in need.
In addition, the Burgess family sponsors five AAA teams by providing them with team uniforms. The Wolves also help these teams by providing them with game tickets which they can use for fundraising projects.
The Wolves share their love of the game by hosting minor hockey camps. In recent years, the Wolves have organized clinics for coaches which are sponsored by Perkins Family Restaurant.The players are always available to help out at community events and charity drives such as Coats for Kids and Easter Seals. The players set good role models for young people by visiting schools, and they bring smiles to sick children in the hospital.
"It's been close to 15 years since my father has passed away and I am sure he would be proud of our continued ownership of the Wolves," says Burgess.