terry charles | behind the stage | nov. 2019
Green Bay Gamblers hockey has been around a long time. Yet, many people know very little about the team. The Gamblers are owned by our company, PMI Entertainment Group and have been playing for more than 20 years in the United States Hockey League. Perhaps the only hockey team as well known in the area was the Green Bay Bobcats.
The Gamblers are part of junior hockey. In a nutshell, players at this level are the best of the best between the ages of 16-20. Many players on the team either have a division-one college scholarship already lined up or they will have one secured before they leave. Some players may play here for one season while others will play two years in the league.
Sometimes a player will come straight from high school to play with us while others are still in high school. They could be from anywhere in the country, but if they're still in high school, they're going to Ashwaubenon High School if they're playing for the Gamblers. We have an agreement with the school district for players to have a schedule that gets them out of school by about 1 p.m. That means whatever classes they have will need to be completed by then.
While in Green Bay, the players stay with a host family. We have families around the area that willingly and generously open their homes to these young men on their journey to perhaps becoming an elite player. The families receive a monthly stipend and get tickets to the games, but that's not why they do it. The families are likely hockey fans that have a desire to help a young man.
It's not uncommon for the housing family, the player and the player's family to become very close and stay in touch long after the player has left Green Bay. Let's face it, it's a pretty big deal for a mom and dad to have their son playing in a different city or state and they take a great deal of comfort in knowing they have a good host family to stay with.
The Gamblers and the league are developmental in nature. What I mean by that is that we are developing hockey players to move on to the next level. But the league is also developing young coaches and officials to potentially move to the next level as well. We have many former players who have played or are playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). In fact, about a dozen were on opening day rosters when the 2019 NHL season started.
It doesn't end with the players. Former Gamblers head coach Jon Cooper is the current head coach of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and has been very successful at every level since leaving Green Bay. Another former Gamblers coach, Derek Lalonde, is an assistant for Cooper. Other support personnel for the team are also at the NHL level either as a scout or a video person.
In addition to putting a product on the ice, the Gamblers are very serious about putting a product out in the community. The team has many charity nights where a portion of the ticket proceeds benefit a non-profit organization. Gamblers players also make appearances at area elementary schools to read or volunteer at youth hockey practices.
Terry Charles is public relations manager for Green Bay-based PMI Entertainment Group. He's all about media relations, publicity and social media for the Resch Center Complex, Meyer Theatre, Green Bay Gamblers Hockey and other events produced by PMI. When not at work, please don't hit him with your car as he runs and bikes around the Green Bay area. You can follow him on Twitter at @TCCharles.