IceCaps Insider: Big 50/50 prizes benefit winners and charities alike Posted by IceCaps on
Chris Ballard – IceCaps Insider
“You’re heading down to the IceCaps game? Let me give you some money for the 50/50.”
This phrase has become commonplace around St. John’s and across the entire province in recent years as the prizes for the St. John’s IceCaps 50/50 draws continue to defy logic.
Prizes north of $10,000 are no rarity at Mile One Centre during IceCaps games and as IceCaps Director of Community Partnerships and staff 50/50 liaison Trevor Murphy explains, the large 50/50 prizes in St. John’s have become the talk of the American Hockey League.
“For the AHL and the numbers I’ve seen so far, there’s nothing comparable,” Murphy said.
“That’s not to say it’s not out there, but I haven’t seen it yet. There are some NHL rinks with 17,000 people that don’t come near this. It’s incredible. On a night-to-night basis for the AHL, this is amazing.”
The 50/50 prize reached its pinnacle during the team’s playoff run in its inaugural season, paying out close to $24,000 to the night’s big winner.
Booster Club member Murray Chaplin has been selling 50/50 tickets in St. John’s since the St. John’s Maple Leafs first skated on Memorial Stadium ice in 1991. He has been a mainstay in the St. John’s hockey scene for decades, his voice echoing through the concourse during Maple Leaf games, then at games for the now-defunct QMJHL franchise St. John’s Fog Devils, and today during IceCaps games.
He has witnessed the growth of the 50/50 since its infancy and admits that a lot has changed in the years he has been involved with the Booster Club.
“The prizes now are more than double and triple (what they were with the Fog Devils and Leafs),” Chaplin said.
“What we used to do with the hard tickets with the Leafs and Fog Devils, if Hamilton or Toronto were coming to town, a rivalry team, we would have a guarantee of $10,000 or so. If we guaranteed a large prize, people would buy more. With this system, they know the average is over $10,000. It promotes itself.”
Times have changed
The system Chaplin is referring to is a new electronic 50/50 system introduced when the IceCaps first entered the league two seasons ago. The new system is complete with touch screens, printers and front-facing monitors that display a night’s total sales on the concourse.
Long gone are the days of the perforated, hard-copy tickets and Murphy believes the new electronic system helped the draws grow in popularity among fans in the building.
“With the electronic system that was installed, that brought even more excitement to it,” he said.
“It’s something new. People can actually see the numbers going up during the game. As you’re walking the concourse, you’re seeing these numbers continue to scroll, there’s excitement building there.”
There is also excitement for the 50/50 draws among the IceCaps front office. The higher the 50/50 sales, the bigger the prizes for fans and the larger the contributions to local charities by the IceCaps Care Foundation and Williams Family Foundation.
“In the last two years, we have had more than a million dollars go back into the community,” Murphy said.
“That’s primarily through the 50/50 draws, actual financial donations and in-kind donations, like jerseys and autographed sticks. The money that we have had, the main focus through IceCaps Care is education, youth, and health and wellness. Those are the three big things.”
Every winner has a story
In years past, the winning ticket holder would leave the rink that night with a bag of cash but as prizes have increased, the team and Booster Club have started cutting cheques for the big winners.
As giddy victors arrive at the 50/50 room to collect their prizes, both Murphy and Chaplin admit they have seen every human emotion possible. From dumbfounded to nonchalant, they have seen it all.
“Most of them are pretty calm,” Murphy admits.
“But then you see some of the excitement in others as well. I think most of them are in disbelief that they’re with that much money. You hear some of the people in the room and they’re all serious, then they step out and it’s all high fives.”
“There was one occasion where the guy didn’t even know his name,” Chaplin said.
“He had to take out his license, he was so excited. They’re astonished to see that amount of money. Then some are nonchalant. You’d get more of a reaction from them if you gave them a Pepsi.”
Hard work pays off big
While the stories of big purses and even bigger charitable donations will indeed warm your heart, the 50/50 draw wouldn’t be possible without lots of hard work from 50/50 veterans like Chaplin and Doug Redmond and their committed team of volunteers.
“With this group of volunteers, they’re dedicated,” Murphy said.
“They’re here every night doing this, allowing community groups around the province to benefit from it. Just the work of our volunteers alone is an incredible story.”
“You have to give credit to the volunteers,” Chaplin said.
“They all know the system inside and out. If you have a community of 6,200 fans and a team of dedicated volunteers, then you’re onto something.”