Former NHLer Walter hired as Heat president

In Ryan Walter, the Abbotsford Heat believe they've found the ideal frontman to raise the American Hockey League club's profile in communities across the Fraser Valley.

New Abbotsford Heat president Ryan Walter (left) accepts a jersey from co-owner Lane Sweeting at Tuesday's press conference.

In Ryan Walter, the Abbotsford Heat believe they’ve found the ideal frontman to raise the American Hockey League club’s profile in communities across the Fraser Valley.

The Heat introduced Walter as their new team president at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“He brings us up a level, and we’re really excited about him,” said Lane Sweeting, a member of the Heat’s local ownership group. “He’s an icon in the hockey world, and he’s an icon in the Fraser Valley.”

Walter, a 53-year-old New Westminster native who currently resides in Langley, played 15 NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, winning a Stanley Cup in 1986 with Montreal.

He served as a Canucks assistant coach under Alain Vigneault for two seasons (2008 to 2010), and coached the Canadian women’s hockey team to a gold medal at the 2010 Four Nations Cup.

Walter holds a masters degree in leadership from Trinity Western University, and is an author and motivational speaker.

Walter will replace former Heat president Tom Mauthe, who helmed the club through its first two AHL campaigns. Mauthe, a Vancouver resident, announced his resignation on July 18, citing a desire to explore job opportunities closer to home.

Walter said he’s thrilled with his new job because he believes it suits his skill set, and allows him to remain involved in the game he loves.

“This is a beautiful opportunity,” he said. “When you look at the quality of the people, the quality of the building, the quality of the American Hockey League, I get very excited about that.

“I’m excited to get going. I know there’s a lot of work ahead – I can sense that already.”

Indeed, Walter is taking over a team that has some work to do to build its clientele.

The Heat averaged 3,807 fans per game last season, 26th out of 30 AHL teams. That’s down slightly from the 3,897 they drew in their inaugural campaign of 2009-10.

The Heat are two years into a 10-year contract to play out of the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre that guarantees the team a break-even budget of up to $5.7 million annually. The City of Abbotsford covered a shortfall of $450,637 in 2009-10, and it’s estimated the deficit for 2010-11 will be in the $1.2 million range.

Walter said one of his chief goals is to deepen the hockey team’s connection to the community.

“We’re not trying to twist arms for people to buy tickets – we want them to love to come here,” Walter said. “Once people come and experience this game, they want to come back. The goal is really to get out into the community and take our message to people, instead of waiting for them to come to us.

“I have a large learning curve, and I will rely very much on our (front office) team. My goal would be to get up to speed real quick, and I love learning.”

Sweeting said the Heat contacted Walter last year about doing some consulting. When Mauthe resigned, those discussions took on a different focus.

“We were very happy that Ryan could adjust things in his life and his career to join us,” Sweeting said.

“I think it’s great to have someone as president who can walk into the dressing room, meet the players, and the players can respect him because he has that Stanley Cup ring. I think that connects the team to the front office, and I think that’s really important.”

Sweeting said the slight attendance dip in the Heat’s sophomore season was not entirely surprising.

“I think a lot of people realized how much hockey 20 back-to-back nights are,” he said. “We had a sophomore year that we anticipated, but I think now that’s the benchmark. Now we’re growing the business . . . and with Ryan, that will really help.”

Walter’s son Ben, a 27-year-old centre, signed a two-way contract with the Calgary Flames, the Heat’s NHL parent club, last month. There’s a solid chance Ben could play in Abbotsford this season, and his father said he’s “thrilled” to be working in the same organization.

Ultimately, the elder Walter believes that selling AHL hockey involves a “simple pitch.”

“In this marketplace, we’re very excited to bring the best game outside of the Canucks,” he said. “It is the No. 2 (hockey) league in the world by far, and over 80 per cent of players that play at the NHL level have spent time in the AHL. So really, from our side, we want people to come out and see the NHL players of the future today, for 20 bucks.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse, off duty cop testifies in Langley murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Trinity Western University’s men’s hockey team will host the three-team Captains Cup, featuring the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the Spartans, starting November 12th (Courtesy TWU)
Captains Cup hockey series comes to Langley

Trinity Western University to host UBC and SFU at George Preston arena

LOSC members worked out at the Aldergrove outdoor pool on Saturday, Oct. 24 (LOSC/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Swim club ‘broken-hearted’ by Langley Township pool decision

Staff report said it will cost less to reopen WC Blair instead of Walnut Grove

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working vacuumed a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Nest of ‘murder hornets’ found near South Surrey

String of traps set up along border to capture Asian giant hornets

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and staff by parents must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read