The United States Hockey League today announced that the Omaha Lancers have been named the USHL Organization of the Year for the 2009-10 season. In addition, Lancers President and Managing Partner Ben Robert has been tabbed as the Dave Tyler USHL Executive of the Year. The awards were determined by a vote of League team presidents.
"What Ben Robert and the Omaha Lancers organization have done in a single year to restore the Lancers to their rightful place at the top of Omaha's sports culture, and to elite status in the USHL, is extraordinary," said USHL Commissioner Skip Prince. "These awards, voted on by the other Member Clubs and Ben's peers, confirm the respect the Lancers have earned throughout the League."
The Lancers completed a successful move back to Omaha for the 2009-10 season to play their home games at the historic Omaha Civic Auditorium. The team had taken the ice the last seven seasons across the river at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Lancers welcomed more than 100,000 fans at the downtown Civic Auditorium for USHL hockey this year, representing a 34% increase in attendance from the prior season. That total ranked the organization fourth overall in League attendance, which was up from ninth in 2008-09.
Omaha fans were treated to another great season on the ice as the team finished first in the USHL West Division with a 42-12-6 record, trailing only the Anderson Cup champion Green Bay Gamblers for the best record in the League. It was the sixth time that the Lancers have won 40-or-more games during the regular season and the 18th consecutive campaign winning at least 30 games. This season also marked the 21st straight time that the Lancers have qualified for the USHL Clark Cup Playoffs.
Leading the Lancers' efforts this season was President & Managing Partner Ben Robert who has been an owner of the USHL Member Club since 2004. He moved his family to Omaha for the 2009-10 season as a long-term commitment to focus his full efforts on building a successful organization on and off the ice during the transition back to the Nebraska city and for years to come. Robert previously had served as Vice President of Business Development for the Los Angeles Kings where he led innovative efforts to generate incremental revenue for the NHL club. In addition to possessing more than 25 years of experience in the business world, including sales, management, and real estate development, Robert has a thorough knowledge of the hockey industry and was once a player himself having played four years at the University of New Haven where he earned bachelor's and MBA degrees.
The Lancers were also welcomed back to Omaha with overwhelming support from the business community. Sponsorships and partner commitments for the USHL Club more than tripled from the previous season. The team was actively involved in the community and charitable endeavors to re-introduce themselves to the city. One such activity was the launch of the Omaha Lancers School Program, which saw players and staff visit Omaha schools to reach out to children and promote reading. The initiative also provided ticket vouchers so every child had the opportunity to see their Lancers take the ice.
Another season highlight was when the Lancers teamed up with another local hockey favorite, the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks men's hockey team, for a special "Hockey Night in Omaha" promotion. It marked the first time the two teams worked in unison to put on an event. Both squads played a home game in Omaha on February 13th, 2010 and wore special jerseys for the contests. Commemorative items from the promotion were auctioned with proceeds benefitting local charities such as Leap for a Cure for Cancer, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Omaha area youth hockey organizations.
"Ben Robert and one hard-working team have been a model Member Club in all phases of the business – from their great season on the ice, to the fans who came back with the team to the Civic Auditorium, to the players the Lancers will send on to the NCAA and the NHL draft this year, to the team's reputation in the grassroots and business communities as a responsible and generous corporate citizen – they've confirmed that they're not just a hockey team, they're a USHL Member Club with all that entails. All we can say is "Well done – and congratulations," said Prince.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates eighth season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2009-10. With over 225 players already committed to NCAA Division I schools and 13 NHL Entry Draft picks currently on League rosters, the USHL is the nation's foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)