Approximately 250-300 attend Natives ‘Drive For 500’ dinner event at Yellowhead Centre


By: Lanny Stewart

The Natives “Drive For 500” dinner event took place on Saturday night at the Yellowhead Centre in Neepawa.

Approximately 250-300 folks attended the event, which was put on by the Filipino community in the area, with support from HyLife Foods. The dinner, which also included live music and other hockey-related activities was considered part of the season ticket campaign for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Neepawa Natives.

Trevor Lizotte, VP of domestic sales at HyLife and one of the organizers of the event, says 20-25 season tickets were sold at the dinner. At this point, Lizotte believes somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250 season tickets have been sold for next season – which is an increase from the approximately 125 tickets that were sold at this time a year ago.

“Our numbers of actual season ticket signups weren’t as high as I was hoping. I think my goals were probably a bit lofty,” said Lizotte. “I was hoping for somewhere between 50 to 75 and we ended up getting about half of that. But, I think what was evident about the evening was that there is a bit of buzz going on. There’s more talk about it in the community. There seems to be a refreshed energy around the team,” he continued.

Lizotte says a little more than $3,000 was raised for the Natives hockey club at the dinner as well.

“The goal was to sell season tickets and we sold 20-25, plus the little bit of cash that was raised too; it’s good and important for the team,” he said.

The dinner included a few current Natives players in attendance as well as head coach Dwayne Kirkup and his wife. Lizotte was impressed with how the players presented themselves to the crowd.

“They were like rockstars; they were more intent with getting their jerseys on and getting photographs with sticks in hand with the crowd.”

Two Filipino bands entertained the crowd during the event and at one point, performed an authentic Filipino dance, which included the Natives players and Lizotte himself.

“We did a little dance, trying to learn how to do it,” said Lizotte with a smile. “Yeah, it was a really fun, engaging evening.”

Lizotte says the organizing committee believes this could be an annual event for the Natives moving forward to kickstart the season ticket launch. He says there are also plans for a tailgate party prior to the Natives home opener next season.

“We’re thinking of having some sort of tailgate type barbecue for the opening game, so we can drive 4-500 people into that rink the first game and lift the roof off,” he concluded.