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As winter deepens and the Polar Vortex looms, minds turn towards escaping the ice to a warmer climate, like Texas. However, there is ice in Texas, and some of it is patrolled by a TeamSnap customer – the Houston Whalers.
The Whalers are led by goaltender Josh Lenard, a native of Buffalo NY. He grew up in hockey country, starting to skate when he was around three years old and playing through high school. After moving to Houston in 2005, he picked the sport back up.
Starting with one team, Lenard now plays on three hockey teams in Houston – the Houston Brew, the Houston Strength, and the Houston Whalers. Always thinking about getting people to find his team, Josh put the “Houston” prefix on his teams because Google searches for “Houston hockey” would return information about the now-defunct AHL Houston Aeros. This helps him recruit new players for his teams, as hockey players move south. He also posts team information on Twitter at @houstonwhalers.
The Whalers have just celebrated their four-year anniversary. The Whalers spun off from the Brew, which played in a mid-level league. Forming the Whalers was a way for more advanced players in his organization to play at a higher level. Looking for a better way to manage the Whalers this past season, Lenard picked up TeamSnap.
Discovering TeamSnap from an ad, Lenard gave it a try and was impressed with what he saw.
“This is way better than what I had”, he said. “I was just using a Google spreadsheet. I had a list of players, what money they owed, the schedule of games, and attendance. I would get text messages from players the day of the game asking if we had enough players. Now they can go onto TeamSnap and see the attendance for that game.”
Lenard also makes heavy use of the TeamSnap stats package. “I like numbers, I like stats. So I take the scoresheets every game and enter the stats in. The guys really like knowing who the leading scorer is – it’s a little bit of an internal competition. And as soon as I enter the score, you see four guys look at their phones because they just got the push notification.”
He also takes advantage of TeamSnap’s Google Calendar integration, which saves him from having to manually enter and update his schedule. The availability notes also come in handy when players need to let him know that they might be running late for the game.
With team fees a always a key problem, he utilizes the Payments feature as well. “Particularly for some of the guys who pay me in installments, I can just mark that this guy has paid $100, and still owes me whatever. We also bought new jerseys this season, so it was nice to know who had paid for their jerseys as well.”
How did he pick the “Houston Whalers” name, in a city not exactly known for its whaling industry? It was all about the jersey.
“We wanted to use a retro jersey”, Lenard said. “We went through the Nordiques, we went through the Whalers, the old purple-and-gold Kings, the Vancouver Canucks’ black-yellow-and-red V jersey. We styled on the Whalers because of the green – there were no other teams using green. Also, it’s just a classic logo. It already has the H in the logo.”
For a Houston team, though, the Whalers only ice one native Texan. The rest are players from more hockey-friendly climates in North America and Europe.
Even with so many transplants, Lenard is enthusiastic about the Houston hockey scene. He estimates a pool of 500-600 players from around the world live in the area, many of whom moved to Houston to work in the oil and gas industry. He sees hockey leagues growing at all skill levels in the area.
“There’s a really great league for the older players, you have to be over 38 to get into it. They play on Thursday nights. It’s a completely fun league – there’s no playoffs, no championship, if a game ends in a tie, it ends in a tie”, said Lenard. “Afterwards, they all go out in the parking lot, somebody brings a grill, and they grill out, they drink beer, they have a good time for a couple of hours.”
Last season was a rebuilding season for the Whalers – their league combined with another one, and the Whalers moved from a situation where they dominated, only losing five times in 50 games, to a league where the competition was higher. The new league only brought a 4-10-2 record in the Fall/Winter season, though they were in many of the games that they lost, until a late goal or an odd bounce did them in.
But the best thing about the end of one season is that another one is right around the corner. Lenard is looking forward to a new season with the Whalers, and continuing to make TeamSnap a part of the team.
“We’re beyond pleased with what TeamSnap can do for us, and I love using it,” Lenard said.
If you happen to be in Houston and want to join up with the Whalers, one of Lenard’s other teams, or another good team in the Houston area, drop him an email at [email protected].