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07/09/2009 7:26 AM -
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins’ community service and ticket sales efforts have been honored by the American Hockey League through its inaugural Team Business Service awards, which recognize outstanding achievements in a variety of categories.

AHL President and CEO David Andrews presented the awards on Wednesday evening at a gala reception during the league's annual meeting of the Board of Governors at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

The AHL honored one team from each conference for community service, fan experience, and top revenue growth in each of three areas (season-ticket sales, group-ticket sales, and overall ticket sales), with the Griffins winning the Western Conference awards for both community service and overall ticket sales growth. Grand Rapids was the only organization to be recognized in more than one category.

The 2008-09 Team Business Service award winners are:

Category Western Conference Winner Eastern Conference Winner
Community Service Grand Rapids Griffins Binghamton Senators
Fan Experience Milwaukee Admirals Hershey Bears
Overall Ticket Sales Grand Rapids Griffins Providence Bruins
Season Ticket Sales Toronto Marlies Springfield Falcons
Group Ticket Sales San Antonio Rampage Lowell Devils

During the 2008-09 season, the Griffins ranked first among the AHL’s 29 teams in funds donated and raised for charity, generating a total of $323,416 for various schools, organizations and nonprofits throughout West Michigan. In addition to helping fund and direct the Griffins Youth Foundation, the organization manages a number of successful and impactful community relations events and programs, including the Great Skate Winterfest, Growing With the Griffins, Put A Lid On It, Charitable Goals, Griff’s Reading Goals and Pucks For Plates.  

In terms of ticket sales, the Griffins welcomed 297,905 fans (7,448 avg.) to Van Andel Arena last season, their highest attendance since drawing 328,919 during the 2000-01 campaign. Grand Rapids enjoyed a third straight season of increased attendance for the first time in franchise history and finished with its largest percentage increase ever from one season to the next (8.0%, or exactly 22,000 more fans than 2007-08). The Griffins finished third in the AHL in attendance, their highest ranking in eight seasons of league membership.

The AHL also announced the recipients of three individual awards for excellence and service to the league. Craig Heisinger, senior vice president of True North Sports & Entertainment and general manager of the Manitoba Moose, has been named the winner of the James C. Hendy Memorial Award as the outstanding executive in the AHL for 2008-09.

Former AHL executive vice president of hockey operations Jim Mill has been honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition of career contributions to the AHL, while Al Stensland, an AHL linesman since 2001, has been named the recipient of the Michael Condon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by an on-ice official.

Finally, the Manitoba Moose were named the 2008-09 winner of the President's Award, given to an AHL organization for excellence in all areas off the ice in the past year. The Moose finished second in the AHL in regular-season attendance and led the league with an average of 10,554 spectators in the playoffs, which culminated in the franchise's first Calder Cup Finals berth.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today's NHL players are AHL graduates, and for the eighth year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2008-09.

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