BIGGBY COFFEE, backed by its mission to help franchisees, employees, customers and communities build a life they love, has announced it will sponsor local AAA hockey team West Michigan Elite Hockey Club (WMEHC) in an effort to provide kids in the community with skills that will last a lifetime. For the past 6 years, the team was sponsored by Meijer Inc. and successfully moved dozens of players to college hockey and junior hockey teams. Now, plans are in the works to rename the hockey club “BIGGBY COFFEE AAA Hockey.” This new partnership is expanding BIGGBY’s involvement in local hockey clubs — the brand already sponsors one of the largest youth hockey associations in Michigan, the Kensington Valley Hockey Association (KVHA).
"I'd like to congratulate Mike and the BIGGBY team on their Tier 1 sponsorship with West Michigan Elite Hockey,” says John Popma, President of KVHA. “I've had the pleasure of working with BIGGBY Hockey for several years through our ‘Grow the Game’ and ‘Where Hockey Begins’ initiatives at Kensington Valley Hockey Association. Beginning with a few talks on shared visions of youth hockey, our partnership has grown to include our Learn to Play, Mite/Mini-Mite programs and several jamborees. I look forward to continuing our relationship at these younger age groups to continue to grow this great game. Hopefully our ground work will help build a deep pool of candidates down the road for these Tier 1 teams and beyond."
The new sponsorship with WMEHC, led by BIGGBY co-founder and co-CEO Mike McFall, will support the organization’s Tier 1 hockey club, which includes teams from squirt major to midget major, as well as a mini mite program for kids ages eight and under. Ultimately, the goal is to work with WMEHC and house league hockey programs around the state of Michigan, which includes Learn to Play, Mini Mites and Mites, in an effort to get as many young kids involved in the sport as possible. BIGGBY COFFEE AAA Hockey will have boys and girls teams from 10U up to 19U.
While the sponsorship is new, the idea to give back to the local community through athletics has been in motion for a long time. Tom Berry, director of hockey operations for WMEHC, which caters to elite young hockey players, first met McFall 35 years ago, when he owned a chain of convenience stores. McFall, a college student at the time, asked Berry to sponsor his hockey team. Fast forward to today, and things have come full circle.
“I didn't care about anything else on the planet except for hockey until I was a high schooler,” McFall recalls. “I played hockey in my driveway with a tennis ball 70 hours a week. That's the passion and commitment we want to instill in these kids.”
BIGGBY and McFall already have a proven track record when it comes to growing youth hockey programs. Through their work with KVHA, they’ve grown one house league hockey mini mite program in Brighton from 60 kids to over 175. Through this new partnership with WMEHC, BIGGBY COFFEE’s goal is to launch up to five more programs by the end of 2021 and expand from there.
It’s not about grooming professional hockey players, says Berry. “There’s an incredibly small chance that any of these kids will make it to the NHL,” he says. “But for a lot of people, hockey is a lifelong love. It’s one of those sports you can play for the rest of your life. We want to get back to the grassroots of what hockey is, and what it was like when we grew up.”
That philosophy aligns well with BIGGBY’s culture and purpose — to help all those it comes in contact with to build better, happier, more joyful lives.
Founded in 1995 in East Lansing, the fast-growing community coffee shop franchise with a “commitment to genuine care” prides itself as a welcoming alternative to the cold, impersonal atmosphere associated with large corporate chains.
For BIGGBY franchisee Kip Miller, who is also a former NHL player and WMEHC coach, the sponsorship program is a great opportunity to give back to the community he now serves.
“We’re hoping to build a nice program for kids who want to learn hockey,” Miller says. “If they’re good enough to go on, they will. If not, they learn the values that hockey teaches. They’re learning how to play a game that’s fun, they’re keeping active and they’re learning a lot of good life lessons.”