Everyone wants a piece of Connor Bedard.
The Regina Pats star forward is selling out arenas across western Canada and is bringing in fans from across the country into WHL stadiums.
At a recent autograph signing, Brooklyn Desjarlais was asked why they made the trip to see the Pats.
“Basically, I just wanted to see Connor Bedard,” Desjarlais said after driving an hour and a half for the autograph signing.
Their uncle drove seven and a half hours from Airdrie, Alta., for the same thing – to catch a glimpse of one of the next great players.
It comes off the heels of the Pats western road trip which saw sellouts at every stop including the 17,000-seat Saddle dome in Calgary.
All those ticket sales mean an influx of money for the WHL.
Bedard’s value to the league is somewhere in the $1.5-million range according to CKM Sports Management agent Cliff Mander.
“It’s making their existing brands pay more attention to what’s possible and it’s opening the eyes of other brands who haven’t looked at the league as a viable outlet,” Mander said.
In Regina, it’s no secret that Bedard mania is boosting the cash flow, with the Regina Pats’ last two home games selling out.
“How can you not love the way he plays?” said Wade Bohn, a Regina Pats fan.
“Regina hasn’t had something like this for so long, if ever.”
With Bedard a shoe-in to go first overall in the upcoming NHL draft his brand should only continue to rise. Mander expects his value to the league to grow before the season is over.
And while there may be a lot of pressure on Bedard to play well in front of sell-out arenas, Pats CEO Gord Pritchard feels Bedard is up for the challenge.
“He’s an incredible ambassador of the game and he’s great with the kids and he’s very generous with his time,” Pritchard said.
The Pats have only 12 home games left in the regular season, and only time will tell how many sell out. But both the Pats and the WHL are banking on Bedard continuing to bring in fans before the end of the season.