The Erie Otters are certainly doing their part to encourage some virtual togetherness and outdoor activity during these tough times.
With help from community partners and sponsors, the Otters organization arranged their first ever Virtual Community 3K event over the May 22-24 weekend, encouraging members of the team and members of the community to walk, run or ride around their homes, yards, or neighbourhoods while maintaining proper government guidelines and safety measures.
Following similar ideas at the NHL level that include the Florida Panthers Territory Trot and the St. Louis Blues’ Virtual Blue Note 5K, Otters GM Dave Brown came up with the idea to follow suit with something similar. Promotion then began two weeks ahead of the weekend-long event with videos of players preparing and encouraging others to take part. As outlined on the event’s landing page on the Otters’ website, the event came about with a belief that physical and mental wellness are important pillars of a healthy lifestyle.
“Mental health has become a big staple of what we’ve been dealing with right now,” said Otters head coach Chris Hartsburg. “If you go out there, enjoy some sunshine and break a little sweat, it might make you feel better in the long run and certainly help us look for better days ahead.”
Participants in the free event were encouraged to track their activity using the fitness tracking mobile app of their choice and then share videos or screenshots of their progress on social media using the hashtag #OttersCommunity3K and tagging the team’s accounts. Over the course of the three-day virtual race, 31 members of the community joined in as well as 16 players and staff that included scouts, coaches, and draft picks. Prizes were advertised ahead of the event, and following the event’s successful turnout over what was a mostly sunny weekend, it was decided that all participants would receive Otters swag.
“I think it’s just as important to get out and be active to stimulate your mind and body and try to get out of this funk we’ve be in during these last few months,” said Hartsburg, who walked the 3K while his son rode his bike beside him.
Sophomore forward Brendan Sellan was one of many players who took part in the event. He and his mom enjoy going for runs together in the summer, so the two of them decided to take part together.
“I can’t really see her too much during the hockey season, so it’s good to get out and spend a lot of time with her,” said Sellan. “It’s one of our favourite things to do. She pushes me a lot, she didn’t really let me stop or quit.”
Sellan also expressed how impressed he was with the event’s turnout and the response the organization received.
“There were so many people who said that it’s great that we’re being active and getting out, and it wasn’t even just our fans in Erie, it was people from all around the league showing their support for not just our team but the League in general,” he continued.
“It was also great to see our fans still showing their support for our team even though we can’t really connect with them right now, aside from online. They showed us that Erie is a strong community through these tough times.”