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Industry Profile: Sebastien Fortier, OneHockey

 

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Sebastien Fortier remembers playing in hockey tournaments during his youth days back Canada and feeling like none were as good as the event his father, Gaetan, ran in Quebec for more than a decade.

So when he set out to start running youth tournaments in 2003 after his playing career was over, he was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and leave no stone unturned when it came to creating the best possible experience for players, families and coaches.

OneHockey started with one summer tournament in 2003, began adding in-season tournaments three years ago, and has since expanded to approximately 20 this coming winter, with events not only spread across the United States, but also potentially Europe.

Fortier, the company’s 41-year-old CEO who now calls Laguna Hills home, took a break from his busy schedule recently to tell California Rubber what makes OneHockey tournaments unique and what to expect in the future.

California Rubber: Did you expect OneHockey to grow the way it has since your first year of operation?
Sebastien Fortier: It isn’t surprising to us. We had a 10-year plan that we’ve executed and, within the next 10 years, we want to host well over 100 tournaments every year.

CR: What makes OneHockey tournaments so unique?
SF: There are a lot of hockey tournaments out there, but very few that bring in the festival-like atmosphere we do – that put the kids first and do all the little things we do. We do this close to 20 weekends a year, and it may be a different building in a different location, but the quality of the experience is the same every time. We don’t want to put ourselves on the same level as (February’s Quebec Pee Wee International Tournament) because that’s almost untouchable, but we feel we’re better than any other tournament.

CR: You started by running tournaments only for AAA teams, but have branched out to events for AA, A, B, girls and in-house teams. How do you attract teams to your tournaments?
SF: Once one team from a program comes to one of our tournaments, we don’t have to worry about recruiting that program because we know the team that was here is going to tell everyone else about the experience, and we’re going to see a lot more teams from that program in the years to come.

CR: Is it an advantage that OneHockey only runs tournaments?
SF: We’ve realized we’re really good at running tournaments, so we want to focus on that. We’ve thought about bringing other sports into our concept, but we’re delaying that because hockey is our market and tournaments are our service. We recently partnered with the (North American Hockey League) to run showcases for them, which is a big deal in the hockey world.

CR: How do you choose locations for your tournaments?
SF: One of the big things is to ensure that the local sports commission or visitors bureau supports us – that helps making sure the events are affordable for players and their families – and of course we make sure the locations have as many rinks as possible with multiple sheets of ice. We make sure we’re not competing against ourselves by being too close geographically to another tournament or having tournaments for the same level at the same time. And we obviously try to go to desirable areas and places that support youth hockey.

CR: You’re based in Southern California, but don’t have any tournaments in the state. Will that change in the future?
SF: We’d love to have tournaments in California – and we’re speaking to some people in San Diego, which could be an option – but we have to be profitable to run a business, and the ice time is much more expensive in California than it is most other places. We’d need lower ice costs that people are paying, and we’d need a city to support us.

– Compiled by Greg Ball