DUBUQUE, IA––After four seasons of helping the Dubuque Fighting Saints become one of the premier junior hockey franchises in North America, President Dan Lehv has accepted a new position to continue the development of the United States Hockey League and its member clubs. Lehv, the 2013 Dave Tyler USHL Executive of the Year, has been named President of the Chicago Steel and will join the organization that looks to revamp its business operations with new owner Larry Robbins.
"This is a bittersweet moment for many in Dubuque,” said Brad Kwong, Managing Partner of Northern Lights Hockey, LLC. “The business community is losing a talented executive who established the Fighting Saints as an integral part of the business scene in Dubuque. The entire community is losing a creative champion of the Fighting Saints brand of entertainment and the team is losing a fantastic leader and good friend who helped lead the Fighting Saints to prominence and put Dubuque on the global hockey map. Nevertheless, I know that everyone is happy for Dan and his family and wish him the best in his next challenge in Chicago."
Lehv joined the Fighting Saints prior to the 2011-2012 season and under his leadership, the organization has experienced growth in nearly every facet of the business operation. The White Plains, NY native led the Fighting Saints corporate sales efforts, which have consistently topped the USHL in sponsorship revenue.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that Northern Lights Hockey gave me to come to Dubuque and help build this great organization,” said Lehv. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with a staff of passionate, dedicated professionals who come to work each day determined to make our fans proud of the product we produce on and off the ice. Our partners share that vision, and it’s evident by the strong business and community relationships that we’ve built and sustained over the past four years. This organization is in great hands moving forward, and I’m excited about the coming season and the future of Fighting Saints hockey.”
During Lehv’s watch, the team experienced record attendance of over 100,000 fans during the 2012-2013 Anderson and Clark Cup Championship season. The Fighting Saints averaged over 2,500 fans in each of Lehv’s four seasons with Dubuque, and the club recently set a Dubuque single-game attendance record of 3,545 on February 7, 2015.
Over the past four seasons, the Fighting Saints have played a large role in USHL events, representing the league and the United States at the 2013 Junior Club World Cup in Omsk, Russia where Dubuque captured the Bronze Medal. Most recently, the Fighting Saints hosted the highly successful 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Dubuque. Lehv created the vision for the premier two-day event and planned, sold and led the execution of a comprehensive league-wide marketing initiative to promote the event in all markets. The results included a near sell-out crowd, over 100 NHL Scouts in attendance, a sold-out banquet featuring Eddie Olczyk, a primetime show on NHL Network, unprecedented media coverage and a standard for USHL special events moving forward.
“Dan Lehv is a well-respected leader throughout our league,” said USHL President and Commissioner Bob Fallen. “The Dubuque Fighting Saints are among the USHL’s best in corporate partnerships and they were an outstanding host for last year’s USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Dan shares a lot of the credit with what they accomplished in Dubuque the past four seasons under a great ownership and management team. Moving on to Chicago will present a number of challenges driven primarily by the fierce amount of competition for the entertainment dollar in a major league market. The Chicago Steel plays in the USHL’s largest market and I know they are excited to have his league knowledge and business expertise on hand to tackle this new assignment.”
While in Dubuque, Lehv played a large part in the community. He was awarded a distinguished Dubuque Rising Star Award in 2013 for his leadership in business and in the Dubuque community. He served as a director of the Northern Lights Hockey Foundation (501c3), which was created in 2013 under Lehv’s direction to help benefit area non-profits. Lehv was also on the non-profit board of Two by Two Character Development, a local organization that helped grow the team’s “Live Like a Saint” program to new heights. This past season the Fighting Saints visited over 20 schools through the “Live Like a Saint” program and taught 7,000 students about character development and hockey. Last year, the Fighting Saints donated over $80,000 to the Dubuque community.
In 2012, Lehv spearheaded a partnership with the Dubuque Youth Hockey Association. This initiative renamed local youth teams the Junior Saints. Through the program, youth players receive instruction from Fighting Saints players and coaches with the hope of continuing to grow hockey in the Tri-State area. Since the partnership began, the Fighting Saints have donated over $85,000 total to DYHA.
Over the past four seasons, Lehv brought numerous additions to the Fighting Saints and the Mystique Community Ice Center. A key piece added by Lehv to Dubuque’s game-night experience was a family-friendly atmosphere, which was signaled by the addition of the Kids Zone in 2011. Lehv’s vision also included many unique promotions and theme nights that gained Dubuque national attention. Under Lehv’s leadership, Dubuque appeared in Smith & Street’s Sports Business Journal for promotions such as the “Backwards Game,” and “Kids Run the Rink.” The club also gained national attention via The Sporting News and Yahoo earlier this year with their humorous twist on Game of Thrones where the porcelain throne was at the center of attention.
Lehv joined the Fighting Saints after an extremely successful seven-year tenure with the St. Paul Saints, one of the premier minor league baseball franchises in the country, where he held the title of Assistant General Manager since 2008. The graduate of the University of Michigan also spent three years with the Charleston, South Carolina, RiverDogs, where he was the team's Media Relations Coordinator and play-by-play broadcaster.
"Dubuque has become a destination in the hockey world, and I’ll always be proud that I played a small part in its success,” said Lehv. “My wife and I have established many friendships and have many fond memories of Dubuque, including the birth of our daughter, and Dubuque will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Lehv will be involved the Dubuque transition, and as a league partner, will continue to assist the growth and development of the Fighting Saints organization in all ways possible.
"Dan has been instrumental in establishing the Dubuque Fighting Saints as a top tier organization in the USHL and the owners are personally grateful and thank him for all his work and dedication,” said Kwong. “During Dan's four years in Dubuque, it has been a goal to set a standard of excellence on and off the ice. One thing we believe we've built, with Dan at the helm, is an organization that is able to survive and thrive despite a loss such as this. I'm confident our staff will continue to work extremely hard to provide great family-entertainment to the growing base of Fighting Saints fans. We are only five years into our time in Dubuque and we have high aspirations for the Fighting Saints in the Dubuque community and the entire Tri-State region."