Did You Know?
Thom Brigl has been the Owner of the Bismarck Bobcats for 21 years!
What is “The Barn”?
The Barn is home to the Bobcats, where games are played and fans can support them and cheer them on to victory!
Did You Know?
The Bismarck Bobcats have raised nearly $400,000 for various charities and causes since launching in 1997.
Thom Brigl, Owner Bismark Bobcats
The Bismarck Bobcats are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League’s Central Division. They’ve been a staple of the Bismarck community since they launched in 1997. Thom Brigl’s journey with the Bobcats hasn’t been an easy one since he took over ownership of the team in 2001. Along the way, he’s learned more than he ever imagined he would.
1. What was your journey like for you to get to the position you’re at today?
Well, I got into it by accident and it was (and still is) a very challenging business to be in. After a decade of really hard times, the Bismarck-Mandan community came together and has really appreciated and supported us. They support not only what we do on the ice, but also in the community; particularly with children and certain charities.
2. How did you first get involved with the Bismarck Bobcats?
I first came in as a consultant to try to help an ownership group do a turnaround on the business. However, I ended up owning it not long after. As I always say, they were smarter than me and got out!
3. Which parts of taking this risk will stick with you forever?
I was naively optimistic that I could turn it around, and it was much harder than I would have thought. I turned to the community in 2010 and told everyone that I know that while the area loves its Bobcats, the business was not sustainable and would need more corporate support. After meeting with a number of companies, they really came through for us. The Bobcats are now a go to hotspot, and the community has really adopted the fun, the boys’ dreams, and our involvement in the community. Giving back to this community is a big part of what we try to do.
4. What would you have done differently if you could go back and start again, knowing what you know now?
The important thing is not the mistakes you make, but what you learn from them. At the end of the day, I think perseverance and passion have been the key to our success.
5. What advice do you have for readers considering taking this leap?
Research, research and then research some more to understand as well as you can what the hurdles are, as well as how to best attack them. Be entrepreneurial and flexible—if something isn’t working for you, move on to other ideas if need be. It’s important to be creative and understand the impact, or lack of impact, of the decisions that you make for your business.
6. What made you decide to pursue this opportunity with the Bismarck Bobcats?
In my case, it was more of an accident, as a friend called me in to help out a failing business. He knew that I was from Mandan and they were losing a lot of money, so they were looking for ideas. I took over when they left and in my naive optimism, it continued to lose a lot of money. I learned at that point that the business people needed to know me and understand my passion.
7. What do most people not know about the Bismarck Bobcats?
I like to think, or hope, that they know about our three missions. The first is to provide opportunities for young men to chase their hockey dream. The second is to be positive mentors for youth in the area and remain extremely active in the community, such as our anti-bullying campaign. Lastly, the third is to provide the most fun in the area. As we say, nobody parties like the Bobcats!
8. What is something you wish more people knew about your business venture?
I hope they know just how much we rely on them, as it definitely takes a village to do what we do! Also, how much we appreciate them for supporting us and allowing us to be able to make the fun memories that we’ve made together.
9. What is a day in your life like for you now?
I still get up with the sun and focus with my staff on sponsor prospects, new sponsorship opportunities and how to continue improving the show, all to make it an even more fun venue for everyone to make some noise in! The boys love it and it actually helps us with recruiting the level of talent that we have. We have placed 31 boys in Division I Hockey Colleges in the last two years alone! In doing so, I have a lot of good help around me now who seem to love what they do, as it shows in the community and at the games.
10. What’s one thing the local business community could do to help the organization?
Continue to support us through advertising, attending games, buying a beer and spreading the word that our Barn Rocks!