Grand Rapids Griffins President Tim Gortsema (left) accepts the James C. Hendy Memorial Award from David Andrews, CEO of the AHL. Courtesy AHL
Grand Rapids’ minor league hockey team is helmed by one of the best executives in the business.
Grand Rapids Griffins President Tim Gortsema was honored recently by the American Hockey League with the James C. Hendy Memorial Award, which recognizes the league’s top executive.
Gortsema earned the award following a vote of the AHL’s 31 teams during the league’s annual meeting. He was nominated by Griffins owner Dan DeVos.
“I am humbled, really,” Gortsema said. “To be voted for and recognized by my peers is significant. I am humbled and blessed because as much as we compete on the ice, we work together off the ice. I wouldn’t be honored with this award if it wasn't for my staff. I dedicate this award to my staff and my family.”
Under Gortsema’s leadership, the Griffins had more than 300,000 fans walk through the doors at Van Andel Arena for a fifth consecutive season. The Griffins welcomed a total of 302,471 fans for the 2017-2018 campaign, averaging 7,960 spectators per game. The team finished second in average attendance during the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs, drawing 7,273 fans per night.
The Griffins led the league in partial-plan ticket sales last season and the team was among the leaders in full-season plans, group sales, individual ticket sales and total ticket sales. The organization set a franchise record for corporate sales and remained heavily involved in community outreach. The Griffins also lead the AHL in Facebook and Snapchat followers.
Last summer, Gortsema was one of the driving forces behind the renewal of the Griffins’ affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings. He also oversaw rebranding of the organization’s second community ice rink, Griff’s IceHouse West, in Holland.
In 2011, Gortsema received the Griffins’ inaugural Founders “Overtime” Award for his contributions to the organization.
He plans to continue being involved in the team’s business operations, including finance and administration, marketing, public relations, arena advertising and Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park.
Gortsema was part of the Griffins’ original staff in 1995 and has spent 23 years with the team. In 2007, he took over management of the team’s business operations and in June 2015 was promoted to president.
He is a graduate of Hope College and later earned his MBA from Western Michigan University.