A Christian radio station that has been around for 53 years and a professional ice hockey team in the Deep South have an unexpected partnership. WDJC, the longest-standing Christian radio station in Birmingham, and the Birmingham Bulls have been teaming up to host church nights since the 1990s.
This year, church night is April 30.
Cherie Olivier, promotions director for Crawford Media (WDJC’s owner), said their involvement in church nights “allows us to really represent our community by being the station that lives for Jesus and likes to bring people from local churches together for fun and nice activities.”
Birmingham Bulls’ church nights began years ago when current Bulls’ President Joe Stroud interned with the team. Stroud, a Samford University graduate, called local churches and invited them to church night.
“It was a major event then,” Olivier noted. “When the team left [in 2001] it ceased to exist for a while. Four years ago, they brought [the Bulls] back. It’s really fun because you have people who remember the old church nights and remember doing that with their youth groups. Now they are youth pastors themselves or have children in youth groups.”
David Koonce, vice president of communications for the Bulls, has a special place in his heart for church nights and the Bulls, as he was one of those for whom a church night was an introduction to hockey and the team.
He found that it’s one way to form bonds with those who are new to a church. Koonce grew up with many of his friends in the church but found it difficult to get to know new kids who didn’t go to the same school.
“I’ve always thought church nights were cool,” Koonce said. “It’s one thing to hang out at a weeknight service, but it’s different to get outside of the walls of the church and do something like a hockey game. I always felt that was where you could bond with some of those kids.”
Another tie between WDJC and the Bulls is Ace McKay, part of WDJC’s Roxanne & Ace morning show and music director for the team. He also has a childhood history with the Bulls.
“I grew up in Birmingham and the Bulls, like many, were a part of my childhood, so to be a part of this organization has been fantastic,” McKay said. “The staff and the fans are the best anywhere. Church nights are a chance to bring families and churches together for a fun night.”
A Birmingham Bulls hockey game is much more than just a sporting event — it’s an experience.
“The fun thing about this sport is that what we try to do is not [just] give you a game to watch. We focus on the overall experience of your night. The game is high-speed anyway — it’s nonstop — but in between whistles and TV timeouts and stuff like that, we’ve always got something going on. It’s just fun to go to,” Koonce said.
“An event like church night is something to bring the Christian community together in a safe environment, in a fun environment — something that is outside of the church walls and the sanctuary, something on common ground,” Olivier said. “Last year when we did this, I obviously invited my group to come but we were able to invite people who may not be believers. This is a common ground for everyone and people love sporting events.
“The main focus is to bring the church groups and youth groups together, but the really special part is that those people can invite their friends who may not be fully invested in a church and come out and have a great time. They can have conversations with people and you never know [what impact] that starter can have on a relationship.
“Those people might actually end up becoming involved in your small group, or your community group or your Bible study, just simply from the initial hanging out at this hockey game with people from your church,” Olivier said.
There’s still plenty of time to bring a group to the April 30 game. For group ticket discounts call the box office at 205-620-6870.
Read about Bulls’ goalie Austin Lotz and his faith at tabonline.org/bulls-lotz.
For group ticket discounts call the box office at 205-620-6870. For more information about the Birmingham Bulls visit bullshockey.net.