Four of the WHL’s 22 teams are publicly owned and, as such, are obligated to hold annual general meetings and to release their financial statements.
Two of those teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos — announced combined losses of more than $1 million on Tuesday night, something that should have set off alarm bells among fans hoping for some kind of 2020-21 season.
Moose Jaw finished the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season in last place in the East Division, while Swift Current was in the cellar of the Central Division. So neither team was in line to reap the rewards that come with qualifying for the playoffs.
The Broncos, whose average attendance dropped 444 from the previous season, lost $791,000, ending a run of six straight seasons in which they had shown a profit. Season-ticket sales were down 345, which is a big number for a team that plays in a 2,879-seat facility.
The Warriors, with their attendance down 366 per game, lost $391,299, running their two-season deficit to $556,444.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com reported that the team attributed $282,286 of its deficit to “pandemic-related lost revenues.”
The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-million class-action lawsuit, although that settlement has yet to be approved by the court. Still, assuming that it is, each of the WHL’s Canadian teams will be on the hook for that amount.
The Warriors, Palmer reported right here, still have $610,653 in the bank, but they did defer their annual $200,000 payment that is part of their commitment to the Multiplex. They have two payments left in a 10-year pledge.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Warriors Booster Club raised $238,771 in 2019-20.
The Warriors, like all WHL teams, are going to have a different organizational look whenever it is that play resumes. As club president Chad Taylor told Palmer: “We’ll need the help of the community when we get going again and hockey will look different — our staff will look different, we’ll be leaner — but that is the times and we’ll make it work.”
The Broncos, meanwhile, also will be leaner. These days, Dean Brockman, the director of hockey operations and head coach, is the only employee working on the hockey side of things, with Nathan MacDonald and Ryan Stricker on the business side. Their retail store — The Stable — is open and management has authorized 10 paid hours per week for communications.
Trent McLeary, a former Broncos player who now is chairman of the team’s board of directors, said after the AGM that “it’s a fight to survive,” stating that it will take the franchise years to recover from the loss.
“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” McLeary told Steven Mah of the Southwest Booster. “We don’t think we have to make this up in one year . . . so there’s lots of challenges, lots of things that are going to challenge us as an organization, as a community. But we’re not the only ones, you look at baseball, you look at soccer, you look at everything.”
(Mah’s story is right here.)
The WHL’s two other publicly owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — have yet to hold their annual general meetings.
The Raiders’ meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7. Following the 2018-19 season, one in which they won the WHL championship, they announced a profit of $633,314. In the previous five seasons, they had shown losses totalling $806,571 in four of them; the exception being a profit of $3,892 in 2015-16.
When the 2019-20 season was halted, the Raiders were 36-18-10 and had clinched first place in the East Division. They had two home games remaining and may well have had a deep playoff run in their future. Their average attendance also was up 27 over the previous season, meaning the championship love affair in that city still was in full bloom.
The Hurricanes have said they will hold their AGM on a November date that hasn’t yet been announced.
They are coming off four straight profit-making seasons. Last season’s profit of $282,168 allowed the four-season total to grow to $1,639,321. (Don’t forget, though, that they had losses totalling more than $1.25 million in the previous five seasons.)
When the 2019-20 season ended, Lethbridge was 37-19-7 and third in the Central Division. Its attendance was down one fan per game, to 3,970, over 2018-19. Still, it lost three home dates to the cancellation, and who knows how many playoff games were in its future?
The Hurricanes pay the City of Lethbridge an annual maintenance fee of $166,667 for their home arena, the Enmax Centre. Last month, the Hurricanes and the City agreed to a one-year deferment of that payment, in the process adding a year to the arena lease that now runs through 2029-30. The Hurricanes asked for the deferment, citing revenues lost to the pandemic.
We will find out in November just how much they lost.
I would suggest that the four publicly owned franchises are far from being the WHL’s biggest spenders. Of course, the privately owned teams don’t have to share their numbers with the public. But judging by what the Broncos and Warriors reported, and what is surely to come from the Hurricanes and Raiders, you have to think there is some major pain being felt.
And that’s why the WHL can’t afford to start a season without being able to operate at less than 50 per cent capacity in its arenas. The losses from a season played without restrictions, albeit a shortened one, were large. Losses from a season played without fans in the stands would be mind-numbing.
Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and fighting. . . . The league approached the government and asked for $20 million in subsidies to help its 12 Quebec-based team get through the pandemic. . . . Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater who is the junior education minister, suggested the league needed to do more to eliminate fighting. . . . On Wednesday, the QMJHL’s board of governors voted to slap a fighter with a major and a misconduct, meaning that player would have to sit out 15 minutes. A player also would face a one-game suspension after accumulating three fights, with more time off for each fight after that. . . . Here is the QMJHL’s Rule 47: “All players involved in a fight will now be assessed a misconduct penalty (duration of 10 minutes) which will be added to the major penalty (five minutes), except if a player involved is considered an instigator or an aggressor. An automatic one-game suspension will be assessed after the third fight, and for any additional fight.” . . . There is a chart right here that explains all possible situations. . . . I guess we can assume the QMJHL now is awaiting an etransfer from the government.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs said Wednesday that they have been “approved to resume our training hockey-related activities.” Things had been on hold since Sept. 25 when one of their players tested positive. . . . According to the Mustangs, all tests “administered . . . this week have come back negative and there is no risk of the spread of the virus.: . . .
The Tennessee Titans have a reported nine positive tests in their organization, and the NFL has said their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers that had been scheduled for Sunday will be played Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Titans have halted football-related activities until at least Saturday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who played the visiting Titans on Sunday, haven’t had any positives. They should return to their practice facility today (Thursday). . . .
The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are forecasting a $10-million loss, revealed Wednesday that they have terminated some employees and laid off others in both business and football operations. . . . In a statement, the team said it “had to make significant adjustments to our workforce including temporary and permanent layoffs in both the Business Operations and Football Operations.” . . . Matt Lowry, a content provider with the team for four years, tweeted that he had been laid off, and added: “There’s too many awesome co-workers to thank, but you know who you are, and you’ll hear from me. And please WEAR A MASK so we can all enjoy the 2021 CFL season from wherever you may be.” . . .
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is in the process of terminating 40 per cent of its staff at TD Place. The arena and stadium are home to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both of which are owned by OSEG. However, staff from those teams weren’t included in the terminations. . . .
MLB announced Wednesday that it will allow about 11,500 fans into NLCS and World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fans haven’t been allowed into MLB games since spring training. . . . Face masks will be mandatory and, according to MLB, “No seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen.” . . . Some numbers from Deadspin’s Jesse Spector: “In September, there were 6,913 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, Texas, including 447 reported on Wednesday, the final day of the month. That brings the cumulative tally for the county to 46,527 people stricken by coronavirus, with 721 dead from the pandemic.”
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JUST NOTES: Steve Hogle, who spent six seasons as president of the Saskatoon Blades, has been hired as the general manager of Hockey Edmonton. Hogle is from Edmonton and played minor hockey there. Before joining the Blades, he was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications and broadcasting. He replaces the retiring Dean Hengel with Hockey Edmonton. . . . The Minnesota Twins, who were eliminated from the American League playoffs yesterday, have lost 18 straight post-season games, going back to 2004. Since then, the Houston Astros, who finished off the Twins, have won 43 playoff games. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a good look at Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, right here. It’s well worth your time.