So the Yorkton Terriers held their annual general meeting last week, and the night was one which should leave local hockey fans wondering what comes next for the franchise and in broader terms the entire Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
On the ice this past season the Terriers were about as good a team as a fan could ever expect to watch.
During the regular season the Terriers basically led their division from opening night, along the way scoring the most goals in the league and allowing the fewest.
That is dominance by any standard.
As the saying goes ‘winning never gets old’, so fans should have been more than pleased with the team throughout the regular season.
The Terriers then went off to win a second straight SJHL championship, their fourth in a decade, then went on to capture the Western Canada Cup and in a dramatic third period comeback to force overtime the Terriers would go on to win the Royal, Bank Cup as national champions.
It was, by any standard, as successful an on-ice year as there can be in sports.
But winning on the ice did not mean winning big at the cash register.
In fact the SJHL franchise went from a $112,424 profit at year-end 2013, to a $34,309 deficit for the year ending May 31, 2014. It is a swing in fortunes of $146,673 for the Royal Bank Cup-winning Terriers.
Team president Dave Baron noted the team led the loop in attendance, although game day ticket revenues were down more than $30,000.
The question for the team is how to grow fan support coming off the amazing season to the point the red ink disappears and the team starts to operate with a reasonable profit each year?
It’s not an easy question for the Terriers or other teams in the SJHL to answer.
As might be expected the Terriers increased adult and senior season ticket and game day ticket prices (see story Page A1). But that may not help as much as one would initially expect, as a few people staying home in face of higher prices can hurt the overall positive cash flow of the decision.
It is a move that limited moving forward. There is a reasonable maximum, fans should expect to pay for Junior ‘A’ hockey and the Terrier prices must be close to that maximum.
So how does the Junior franchise finance an operation which nears a million dollar annual budget in pursuit of the RBC and the pride such a journey creates for the community?
Simply put, the Terriers need more fans in the seats in November and December and January. Somehow people have to be convinced to turn off their big screen home entertainment centres and venture out in the cold to take in live hockey.
It was once the passion of nearly every Canadian on the Prairies. It must be again.
Without a rebirth of broader support, the ability to finance a winning Terrier franchise will grow ever more difficult.
Thinking back to a Sunday night in May, most in our community had to have shared in the moment Derek Falloon scored the overtime winner at the RBC. It is a moment we should want to share again and to do that we need to fill the arena more nights during the season long journey.