Last week the Government of Saskatchewan announced funding to support the province’s Western Hockey League (WHL) teams and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). This support will help the survival of these leagues and their teams in Saskatchewan in the face of the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provincial government is providing $3 million in support to help WHL teams address revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Each of Saskatchewan’s WHL teams will receive $600,000.
The SJHL will receive $1 million in provincial support. This funding will be provided to the League.
While the one million dollars will go the league, Yorkton Terrier Club President Corvyn Neufeld said at present he is led to believe after taking some of the funds to cover league expenses the rest will be distributed to the individual teams. He added he has been told the Terriers will receive “just over $70,000.”
The announcement, as one might expect, has not been met with complete support. There are a number of people who question why sports teams are getting a government grant at a time individuals and small business are being hit by the effects of the COVID pandemic.
The people questioning the announced funding point out Junior hockey at any level is not an essential service, and so maybe the dollars could have better been invested in helping -- for example -- small business.
Of course if one looks a bit closer at the investment the government is making in Junior hockey it becomes clearer that the money will have some rather significant and positive ripple effects.
Junior hockey is about more than 20 players hitting the ice to play Canada’s winter national sport.
The teams, whether in the WHL, or like our local Terriers in the SJHL, are the main tenants in local arenas. They help keep the local rinks viable.
They help keep concessions operating.
They keep rink staff working.
The teams pay officials, and billets, and local media outlets for advertising. They buy skates and jerseys and pucks and tape from businesses.
The teams frequent restaurants, sleep in hotel rooms, and rent buses.
The dollars a team make flows through the local economy touching a range of businesses and helping those businesses stay viable and employing people.
A dollar given to a Junior hockey team will not end up in an owner’s pocket, or for a trip south to avoid a chilly winter. It flows through the economy helping local business as it moves through the economy.
Along the way the community has entertainment to enjoy, a team to have pride in.
The best players move on to college thanks to scholarships, or on to professional contracts. The rest have memories of playing the game we all love.
The government does not always make wise investments with our money, but the grants to Junior hockey are one they definitely got right.