The Yorkton Terriers, and the other teams in the SJHL, are sitting in limbo. Since COVID-19 caused the early end of the 2019-20 season, the team has been unable to host many of their traditional fundraisers, and now sits with a major money problem.
The Terriers Annual General Meeting on Sept. 14 revealed that the team was approximately $130,000 in debt, the result of COVID-19 cancelling not only the hockey season, but events like the Summer Fair and alumni golf tournament which the team use for fundraising.
Team President Corvyn Neufeld said it has been a frustrating time, because while the team has been doing many things right to pay down their previous debt, COVID-19 put the brakes on that progress.
“I think we had a good plan and things were going in the right direction, and then, of course, COVID hit. That’s what made our season very difficult.”
But a lack of funds is not the only problem, the team still doesn’t know when they will be able to play. While the league has submitted a plan to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, they have not heard any information on whether or not that plan can go ahead. The initial plan was to start the season on Oct. 9.
“We haven’t been denied but we also haven’t been approved, so we’re really just waiting for their go ahead.”
One idea that was floated at the meeting was having parents pay billet fees, rather than the team. Neufeld said that this has been done by other teams in the league, but the Terriers were reluctant to take that step, because it hurts player recruitment, noting that the teams which don’t pay billet fees tend to be bottom of the league.
If the team does get on the ice, they are optimistic about their chances. Coach and GM Mat Hehr said that while they weren’t able to run training camps as normal this year, many of the players from the 2019-20 season are returning, and their major new signings were already locked in before the premature end of the season, including players who have already APed for the team.
“We kind of already knew who we were bringing in and the spots they were going to fill for next season.”
While the team is losing some big players like Chantz Petruic and Alex Zawatsky due to them aging out of the league, Hehr said returning players like the line of Keenan and Kaeden Taphorn and Steven Norum, and returning goaltender Phillippe Bond are setting up the team for success.
“We’ll see when they all come back and how all these new kids gel, but I’m really liking the looks of our team for the next season.”
For players and coaches, not knowing what is going to happen with the upcoming season is a stressful situation.
“I feel so bad for the players because lots of them are sitting at home in limbo right now, they don’t know whether to continue working or what’s going on. It’s definitely tough, everyone is itching to get answers,” said Hehr.
While it can be frustrating, Hehr said that he is taking cues from the league leadership.
“Bill Chow has been a great leader for the league and he’s preached patience and really at the end of the day that’s all we can have is patience. Saskatchewan Health, they have a million things going on, so when they come up with a plan and let us know then everyone will definitely be eager to get going.”