By Lethbridge Herald on March 31, 2015.
Good Sport: By Dylan Purcell
A lack of victories is a big reason the Lethbridge Hurricanes have found themselves in financial distress over the past six playoff-less seasons.
The losses off the ice have been even more staggering, as the Canes have seen a million-dollar reserve and that amount again fly out the door.
So Monday night’s information session at the Enmax Centre lounge has to be considered a win. After the Canes board of directors said all they had to say, there was not a single question from the floor. There wasn’t even an angry rant. In fact, the only sign of protest was when someone shouted at board member Cory MacLean for sharing too much financial information.
The information session opened with a stunner — the team plans to hold a meeting within the next two months to take a vote regarding sale of the team.
Board president Doug Paisley said he plans to have Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison at that meeting to answer questions from shareholders because unlike Monday’s meeting, the next meetings will be shareholders-only.
“I have people come up to me and ask ‘What does the league think?” said Paisley. “Well, I’d rather you ask them yourselves, get the answers from (WHL commissioner) Ron Robison.”
That was when Glen Wright, a new member of the board and a partner at North and Company law firm in Lethbridge, explained what needed to happen for these votes to actually sell the team.
“The initial vote is just a vote to move the sale process forward,” said Wright. “At that point, the directors would then gather any information from the league and gather any offers that might occur. We’d need some authorization from the shareholders in the upcoming vote to negotiate in respect to any potential offers and if the vote does pass, the sale would presumably proceed but we’d need a second meeting to ratify any sale process.”
The quorum and voting rules are archaic as well. First, at least 15 shareholders had to attend. Then, at least 68 shares — the actual number is one-thirty-third of the total — must be represented. Given attendance at the past few annual general meetings and the full house on Monday, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Of course, a 75 per cent majority of those present needs to raise their hands. To further complicate things, a poll vote can be called, but Wright was up-front about the age of the Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club Ltd.’s governing act.
“They don’t even teach this act in law school anymore,” said Wright, who also added that the board is “stuck with the mechanism in our governing documents.”
After they addressed the sale-voting issue, the Canes offered up a report left for them by coach and general manager Peter Anholt which left no surprises. Anholt said he has started scouting and is looking ahead to meeting prospects. He also reiterated his desire to hire a head coach and informed fans there would be a rookie camp for 15-16 year-old players. He also said the conditioning in the summer would include Lethbridge check-ins for players.
The team’s OnSide committee reported some good news, as Brent McDowell pointed out the committee raised $63,000 for the club this season. That’s after last year’s moribund $14,000. The success of the Paul Coffey-led Sportsmens’ dinner raised most of that but the team also profited by its partnership with a new business advisory committee, led by local promoter Ron Sakamoto who brought in some funds with a Theoren Fleury appearance and is still planning a charity concert. McDowell also pointed out the efforts to make the annual alumni golf tournament a hit have already begun in earnest.
The only glimpse of Hurricanes’ board past was when former WHL official and board member Cory McLean took the floor and gave fans some depressing financials.
McLean took fans through 10-year and 15-year attendance averages and the reality is, they were not inspiring.
The team’s 10-year average of wins is just 29 per season — seven games below .500.
McLean pointed out that while that included 2013-14’s 12 wins it also includes the 45 wins of 2007-08.
From 2004-08, the team averaged more than 3,800 fans per game. Following last season’s debacle, the team had just 2,982 people per game through the end of February.
“As you can see, 3,600 tickets per game is comfortable,” said McLean, pointing to a display with financial numbers on it.
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes have only averaged that many fans six times in 15 years.
“The league wants to know if fans support this team,” said Paisley after the meeting.
“That’s why we put those numbers up there because to get where we want to be, which is a stable franchise — and it doesn’t matter if it’s a community-owned model or a private team — those numbers have to add up and right now they don’t.”
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