By Lethbridge Herald on June 2, 2015.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club Ltd. will not attempt to sell the Western Hockey League franchise to private interests, based on a shareholder vote held Monday night at the Enmax Centre lounge.
The issue, which creeps into the consciousness of local fans any time the team struggles financially or competitively, was put to rest in a vote which saw 424 shares vote in favour of a sale and 204 vote against. So, a 68 per cent ‘Yes’ vote was defeated, meaning the team’s board of directors has put at least one pressing issue aside.
The motion needed at least 75 per cent to pass.
The Canes held the shareholders-only meeting Monday after a motion put forward at last year’s annual general meeting but board president Doug Paisley also said they wanted the issue put to rest one way or another.
The meeting was effectively a vote to to have another vote at the AGM this year. Due to poor wording in the original motion, two meetings were required, meaning Monday’s gathering was a vote to vote. But with the “No” victory, the issue won’t be brought up for at least a few months.
“Basically, we wanted that issue dealt with and move forward,” said Paisley. “We’ve got three months before the season starts to raise some capital, get some season tickets sold, have a blitz, do a share drive and do a season ticket blitz. We need 4,000 people here a game next year.”
The biggest announcement out of Monday’s meeting could be that 2014 bantam draft Jordy Bellerive signed to play for the team. Peter Anholt spoke to the crowd of 270 shareholders — plus staff, board members and media — telling them about the Bellerive signing, which got a big applause from the crowd. Anholt will be announcing his head coach hire on Thursday, and the team is planning to bring in a few of the newest Canes, too.
But the evening was still about an issue which has dogged the franchise for months. It was fomented by WHL commissioner Ron Robison telling CJOC’s Pat Siedlecki that he wanted a sale vote done in February. Robison echoed that just over a month ago when he told shareholders he and the WHL board of governors wanted the team sold.
“Ron and I had spoken after the meeting and he sent me an email with regards to thanking us for allowing him to come down and talk to our shareholders and he said flat out we’re going to support you guys 100 per cent either way,” said Paisley. “You’re getting this decision done, we’re in your court, we’re a partner with you. So once your decision is made, let us know what position you’re in.”
At that meeting, Robison also told shareholders the league could take over a team which was insolvent, and that’s the Canes biggest obstacle right now. Board member Cory McLean laid out some stunning financial numbers, telling shareholders that the team’s financial state was so bad it could not sustain any more losses. The board asked the media that the actual numbers not be reported, but McLean didn’t mince words about what would be required.
The vote which did pass at Monday’s meeting was for a group of 2,000 preferred shares be sold at $1,000 apiece to raise some money to help the board.
After all, the team’s real owners spoke at Monday’s meeting and if the team is to survive and even succeed, it needs to make money. McLean said Hurricanes ticket sales are already higher than last season — up 400 tickets to 1,650 at this point. But the team needs to have 4,000 fans a game to make money.
For now, at least, the community-owned Canes will remain that way.
“The grey cloud that’s been hanging over us with the vote to sell and the uncertainty about everybody, you’re constantly having to battle that,” said Paisley. “Look at the struggles we had to get players to come, look at the struggles we had to get people to come. Maybe we can get this behind us.”
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