By Woodard, Dale on September 17, 2019.
The 2018-19 Western Hockey League season turned out to be another profitable one for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes held its 34th annual general meeting Monday night in the upstairs lounge of the Enmax Centre.
Following a 40-18-5-5 regular season and a seven-game first round playoff series that unfortunately for the Canes didn’t go any deeper, it was another year in the black for the franchise with a profit of $282,168.
It made for a laid-back – and quick – shareholders meeting with Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt fielding most of the questions, ranging from queries about last year’s team to this year’s on-ice product.
“It’s just a testament to the fan support. Lethbridge has really gotten behind the club and supports the club properly,” said Hurricanes president and governor Doug Paisley. “You can’t say enough about the job Peter and Terry (Huisman, general manager of business operations) have done. You can’t give enough credit to those guys because if you don’t have a great hockey product or an entertaining product, Terry has nothing to sell. It’s not always about wins and losses, but you have to be entertaining and Peter ensures we get an entertaining product to watch and then Terry sells the hell out of the tickets.”
The Hurricanes average attendance last season was 3,971 with 2,320 season tickets already sold for the coming season.
“If they want this model to work they have to support it and sometimes it’s thick and thin, but we’ve been fortunate that it’s been playoffs and it’s been exciting and we’ve had NHL-signed players and coaches that are being promoted and asked to work at the World Junior level,” said Paisley. “For a club to have those things, why wouldn’t you want to come and support?”
In addition to the 40-win season, Anholt noted the adversity the team went through in June 2018 when forwards Jordy Bellerive and Ryan Vandervlis as well as former Hurricane Matt Alfaro suffered severe burns in a campfire accident.
Bellerive returned in time for the season, but Vandervlis was sidelined until the New Year before returning to his home town of Red Deer to play Junior B for the Vipers of the Heritage Junior Hockey League.
“Overcoming the adversity of the fire incident showed how resilient our team was and how much support we gave Bellerive, Vandy and Alfaro,” said Anholt. “But along with that I think having six scorers in the top-20 in the league says a lot. I really liked the fact we had so many signed NHL players. I think it says a lot about where you’re going as an organization and that if your players come and play for you they have a chance of coming and being pros. Not only do you want to be successful on the ice, but you want to give your players a good chance to turn pro and I think that says a lot about the organization.”
At the end of March the Hurricanes were bumped from the Enmax Centre when the 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship took over the venue March 30 to April 7.
After playing Games 1 and 2 at the Enmax Centre, the series moved to Nicholas Sheran Arena for Games 5 and 7.
But with the City of Lethbridge compensating the team $85,000 for each game at Nicholas Sheran Arena, the club still made $185,000 from the post season.
“From a business standpoint, we’re fine, but from the hockey standpoint, it hurts,” said Paisely. “But it’s tough to condemn the City to bring in a world-class event like the curling. That’s a one-shot deal, it brings millions of dollars to our community, our business owners and stakeholders in the community. From a hockey standpoint, sure, disappointing.”
“But from a occupier of the City of Lethbridge, it worked out. We have a great partner in the City and that adversity probably helped that relationship and it put us in a better situation to understand each others position in the new lease and we’re in a better place for it now, long-term.”
The Hurricanes the City of Lethbridge have entered into a long-term lease with the ability to renegotiate every five years.
“The percentages are improved and the ability for us to make additional revenue is improved. Could there be pitfalls with higher cost to operate and other things that are outside our control? Yes. So we have some fail safes to make sure we’re stable for a long term.”
The Hurricanes start their 2019-2020 Western Hockey League season Friday night when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at 7 p.m. at the Enmax Centre.
Two new members were named to the Hurricanes board of directors at Monday’s meeting.
Joining the board are Mike Mikado and Adam Zanoni, replacing Mike Wuchterl and Brodie Sheahan.
They are joined by incumbents Cheryl Lane, Tyler Brack and Reid Williams.
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