LETHBRIDGE – 2017-18 was another good season on the ice for the Lethbridge Hurricanes hockey team, and it was another good season for the team financially as well.
At the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Shareholders held on Monday, Sept. 17 in the Canadian Western Bank Lounge at the ENMAX Centre it was revealed that the team turned a profit of $422,443.
While that was less than the previous season, it did factor in a debenture payment of $167,000 to the City of Lethbridge for upgrades done in previous years.
It was also the second straight season the team turned a profit, due in part to another successful run in the postseason.
That financial success made for a quiet year for the Board of Directors, according to President Doug Paisley.
“The business ran itself, and the hockey operations took care of itself. The questions of all the uncertainties are settled down, kids want to play here, and they’re lined up to sign. The franchise is something to be proud of now and the shareholders are proud about it.”
The Hurricanes 2017-18 regular season was full of ups and downs, leading to a 33-33-6-0 record.
It saw the club trade away captain Giorgio Estephan and starting goaltender Stuart Skinner to the Swift Current Broncos, but the vision of General Manager Peter Anholt and Head Coach Brent Kisio was for the future and it paid off in spades during the postseason.
Lethbridge dispatched the Red Deer Rebels in five games during the 1st round and followed that up with another five-game series victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2nd round.
Fate would bring the two trading partners, the Hurricanes and the Broncos, together for an Eastern Conference Final showdown that saw Swift Current advance to the WHL Final in six games.
Paisley says with that level of success, the biggest frustration level for shareholders is what they’re doing for playoffs this year.
“It’s not are we going to make it, that’s their mindset. I mean you got to prove it, you got to win, but their mindset is ‘we’ve seen it and we’re good’.”
The 2019 World Men's Curling Championship will be taking over the ENMAX Centre between Mar. 30, 2019 and Apr. 7, 2019.
General Manager Peter Anholt revealed at the meeting that the plan for the team tentatively, and a lot will depend on the schedule once the playoffs roll around, is for the team to play at Nicolas Sheran Arena.
“We’ve talked to a lot of other teams that have moved from their venue to another venue outside of their city, and it doesn’t work. We’ve got the Nicolas Sheran, it’s not perfect, there’s going to be some unhappy fans and unhappy advertisers, but we’ll deal with it,” Anholt said.
Ultimately the dressing room facilities are good, the on-ice part will be good so from a player standpoint it will be a challenge but it’s going to be fine according to Anholt.
“We’ll have to deal with the fan experience, and we’ll work through all of those things. We’ve got a long time to work through all that, and we will.”
Other positive key points for the Hurricanes included an increase in ticket sales by $30,000 compared to the 16-17 season, a two percent attendance increase of 3,772 a game, and 2,230 season ticket holders as of Sept. 1.
It’s been a long road back to relevance for the Lethbridge Hurricanes during the past ten years, on the ice and financially.
In 2007-08, Lethbridge advanced to the WHL final and that was followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference Final during the 2008-09 season.
Six straight seasons out of the playoffs would follow, as the team saw a combined loss of $1.25 million from 2009-10 to 2011-12 and a loss of $486,000 in 2014-15, but those days are now firmly in the past.
“We have a pretty good understanding of what the regular season needs to be, obviously we ratify a budget that [GM of Business Operations] Terry Huisman and Peter Anholt prepare and present. We have questions and concerns, but at the end of the day, we know where the number needs to be. As long as Peter’s product on the ice and development continues to be there, Terry can sell tickets,” Paisley said, adding at the end of a regular season they’re going to be really close to breaking even and the rest is profit.
When it comes to the upcoming season, expectations are going to heightened among the fan base again with the regular season around the corner.
General Manager Peter Anholt says anyone that knows him knows that he always has high expectations as well.
“I think that we have good players and they expect to the best. In the dressing room, they want to be the best, they want to be the best in the league and we’ve just got to two Eastern Conference finals [in a row]. It’s hard to get there, but we also feel we’ve got the road scars and experience to maybe push ourselves to another level. There are a lot of good teams and it’s hard to win in this league, but I think the benchmark has pretty much been set.”
One of the players the Hurricanes will be counting on if they’re going to take that next step will be forward Dylan Cozens, who was recently ranked #2 on TSN’s 2019 pre-season draft rankings.
That can be an exciting thing for the player, and for fans, but Anholt says they need to be a little careful about their excitement for him.
“Hey, we’re excited for him, we love Dylan Cozens and we think he’s a great player. With that, there’s a lot of added pressure too.”
“I think it’s important for us to build and continue to have good players around Cozens because it’s not just about him, it’s about the Lethbridge Hurricanes,” Anholt continued. “We’re proud to have Dylan Cozens on our team, and how he’s developed as a player and a person, but we’ll really see how having a top 10 pick on your team brings the focus to your team and that player a lot more."
There’s going to be some added pressure for Cozens this season, but Anholt hopes they can give him enough support to handle that.
Another big-ticket item concerning the Hurricanes is the upcoming Memorial Cup bid in October.
Paisley says the board is very excited about the prospect.
“It’s been a long time since a community-owned franchise has hosted, I think the last one in the Western League was Kamloops and the only other one was out in the OHL. We think we have an extremely good chance, Peter has stocked the pipeline and the cupboards are full. I think the depth chart is very important, and I think it’s one of if not the most paramount thing. The money is important of course, but you saw the city step up and support, and we expect the province to step up and support. I don’t think there’s any reason we shouldn’t be a legitimate contender for this,” Paisley said.
As far as Anholt is concerned with the bid from management’s perspective, he’s cautiously optimistic.
“I think there’s a feeling that our team is positioned as good as anybody to at least host it, but we’ve got lots of work to do,” Anholt continued. “I’m not saying we’re ready to host it right away, but because of all the new facilities around the city, our rink the way it is, and the relative success we’ve had in the last couple of years I think there’s a feeling that we’re poised to be able to host it.”
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