LETHBRIDGE - Optimism, and the sense of an organization traveling down the right road, filled the room at the 32nd Annual General Meeting of the Shareholders for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
A net deficit that was once $411,710 is now a surplus of $320,000 after the team turned a profit of $731,710 during the 2016-17 season.
The 44-win regular season last year was coupled with a playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final that ended in six games against the Regina Pats. Fans got their money's worth during the run, with a pair of series going the full seven games against the Red Deer Rebels in the first round and the Medicine Hat Tigers in the second round. The team did as well, with a net income of $685,000 for the playoffs.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves, the success on the ice leads to success for the financials off of it," said Board of Directors President, Doug Paisley. "The job that Peter [Anholt] has done with his staff, the team we put on the ice, the engagement to the fans and the people we have in the building have been fantastic. It's really positive, and this is a heck of a night for us. To have our auditor get up there and tell the shareholders we have eliminated all of the critical concerns from year's past is positive on all accounts."
The Hurricanes have come a long way from the serious financial trouble the team was in for a while.
A trip to the WHL final in 2007-08 was followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference Final during the 2008-09 season, but what would follow that was six straight seasons out of the playoffs. The Hurricanes saw a combined loss of $1.25 million from 2009-10 to 2011-12, and a loss of $486,000 in 2014-15.
The 2015-16 season saw the beginning of a turnaround, with General Manager Peter Anholt and Head Coach Brent Kisio leading the way. A first-place finish in the Central Division helped the team present a profit of $197,000, an overall turnaround of $683,000 from the previous year.
"We dug in to make things better, and there was some luck involved but we made the right first move in hiring Peter and things have really turned around for us," stated Paisley. "When you look at what we talked about a few years ago, we said what will save this franchise is 3,500 or 3,600 a night and we had over 3,700 on average last year. Kudos to the people of Lethbridge for coming back and supporting their team, that's why we're back in the black and these kids really deserve it."
Attendance had also been an issue for the team due to the poor results during those years.
In the 2012-13 season, attendance sat at an average of 3,650 before plummeting to 3,089 in 2013-14 and 3,010 in 2014-15. Like the revenues, the return to prominence in 2015-16 saw attendance rise to 3,746 per game. (Attendance stats reference)
It was revealed on Tuesday night that the 2016-17 season also saw attendance above the 3,700 mark again.
GM of Business Operations, Terry Huisman, also told those in attendance that season ticket holders had increased by 90-per cent ahead of the upcoming season, up to 2,125 from 1,950 last season.
"You listen to stories all over the league and you hear about declining season ticket numbers everywhere, so it's a real feel good for us to know that people are still interested and invested in this team," Huisman said.
The positive financial news wouldn't be possible without the success on the ice, and a lot of that success falls on Anholt, but he's not satisfied yet, and said on Tuesday night that the team is looking to take it to the next level.
"Winning on the ice is one thing, but there's a lot of other benchmarks that are important to me when I look at our franchise. How many of your players get drafted, how many of them turn pro, do members of your coaching staff get opportunities to move up in the hockey world? These are all important things for model franchises around the CHL and it's where we have to get to," said Anholt.
In discussing Hurricanes players turning pro with shareholders, Anholt talked about the impact Stuart Skinner, Jordy Bellerive, and Giorgio Estephan are having at NHL camps right now.
"I'm not surprised that these guys are having success. Skinner is such a quality goaltender, and we're going to need him to be real good for us especially early in the season," Anholt continued to say. "When it comes to Jordy, he's got a real burr under his saddle right now, and he's out to prove to people that they made a mistake in not drafting him last year and so far so good."
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