Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apologies to James Shewaga, the sports editor of the Brandon Sun, and to Kelly McCrimmon, the owner and general manager of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
In a piece that was posted here on Friday, I inadvertently inserted a word into a McCrimmon quote that completely changed its context.
The piece dealt with the Wheat Kings’ season-ticket numbers being down from a year ago.
"With only one week to go until the season opens," Shewaga wrote, "the WHL club is well behind last year's
season ticket pace and getting more than a little concerned. With a total of 2,284 season tickets sold, the Wheat Kings are about 700 shy of last year’s total of 2,973, a number they hoped to surpass this year as expenses continue to rise.”
Shewaga then used this quote from McCrimmon:
“At this point, I’m concerned. I can’t say I’m disappointed because I don’t know yet what our final total will be. But I would say if we don’t reach 3,000 season tickets, I would be very disappointed … We’re hoping to make up ground in the next 10 days to two weeks.”
Unfortunately, I inadvertently inserted “not” into that quote, so that it read: “At this point, I’m not concerned.”
The error was completely unintentional.
What follows is the piece that first appeared here Friday, in its entirety, the way it was meant to have appeared:
You wonder if it’s the canary in the WHL’s coal mine.
James Shewaga, the sports editor of the Brandon Sun, has a column in today’s newspaper that looks at the Wheat Kings’ season-ticket numbers to this point.
As he wrote the piece on Thursday, the Wheat Kings had sold 2,284 season tickets. Last season, they had 2,973 season-ticket holders. Do the math and you realize that they are down 689.

Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ owner and general manager, told Shewaga that “at this point, I’m concerned.”
McCrimmon also said that if they don’t get to 3,000 season tickets, “I would be very disappointed.”
And he should be disappointed because the Wheat Kings have iced a competitive product for a number of years now, and this season promises to be no different.
Later in the column, a quote from McCrimmon practically jumped off the computer screen.
“The reality in the Western Hockey League,” McCrimmon told Shewaga, “is expenses are growing at a much higher rate than our revenues, and that’s a fact.”
Think about that for a moment.
If you’re in business and your expenses are out-pacing your revenues, you are in a spot of trouble. And if you aren’t able to turn the tide, you soon are out of business.
While there are WHL teams out there that are believed to be making a goodly pile of money, there are others that aren’t.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have lost more than $1 million over the last two seasons, including $602,000 in 2011-12.
The Swift Current Broncos have lost in the neighbourhood of $800,000 on their hockey operation in each of the last two seasons. For 2010-11, that number was $882,587. However, off-ice fund-raising, along with corporate sponsorship and suites, left the deficit at $197,226.
For 2009-10, the loss suffered by the hockey operation was $820,688. However, again, money from such things as corporate sponsorships, suites and the World Junior Championship cut the overall deficit to $58,927.
How long will those teams be able to continue to work as hard as they do just to survive?
Or will the WHL have to implement some form of revenue sharing just to enable some of its franchises to survive?

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