Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shareholders hear about Hurricanes

The Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the WHL's community-owned teams, have the poorest record in the 22-team league. The franchise is struggling on the ice, as well as off the ice.
The Hurricanes held their annual midseason shareholders' meeting on Thursday night. Pat Siedlecki, the play-by-play voice of the Hurricanes and the news director at 94.1 CJOC, tweeted during the meeting.
What follows is a compilation of Siedlecki's tweets, in order, and it provides a pretty good feel for what happened during the meeting:
Lethbridge Hurricanes President Brian McNaughton: "This is not a rebuild. It's a re-set of our organization."
McNaughton also says restructuring of the Hurricanes lease with the ENMAX Centre will likely be done in 3-4 weeks.
Hurricanes Business Manager Terry Huisman: "Attendance at Hurricanes games is down 20% this season."
Huisman: "Hurricanes are trending an average of 660 fans less per game from last season. That impacts our bottom line significantly."
Huisman: "We have run into cash flow issues. Working with banks to secure that. Our debt has not increased."
McNaughton: "We've secured a line of credit with Servus Credit Union. We are not over budget. We are just short cash."
McNaughton: "Our total current operating debt is around $100,000."
McNaughton: "We are working hard to get to break even" (by the end of the season).
Hurricanes Head Coach Drake Berehowsky: "We've begun changing the character. I know it's been frustrating. It's a process that takes time."
McNaughton: "I feel extremely confident we're going in the right direction. I feel as good about the team now as I have in the last 5 years."
McNaughton: "I don't believe the Board interferes. We support our staff."
Shareholders are asking about selling the hockey club. One suggested that maybe it's time the Canes become a privately run club.
McNaughton: "I understand the frustration. None of us are happy with what's happened."
McNaughton: "We have to do a better job. We believe we have the right people in place to turn this thing around now."
Adele Barrington, Hurricanes Board Member: "You don't know how lucky you are to have Brian McNaughton on this board."
General manager Brad Robson: "This has been frustrating. It hasn't been easy. There's been a lot of sleepless nights. We're doing our best."
Paul Kingsmith of Global TV also attended the meeting in Lethbridge. He touched on a few things in some tweets:
#WHLCanes President McNaughton says the team is $100,000 in debt, but has lost $1Million over 5 years.
A suggestion by a shareholder of selling the #WHLCanes gets a round of applause.
McNaughton: "Kris Versteeg never approached the board of directors."
McNaughton: "There's never been a (purchase) offer presented to the board of the Lethbridge Hurricanes."
(For more, visit Siedlecki's blog Hurricane Watch over there on the right.)
After Kingsmith's last tweet, former player Brody Sutter (@Sutts19) tweeted: "@paulkingsmith hard to make an offer to buy the team when potential owners are immediately told the team is not for sale. #SelltheCanes"
So . . . what's going on with Lethbridge Hurricanes assistant coach Brad Lukowich?
Lukowich, in his first season as an assistant coach with the Hurricanes, missed practice again on Thursday. He has been missing all week.
Paul Kingsmith of Global TV tweeted Thursday afternoon that head coach Drake Berehowsky said: "He's sick." . . . According to Kingsmith, Berehowsky was "asked if he believes it," and replied: "that's what I've been told so . . .' "
However, during last night's shareholders' meeting general manager Brad Robson contradicted the head coach.
According to a tweet from Pat Siedlecki (radiopat258), the radio voice of the Hurricanes, Robson told the gathering that Lukowich "is not sick. He's fine. We won't discuss this though in the public."
One source told me last night that Lukowich “is taking some time off” and that he’ll have a different title when he returns.
“He and Berehowsky (haven’t) been on the same page,” the source said.
(Late last night, Kingsmith posted a story that is right here. In the story, Robson admits that Lukowich has left the team. “He’s meeting with his family right now in regards to where he’s going with his hockey career,” Robson told Kingsmith, “and we’ll sit down (today) and re-hash and that’s about it.”)
"Former Portland Timbers forward Eddie Johnson has filed a $9.9 million personal injury lawsuit against the Timbers, claiming that the team and its doctors allowed him to return to practice while he was still suffering from concussion symptoms," reports Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian. "The nine-page lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, claims that negligence by the Timbers and their doctors caused Johnson to suffer 'serious and permanent traumatic head and brain injuries.' " . . . Goldberg's complete report is right here.
The Kootenay Ice held Sam Reinhart Bobblehead Night last weekend, giving away 950 of the popular promotional items. The neat thing is that each of the Reinhart bobbleheads had been autographed by the Ice's third-year star. . . . So, you're wondering, how long does it take to sign 950 bobbleheads? . . . According to the Kootenay News Advertiser, "Sam took over five hours to complete the task."
The Vancouver Giants will stage quite a celebration on Feb. 15 as they induct former captain Brendan Gallagher into their Ring of Honour. Gallagher, a stalwart with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, is the Giants' all-time leading scorer. . . . Gallagher was a ninth-round selection in the WHL's 2007 bantam draft. He holds team records for goals (136) and points (280) in a career. . . . The Canadiens selected him in the fifth round of the NHL's 2010 draft. . . . According to a Giants news release: "The first 5,000 fans at the Saturday, Feb. 15 game vs. the Portland Winterhawks (7 p.m. faceoff) will receive a commemorative 8x10 collector piece, while 111 random fans will get to meet Brendan during the game."
F Johnny Wesley, a 16-year-old from Semiahmoo, B.C., whose WHL rights belong to the Vancouver Giants, says he will play next season for the BCHL's Langley Rivermen. Wesley, who was placed on the Giants' protected list last year, is playing for the Richmond Sockeyes of the Pacific International junior league. He has 45 points, incouding 21 goals, in 39 games in his freshman junior B season.
D Sam Grist of the Kamloops Blazers won't play tonight against the visiting Victoria Royals. Grist has drawn a one-game suspension for a hit on F Reid Petryk of the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday night. Grist was given an interference major and a game misconduct on the play. Petryk needed help on the ice, but was back during the ensuing power play. . . . F Logan Nelson of the Victoria Royals drew a two-game suspension under supplemental discipline for a charging incident against the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday night. Nelson sat out Wednesday's game against the Hitmen -- the Victoria Times Colonist reported that he sat "due to an injury" -- so also will sit tonight in Kamloops.
Ralph Kiner, a Hall of Fame baseball player and a legendary broadcaster, died Thursday. He was 91. Richard Sandomir of the The New York Times has more on Kiner right here, including an anecdote that involves actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
Over at Yahoo! Sports, Sunaya Sapurji has an interesting piece that carries this headline -- Size matters: Are small towns being pushed to the OHL’s fringes? . . . While the story, which is right here, is about big versus small in the OHL, you can easily change some of the names and relate this story to the WHL. It is a day-to-day struggle for the small-market franchises in major junior hockey and they take a real hit when they miss the playoffs, thus aren’t able to bring in any playoff revenue. . . . I always will remember my final conversation with the late Ed Chynoweth, the former WHL president who by then owned the Kootenay Ice. He suggested that the WHL, with team expenses rising and new sources of revenue hard to come by, should have been looking at some form of revenue sharing. Sure, he had a vested interested, the Cranbrook-based Ice being a small-market team, but things haven’t changed since the day in 2007 when that conversation took place. In other words, it’s still a battle to survive for some of those teams.
After 12 years with the Saskatoon Blades, assistant general manager Jarrod Brodsky has left the WHL franchise. He is the son of former Blades co-owner Bob Brodsky, who sold the team to Mike Priestner of Edmonton earlier this season. . . . The Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more right here.
THURSDAY’S WHL GAMES (all times local):
No games scheduled.
Moose Jaw at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.
Swift Current at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Kootenay at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Victoria at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Red Deer at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Portland at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m.
Calgary at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.
Spokane at Seattle, 7:35 p.m.
Through games of Nov. 30, the Everett Silvertips were 20-4-4, with 17 of those victories coming in regulation time. Since then, the Silvertips are 6-16-4, with three regulation-time victories. . . . The Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings meet the Rockets in Kelowna tonight. The Rockets lead the WHL’s overall standings. Interestingly, the Oil Kings are 7-1-0 in games played in the B.C. Division this season. The only loss? The Rockets beat them 2-0 in Kelowna on Nov. 9.

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