BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb made headlines last week, suggesting that financially troubled teams could fold due to COVID-19 if the junior A hockey league doesn’t receive financial aid.
The hockey boss laid out a worst-case scenario that even included the possibility that the 2020-21 season might not go ahead.
He suggested some teams might be forced to take a ‘hiatus,’ and never come back.
But here in Chilliwack, the Chiefs say they’re in good shape to ride out the storm.
“Well we’re not folding, I can tell you that much,” said Brian Maloney, the team’s head coach and general manager of hockey ops and the Chilliwack Coliseum. “Obviously there are tons of unknowns here with the league and teams within the league, and a lot of it is just people speculating, I’m sure.
“Things could change. We could fire up at the end of the month, or we might not fire up until halfway through the year. But over the last few years we’ve done a good job cleaning up our expenses, managing our budget and putting ourselves in a position where we’re fine right now.”
The Chiefs bowed out of the 2019-20 playoffs in the first round, and thus weren’t affected when the remaining three rounds were cancelled. The eight teams that were still in the hunt for the Fred Page Cup lost anywhere from two to 12 home games worth of revenue, depending on how far they advanced.
The Chiefs, and every other league, will likely lose dollars from the cancellation of pay-to-play spring and summer camps.
Where Chilliwack could take a significant bottom line hit is in sponsorship for next season. With local businesses feeling the pain of the COVID-19 induced shutdown, business owners may feel compelled to pull back on ‘discretionary spending.’
Sponsoring the local hockey club is a nice thing to do, but when there’s a stack of bills to be paid and little money left to pay them, tough calls have to be made.
But Barry Douglas, who runs the business side, says so far the Chiefs’ business partners are sticking with them.
“We’ve had great conversations with our partners, and most of them want to be involved with the Chiefs again, but it’s a wait-and-see approach like everything else right now,” he said. “They’ve shown they really want to support the team when hockey starts back up again.”
As Hebb laid out his doomsday scenario, he urged BCHL teams to reach out to their municipal governments, and get those people pushing senior levels of government for help.
“The economic impact that our team has in the community is important,” Douglas said. “With the restaurants and hotels and gas and the building as well – we provide jobs for local people – when we do get back up and running that economic impact will return.”
And when the world does emerge from the pandemic and people try to get ‘back to normal,’ Maloney believes the Chiefs will play a big role.
“If we can get through this, I think people are going to be excited about getting out of their living rooms and coming to the rink to support their local team,” he surmised. “Everyone needs sports. Not just hockey. It’s especially important for kids to get out and interact socially, and if we can open up and create some camps and some positive atmosphere, it’s only going to benefit everyone.”