The Revelstoke Grizzlies ownership faces an uphill battle as it seeks to dig the hockey team out from under the debt left over from previous years and boost the teams support this year.
And its looking for community and corporate support, and new marketing initiatives to boost fan support and get more bums in the seats at the Revelstoke Forum this season.
The Grizzlies management held a town hall meeting at the community centre on Thursday evening to go over the team’s status and its plans heading into the upcoming season.
The meeting was headed by owner Lew Hendrickson, the team’s manager Steve Smith and volunteer Dennis Berarducci. There were only 19 people in attendance, most of whom were active members of the Revelstoke Grizzlies Society.
Hendrickson began the meeting by stating that Michael Roberts was no longer involved with the team, though Hendrickson acknowledged that Roberts still has an ownership stake.
“Mike Roberts and the people helping him won’t be involved in the team again,” said Hendrickson.
Roberts, who reportedly owns 50 per cent of the team, attempted to sell the team to a group in 100 Mile House in April – a move that was thwarted by the Revelstoke Grizzlies Society.
Hendrickson said he was working on buying out Roberts, but still getting Roberts to pay his portion of the team’s $70,000 debt.
“Once we have a legal solution he won’t be involved,” said Hendrickson. “I have personally asked Mr. Roberts to give me some money so he can go away and I can pay off some people. We’re not there yet.”
He said he didn’t pay much attention to the team’s financial situation last year, even though he was a minority owner.
“I didn’t pay attention to the financial status and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Mike,” said Hendrickson. “I tried to help him but he wanted to do everything himself, and there’s probably a reason for that.
“I wasn’t aware of the state of affairs.”
The meeting also served as a forum for the new management group to get out its message for the upcoming season and rally support. The team has set a goal of 200 season ticket sales. If it’s reached, there will be a raffle for a houseboat vacation.
A group of volunteers has been assembled to work the games and Smith has been reaching out to the business community to gain corporate support for the team.
On the hockey front, Greg Austin has been added to the coaching staff. As well, seven locals have made the cut and will be taking part in the Grizzlies pre-season starting at the end of the month.
“From a local kids representation, I had a little hard work convincing Kevin that we should go that way but I think it’s important,” said Hendrickson. “The kids have nowhere else to play here. Once they get out of Midget they’re done – and we don’t even have a Midget team.”
He later acknowledged that could be at the cost of wins and said it could be a re-building year after three straight division titles.
Smith, meanwhile, said he would focus on getting the players involved in the community, help them with school and with finding work.
“I want us to return the Grizzlies to the time where they’d go and play floor hockey at schools and do buddy reading,” he said. “We have to get back to the core values of what makes a Revelstoke Grizzly.”
Not all is roses. The team still has to climb out of its $70,000 debt hole, and earn the estimated $200,000 it takes to operate the team. The off-season turmoil has also delayed the launch of operations and only 10 season tickets have been sold so far.
“We’re just not 100 per cent organized,” said Hendrickson.
Roma Threatful thanked Hendrickson for taking over the team and working to pay off the debts.
“It’s a long winter in Revelstoke without hockey to go to,” she said. “I want to say thank you because it’s not an easy mess to clean up.”