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Ripple effect of losing the Smithers Steelheads

Town of Smithers and Smithers Minor Hockey will feel the loss of the Steelheads.
Then Steelheads captain Ian Smith holds the championship trophy in 2016 along with Brendan DeVries (left) and last season’s captain Randall Groot (right). Xuyun Zeng photo

The loss of the Steelheads this season will have a ripple effect for Smithers.

While there’s the obvious part of no team equals no fans which translates into no revenue for the team, the potential loss of revenue for the Town of Smithers is the other side of the puck.

Ryan Coltura, recreation coordinator for the Town of Smithers, said the Steelheads used a total of 51 hours of ice time, with the revenue generated from that being just over $11,000.

“One hour of practice a week and then their games every other week,” he said. “As of right now, we’ll be making that time available and hope to find either another user group or a new user that wants to take on that ice time,” he said.

Coltura added it will ultimately be a loss in revenue for the town, but not a significant one.

“The loss of the Steelheads as a group in the community, and that’s going to be felt more so.”

Smithers Minor Hockey will also feel the loss of the Steelheads from a financial and skill level. The association leases the concession stand and approximately 80 per cent of their revenue comes from the Steelheads games. It’s for that reason that the association has cancelled their contract with the Town.

“We have been seriously assessing the profitability of the concession over the last few years and made changes to bring in healthy food choices, hours of operation changes, volunteering requirement changes to better represent our membership etc. Many families value their time and will happily volunteer but we must make it worthwhile, striking the right balance between the 3 main variables we consider: programming implementation and enrichment, fundraising/ affordability and community service; outside of their family and busy work lives.

Profit/service vs. parent time is not worthwhile in this case and we feel confident we can utilize our volunteers’ time more effectively for other fundraising initiatives we have been identifying.

SMHA is not unique to this change as many MHAs no longer run concessions and have been replaced by privately run concessions, due to many variables like food safe requirements which are most important but also restrict the variety of options one can sell without the proper certification.

It was a very difficult decision for us to make.

Citing since most of the revenue from the concession stand is generated from the Steelheads games, it’s not feasible to operate it with that amount of loss.

Meaning the cleaning, stocking of goods and staffing would eat much of their profit margins,” said Suzanne Rourke, president of Smithers Minor Hockey.

Smithers Minor Hockey players will also be affected by the Steelheads departure.

“It is an opportunity for a lot of local kids to see higher level hockey, playing within their own community – that being an opportunity for them to kind of see where the bar can be raised and raise their own bar for their own development.”

Rourke added, “For a lot of our players, they watch the NHL games and that’s really neat, but to see people on their ice that play competitive hockey that’s at a level that is pretty impressive for them has a positive impact in their lives.”

Despite the financial loss, the association is generating ideas for recouping the expected lost revenue. While Rourke is keeping those ideas close to her chest, she and Smithers Minor Hockey are working to address the impact this will have on their budget.

“The discussion on this and its impact on our budget for the year is of great concern for us,” she said.

The profit from the concession stand allowed Smithers Minor Hockey to keep registration costs from rising despite the increasing ice rental costs.

While they are looking at finding alternative fundraising options for this upcoming season, Rourke is not discouraged.

“I do feel confident that we do have a couple of good fundraising options,” she said.

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach is saddened to hear that there won’t be a team this year.

“I’m sad that we’re not going to have a team in our community this coming season, I always enjoyed their games. I wish I could help them out in terms of their roster, but I’m not quite at that caliber of hockey,” he said.

“The Steelheads are a big part of the Smithers community and have been around for a number of years,” added Bachrach.

As reported last week, the Smithers Steelheads will not have a team this season due to lack of player interest.

Coach Tom DeVries said the decision to not have a team this year wasn’t taken lightly.

“We’ve been having meetings about it for the last three, four months — since the season ended,” he said.

For the team to have made it to the ice, they needed at least 15 committed players. For now, the staff will be staying together and will be keeping the bus, sweaters and other equipment.

The team had played over 10 seasons in Smithers. Only time will tell if the Steelheads will take to the ice in the 2018-2019 season but, for now, DeVries remains optimistic.

“We’ll see what happens next year and go from there,” he said. “You just never know — all of a sudden a bunch of guys want to start playing again, playing some competitive hockey, then we’ll give it a shot. We won’t rule it out.”