The news wasn’t as positive as could be at the Moose Jaw Warriors' annual general meeting on Tuesday morning, but have no fear Western Hockey League fans, the team isn’t packing up and moving to Weyburn any time soon.
The Warriors posted an overall loss of $106,719 for the past fiscal year from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022, with a host of factors playing into the deficit -- the vast majority relating to the pandemic and the various issues that has caused.
The good news is the team’s bank balance is still healthy at $806,292, with $530,675 in outstanding loans for an overall net cash total of $275,617.
“The message to the Moose Jaw fans and our community is that we’re still coming out of the COVID days,” said Warriors president Chad Taylor. “With last year’s market there were lots of challenges and we’re facing lots of challenges this year. We’re not going to escape inflation, travel costs are going up, arena costs are going up, everything we purchase to run the hockey club is all going up.
“We have to find a way to be efficient and balance the budget, but then in the same respects, we have to make sure we’re supporting our club and providing the resources so we have a good hockey team.”
The Warriors would have actually shown a profit if not for one extraordinary item -- a $150,000 contribution to the team’s education fund, which offers players a year of post-secondary education expenses for each season played in a league.
It’s a wildly popular program, one that sees heavy use by every team in the league, and as a result, the Warriors weren’t about to let its bank balance reach a dangerous level..
“The education fund is a million dollar liability for the club, so it’s important for the organization to make sure the funds are in that account and make sure we can support the past players,” Taylor said. “At the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do, making sure the funds are put aside and in the future the guys have their school looked after.”
As for finding ways to increase revenue flow in coming seasons, one area the Warriors will be looking to improve on is their season-ticket support and overall attendance. Crowds were quite a bit smaller during the 2021-22 season at the Moose Jaw Events Centre in the first part of the season, with the coronavirus playing a large part in that.
Now that things have cleared up on that front, the team hopes fans naturally return to games, with the Warriors themselves aiming to help that process along, especially when it comes to restoring the number of season ticket holders to its former glory.
“That’s the big secret that we’re all looking for in every aspect,” Taylor said. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to have a good season ticket base, and there are lots of clubs who have been envious of our season-ticket base in the past. So we have to find a way to get kids engaged and make sure they’re enjoying coming to hockey games and it’s all about a great experience. There are different aspects to that, but at the end of the day it’s selling 34 games a year and making it a little different each night.
“We want everyone to be passionate about the club whether they’re good or bad," Taylor added.
The good news is that even with financial concerns as they are, the Warriors are still plenty optimistic about the future. The on-ice product is extremely promising for the foreseeable future, and on top of life returning to normal is a major ray of hope.
But that’s not to say the team won’t make changes if necessary, as has been the case in many WHL markets in recent years.
“The thing about Moose Jaw is that we always find a way to come together and make things work,” Taylor said. “I do have concerns about the cost of going to a hockey game and we’ve done everything in our power to make sure we’re aware of that. We look at some other markets and see how things are escalating, and we don’t want to go there, we want to make sure this team is a good value… We have the next six months to figure things out, and if we have increases they’ll be incremental.”
The Warriors board of directors saw a trio of familiar faces return to the group, with Kelvin Bradford, Scott Wray and Troy Williams the only three to file for nomination and thereby receive their positions by acclamation.
The Warriors are currently preparing for the WHL regular season, with their season opener set for Friday night in Regina before the home opener takings place on Saturday at the Moose Jaw Events Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.