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Klippers, WHL clubs in money trouble

The Kindersley Klippers are on their last financial legs in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. On July 23, Kindersley Mayor John Enns-Wind announced the Klippers are $80,595.61 in debt to the town of Kindersley.

The Kindersley Klippers are on their last financial legs in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

On July 23, Kindersley Mayor John Enns-Wind announced the Klippers are $80,595.61 in debt to the town of Kindersley. He went on to state the Klippers have agreed to pay back the town $500 after each game and will pay off the total debt within three years.

"As I have said elsewhere, I believe the Klippers are important to the Town but they must be sustainable," said Enns-Wind. "The Klippers are trying to turn things around but need the fans support. If the Klippers' fan base is unwilling to support the team through this modest opportunity to help, which is open to everyone who is a fan, then perhaps the Klippers need to make some hard choices in the spring."

Based on Enns-Wind's comments, it seems the Klippers will fold unless the team can take significant steps forward in their balance sheets this year. A move is possible; however, there doesn't appear to be a Saskatchewan city ready to take on an SJHL club. Warman attempted to bring a team to their city, but after garnering not near enough interest from the community, it doesn't seem they are ready for a junior team.

A sure sign of the Klippers' financial situation being in an emergency state is that they are collecting donations at the door. Enns-Wind is encouraging Klippers fans to throw a dollar or two into their donation bucket at every game.

The Klippers, who finished third last in attendance last season with a 591 average, have the cheapest season tickets in the SJHL. It would make sense for them to raise those tickets to help take care of their debt. But it appears the team's ticket prices won't take much of a hike because the organization is fearful that could lead to a drop in season-ticket holders.

Based on attendance numbers, one has to assume the Notre Dame Hounds and Lac La Ronge Ice Wolves are in a bit of money trouble as they finished last and second last respectively. At this point, it is simply speculation, though. Neither team has released financial reports to verify this assumption.

On the Western Hockey League front, there are a handful of teams in the red.

The Prince George Cougars seem to be in the worst financial shape of the major junior clubs. Their attendance has steadily dropped by significant margins. In 1998-99, they averaged 5,824 people a game. Ten years later, their attendance average dropped by 3,009, averaging 2,815 people per game. This year, the Cougars' attendance hit an all-time low at only 1,840 people per game, which was dead last in the WHL.

The Cougars have been open about their financial woes. Back in 2011, vice president Brandi Brodsky told the Prince George Citizen, "We've been losing money the last few years, large amounts, and we just can't continue to have that happen," Brodsky said.

This upcoming season the Cougars are celebrating 20 years as a franchise as they joined the WHL in 1994. Prince George hockey fans should enjoy it since all signs point to the team moving sometime in the near future.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes are up against the financial wall. The club announced a loss of $602,000 for the 2011-12 season and $1.25 million over the previous three seasons.

Lethbridge's problems seem to stem from multiple issues. They had a failed marketing campaign in 2011, which included selling tickets at a 25 per cent discount, and their arena, the Enmax Centre, has been under renovations. In addition, they haven't generated playoff revenue in the past five years.

The Swift Current Broncos, who finished second last in attendance last year with a 2,178 average, are in the worst financial shape among the five WHL clubs in Sask. The organization, which plays in the smallest CHL market of roughly 15,000 people, announced a loss of approximately $200,000 in 2010-11 and $50,000 the year before.

Although the Kootenay Ice hasn't revealed their balance sheets, they appear to be in not-so-hot shape. The major junior club, which plays in Cranbook, B.C., finished third last in attendance last year with a 2,411 average. For the last six years, they have averaged less than 3,000 people a game.

Yahoo! Sports reported in February that Ice majority owner Jeff Chynoweth had talks with True North Sports, the Winnipeg Jets ownership group, about a possible sale. The media outlet went onto state talks didn't go far because the two sides were far apart on the value of the team. It's believed the Ice aren't for sale, but at the right price, Chynoweth would listen.

Besides True North Sports, the city of Nanaimo, B.C. has expressed interest in being a relocation destination for a Dub club. The city, however, has to build an up-to-par arena to recruit a team.

Nanaimo's 1,130-attendance average this past year with their BCHL club, the Clippers, is somewhat of a concern, though. The Clippers' barn, the Frank Crane Arena, only filled up to an average of 38 percent in a year that entailed a lot of excitement with them hosting the Western Canada Cup.

Nevertheless, precedents show a new arena spikes attendance. The Moose Jaw Warriors' attendance average went up from 2,655 in 2010-11 to 3,898 in 2011-12 when they moved from the Crushed Can to Mosaic Place. Not to mention, the improved on-ice product from the BCHL to the WHL and excitement of watching high-end NHL prospects will improve ticket sales.