NORTH PERTH – A delegation from Listowel Minor Hockey approached council to ask for some relief for its financial woes on Sept. 13.
Claude Leroux, president of Listowel Minor Hockey, told council they have been trying to find ways to provide the most quality, affordable, inclusive minor sports available to local members or local families.
Currently, there are 295 registrants from about 200 families and it’s operated by 17 volunteers.
“I’ve been on the executive for Listowel Minor Hockey going on eight years and I’ve held many different titles and roles and done all kinds of different things,” said Leroux. “One of the largest challenges we’ve had for the last approximately six years is either not running a deficit or just simply trying to break even as an organization.”
Leroux said hockey is not only on the top of the list as one of the most expensive sports to play, but it’s also one of the most expensive sports to provide as well.
“What we’ve seen is we’re at a level where we have had to significantly increase the registration costs to local families to a point now where we believe it’s nearly unsustainable to the average family,” he said. “We try to find ways to work around it. We have, and we’re very lucky to have sponsorship from many local businesses, many local families and some other large-scale corporations that also provide much relief to help reduce costs for our younger age groups.”
He pointed out that Meulensteen Tire provides a program to nearly make hockey free for the younger players, but as they get older the costs start to rise.
“Our entire goal is to keep the kids in hockey as long as possible,” said Leroux. “So some of the programs that we’ve been looking at are things that will help us provide the most revenue to be able to break even… the biggest one we had was two years ago in the area of roughly $25,000 in deficit. It came to that value simply because we were trying to increase registration costs without providing some shock effect for local families by increasing registration several hundred dollars a year but… we’re getting to a point where we’re going to be very expensive this year.”
He said they have looked at different programs and they are to have an executive that volunteer and are willing to help run the programs that help bring the most revenue back.
He said there is a committee that’s ready to start operating the food booth at the arena.
“We do have some logistical challenges to overcome to do that well but we realize that is probably a positive net for us,” said Leroux. “The second one is running several tournaments instead of just one that we typically do. We’re looking at running two or three.”
Tournaments not only bring in quite a bit of funding to minor hockey but potentially also to the arena and the local community.
“The challenge of previous years was having volunteers helping us run some of these,” he said. “As you can tell a tournament is quite a challenge to run for a small number of people. We’ve implemented a program this year called a bond program where all members, all families within minor hockey are required to provide up to three hours of volunteer hours to us or we would cash a $500 cheque of theirs.”
The message he wants all families to understand is they don’t want to cash the cheques at all, they simply want the hours.
“What that has done is it allowed us to build a council or a small committee of eight members that are developing a plan to implement two, if not three tournaments this year,” said Leroux. “These generate several thousand dollars in revenue.”
He said as president, his main focus is to reduce that registration cheque for families.
“We look at all facets,” he said. “One of them that comes back is the ice costs. We are all aware of what the ice costs are. You voted on them and accepted those costs but us as a… customer of the municipality… We’d rather see ourselves as a true partner to North Perth.”
Leroux said they have looked at their partners in other communities and have seen there is some relief offered to some other centres.
“I want to leave my post as the president to the next president with not only a full stable of executives but also a strong organization and something to build on even further than what we already have in this community,” he said. “So what we are looking for and what we are trying to talk about is some form of relief on the cost of ice. That is one of the remaining stones that we haven’t been able to flip over yet and that’s why we are here today.”
“Our big struggle here is hockey used to be Canada’s game,” said Stephen Hurst, town contact for Listowel Minor Hockey. “Listowel had quite the name in hockey and that’s no longer the case. Our numbers over the last five or six years have dwindled from almost 400 registrants down to the current 295 and it’s a struggle.”
The major cost in minor hockey is ice time.
“It’s probably about 60 per cent, 65 per cent of our cost,” he said. “We’re expected to have a bill for about $220,000 this year to provide ice time to our registrants.”
He said they are asking council to help them with relief and maybe create a Listowel Minor Hockey fee that’s at a rate of 80 to 90 per cent of what is currently charged.
“We expect that to provide us relief of about $20,000 to $30,000 per year,” said Hurst. “Our long- term goal is though if we can keep our costs down. Get our registrants up. We’ll end up adding ice times and more ice times added will be fees back into Listowel and back to the town.”
He mentioned a partnership they have established with Bauer this year to try to attract kids that have not played hockey between the ages of six and 10.
“Bauer will come in for a minimal fee and outfit these players,” said Hurst. “As an organization, we provide ice time for these players and we try to get them into the system and stay in hockey but the long-term fight is going to be costs again.”
Leroux summed up the delegation stating they are looking for some form of relief but they are trying to get more ice time by running more tournaments and hoping to generate revenue for the town.
Coun. Matt Richardson wondered if it would be beneficial to get advice from the Recreational Advisory Committee (RAC) as they establish rates for ice times.
“I can certainly appreciate your plight,’ he said. “ But I do believe it does need a little bit more analysis of cost.”
Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen agreed with Richardson, suggested that the consideration would also have to look into the need for figure skating clubs too.
“I feel that if we are going to do it for one recreational group we might have to consider other recreational groups and that would have to be weighed into the decision,” she said. “That would be my feeling in terms of fairness.”
Coun. Julie Behrns also weighed in with agreement for both points raised by council members.
“To be perfectly clear… but my understanding was we already had a minor sports rate that had a reduction from the percentage of what we would normally charge but that can be clarified at a later date,” she said.
Council passed a motion to delegate to RAC that they prepare a report to look at opportunities to support, engage and subsidize all ice sports in all facilities in North Perth.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner