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Yorkton Terriers hockey team at risk of folding due to poor attendance

The Yorkton Terriers play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The team says it is at risk of not being able to finish the season due to financial issues. (Submitted by Corvyn Neufeld - image credit)
The Yorkton Terriers play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The team says it is at risk of not being able to finish the season due to financial issues. (Submitted by Corvyn Neufeld - image credit)

A team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) says it is at risk of folding due to a lack of cash flow.

The Yorkton Terriers issued a news release on Saturday stating the team was in a "dire" financial situation.

"Last month we were looking at our financial situation projections for the rest of the season, and we found ourselves in a spot where we were literally out of money," team president Corvyn Neufeld told CBC News.

"So we need the community to step up and help us finish the season."

Neufeld said the main reason for the financial woes is dwindling attendance in recent years. The average attendance for games this season has been around 650 people, but the team needs approximately 1,000 to 1,100 spectators to break even.

"There's a risk that we won't be able to finish the season," Neufeld said.

Yorkton is about 175 kilometres northeast of Regina. The Terrier's have been Yorkton's Junior A Hockey team for more than 50 years. The organization has won several SJHL titles in addition to the 2014 RBC Cup — Canada's National Junior A Championship.

"I just can't imagine not having that [team] being a fabric of our community," Neufeld said.

Yorkton Terriers captain, Devon McMullen, hoists the RBC Cup after a thrilling overtime win.
Yorkton Terriers captain, Devon McMullen, hoists the RBC Cup after a thrilling overtime win.

Former Yorkton Terriers captain, Devon McMullen, hoists the RBC Cup in 2014 after a thrilling overtime win. (Andy Devlin/Hockey Canada)

Running a hockey team is expensive: Neufeld

Neufeld said running a Junior A Hockey team is more expensive than some might think.

He estimated the annual operating cost for the Terriers is more than $700,000. That number includes equipment, hotels, travel, ice-time and paying for billet families.

SJHL commissioner Kyle McIntyre said he was shocked when he saw the Terrier's news release. He said the Terriers aren't alone in having trouble with funding and struggling to fill seats, but he isn't aware of any other teams in the league at risk of folding.

"It takes a lot of money to run a junior A franchise, teams have always got to have multiple ways of raising funds to pay the bills and make sure the players are having a good experience," McIntyre said.

Chinook School Division director of education Kyle McIntyre said he's alarmed by the high number of COVID-19 cases in the region's Hutterite communities. He's meeting this week with community leaders to discuss protocols for their back to school plan.
Chinook School Division director of education Kyle McIntyre said he's alarmed by the high number of COVID-19 cases in the region's Hutterite communities. He's meeting this week with community leaders to discuss protocols for their back to school plan.

Kyle McIntyre is the commissioner of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He was shocked to hear the Yorkton Terriers are at risk of not finishing the season. (Submitted by Chinook School Division)

McIntyre said the Yorkton Terriers team has a long tradition and he thinks fans will respond to the team's call for help.

"I played junior there for two years and and probably some of the best memories of my life are playing hockey in Yorkton. I know there's a lot of people that would feel similar to how I do," McIntyre said.

"Hopefully everyone's going to rally around the team and and support them, because the Yorkton Terriers need to be part of the SJHL fabric."

Terriers aiming to raise $200K in February

The Terriers are aiming to raise $200,000 in February.

The plan includes a "Save the Terriers" season ticket blitz, which started on Monday. The team is selling season tickets for the 2024-2025 campaign at a reduced price in hopes of boosting attendance.

"People will be able to come to games for an incredibly affordable price," Neufeld said. "I think the individual season ticket works out to like $7.70 a game and the family one is is just over $3 a game."

Neufeld said selling 1,000 season tickets through the blitz would put the Terrier's in a "really good spot financially."

He said the team is also ramping up its game day experience with measures including guaranteed jackpots for 50/50s and giveaways.

"There will be some very exciting hockey over the next couple of months, as long as we can keep the doors open," Neufeld said.

He said this isn't the first time the Terrier's have run into financial trouble.

"This has happened before. Our community has always rallied to support the club and I really believe that they will again."