COVID-19 pandemic stymies another profitable year for the Raiders

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders president and governor Gord Broda speaks during the team's annual general meeting at the Ches Leach Lounge on Wednesday night.

WHL club reports loss of $331,895 at annual general meeting

As the calendar turned to March, things were looking good for the Prince Albert Raiders.

With the team on the verge of capturing their second straight East Division pennant and set for another long playoff run, the club had already earned more money through regular season ticket revenue ($1,074,857) than during their 2018-19 Ed Chynoweth Cup campaign ($1,046,635).

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

As a result of the cancellation of the 2019-20 season and other factors, the Raiders reported a loss of $331,895 from the past fiscal year, which concluded on May 31.

“We were very pleased with the outcome of the season from the things that we can do, but there were a number of things that were out of our control,” Raiders president and governor Gord Broda said on Wednesday evening following the team’s annual general meeting at the Ches Leach Lounge.

“There was the loss of two regular season home games and the playoffs, the loss of shared revenue from the Memorial Cup (which was to be hosted by the Kelowna Rockets), a deficit due to Sportsnet’s CHL rights contract (which was affected by the stoppage in play) and the class action settlement, which all had a negative impact. If you take those things out of the equation, we would have had another season in the black.”

As part of a deal to settle three class action lawsuits that were filed against the Canadian Hockey League that claimed that major junior hockey league players in the CHL are employees subject to employment standards legislation rather than student athletes, all 22 teams in the Western Hockey League were required to pay $166,667.

Although the financial losses and the missed revenue opportunities from no playoff games are a tough pill to swallow, the Raiders are still in solid shape after recording a profit of $633,314 at their 2019 annual general meeting.

“That helps a lot,” Broda said. “We’ve said in the past that our big playoff run allowed us to put some money away in a rainy day fund, so it’s been nice to have some cash in the bank to carry us through this tough time.”

While not every team makes their numbers known, the Raiders’ loss of $331,895 from the past financial year is the lowest of the three annual general meetings held thus far by the WHL’s publicly owned clubs.

The Moose Jaw Warriors recorded a loss of $391,299 for this past year after announcing a loss of $165,145 in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Swift Current Broncos announced a loss of $791,000 at their recent annual general meeting, which came after they recorded a profit of $38,196 a year earlier as they started their rebuild from a league title run in 2018.

The league’s other publicly owned club, the Lethbridge Hurricanes, will hold their AGM later this fall.

“We’re certainly aware of some of the other teams in the league and the losses that they are showing,” Broda said.

“Not to make our loss sound better, but with the statements that we all heard tonight, everyone in the league has had to deal with the same negative impacts this year. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to land in a better position.”

There were a number of positives to take away from the evening, however, as the club celebrated the fact that Kaiden Guhle and Ozzy Wiesblatt were both picked in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday evening and that the Canadian Hockey League was thrilled with the job the team did in hosting the final game of the 2019 Canada/Russia Series in November.

At the moment though, everyone is waiting for an exact word on when the WHL season will get underway, with a tentative date of Dec. 4 being announced back in August.

“I do believe we’re going to play, but as Gord alluded to, it’s not an easy task as the league works with each jurisdiction,” Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt said. “There’s going to be some different looks in terms of social distancing and the capacity in the rink, but when the time comes to resume play, we’re going to need community support and for everyone to be compliment with whatever it looks like.

“You may not have the same seat or the same entrance to come through. You may have to wear a mask or download an app too your phone. However, this is all about giving us the best chance to play hockey again in our community.”

The Raiders also welcomed back Broda, Trevor Rumpel and Brad Toporowski to their board of directors on Wednesday evening as they were all re-elected.