LETHBRIDGE – For five seasons the Lethbridge Hurricanes have been on a downward slide. No playoff games and over a million dollars in financial losses are trends concerning enough that the Western Hockey League was forced to step in.
“We didn’t call them, they called us,” said Hurricanes president Brian McNaughton. “It’s never fun when you’re told you’re under review.”
But the league felt it was necessary to stem any further losses.
“We needed to conduct an immediate review of their operations,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison. “Both looking at the hockey side of the operations and developing a new business plan for the organization.”
The results of the review were presented to Lethbridge city council on Monday. Accountability was the centerpiece of the presentation. The team has been given new, firm goals it’s required to hit, both in terms of finances and on-ice product. The league making it clear that allowing losses to pile up is no longer acceptable.
“Just because it’s a community owned team that’s no excuse,” said Robison. “There needs to be investment made in certain areas to get this team moving in the right direction.”
Robison says good franchises start with good management, an area he feels the Hurricanes have lacked. The club says it’s committed to building that structure, but it won’t come in the form of personnel changes. McNaughton’s plan is to hire a new assistant general manager and assistant coach, but says current head coach Drake Berehowsky and general manager Brad Robson will be back next season despite leading the Hurricanes to the worst season in franchise history.
“I believe we have the right people running our organization,” said McNaughton. “They just have to be given time to execute their plans.”
Despite the challenges Robison says the WHL is committed to keeping the Hurricanes in Lethbridge, and isn’t urging the community owned team to sell to private interests. Instead he says the league will provide assistance and constant checks on the club to see that it turns around in its current state.
“It’s a process and it won’t happen overnight,” said Robison. “But I think if they put the right pieces in place from a management/coaching standpoint they can get there.”