Financial woes plague Lethbridge Hurricanes

Lethbridge Hurricanes president Brian McNaughton at the team's mid-season shareholders information meeting. Global Sports

LETHBRIDGE- It’s no secret the Lethbridge Hurricanes on-ice performance has been less than ideal and it now appears to be significantly affecting the bottom line.

Team president Brian McNaughton confirming the club has run into cash flow problems during an information meeting for shareholders Thursday night.

McNaughton says the team needed to secure a line of credit to maintain its finances as it’s currently in operating debt of about $100,000.

“It’s no fun to have to go and arrange for financing,” said McNaughton, “but we truly believe it’s a short term problem.”

The club has taken steps to cut expenses including slashing advertising budgets and putting more players to a room on road trips.

McNaughton says the club could get back to a break event point by the end of the season despite having lost a million dollars over the last five years.

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“The number one reason we’re in a cash crunch is because our attendance is down,” said McNaughton, noting a 12 per cent drop in attendance from last season. “The first half of our season the attendance is always not great, but this year we weren’t playing very well. We didn’t win a hockey game in October I don’t think, so we didn’t have any people in the building.”

Fan disappointment in the team is on the rise after a year that began with so much positivity. General manager Brad Robson and head coach Drake Berehowsky replaced the fired Rich Preston and a quick turnaround from four years out of the playoffs was promised. Instead the team sits in last place in the entire Canadian Hockey League.

Shareholders attending Thursday’s meeting questioned the leadership of the board of directors and questioned whether it was time to pursue private ownership for the community owned club.

Feedback on social media was equally as disenchanted with the team’s direction, with even former Hurricanes chiming in.

For his part, McNaughton said the WHL is aware of the team’s issue, but supportive of the club.

“They review our business plan, our budgets twice a year and sit down with me and (governor) Herman (Elfring) and say ‘where are you guys at and what issues do you need to correct these things’ and they stay on our case to make sure we stay above water.”

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The Hurricanes also confirmed assistant coach Brad Lukowich has chosen to leave the team.

“He’s meeting with his family right now in regards to where he’s going with his hockey career,” said general manager Brad Robson, “and we’ll sit down tomorrow and re-hash and that’s about it.”

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