Last season came to an end on March 12 for the Western Hockey League (WHL).
For the Prince Albert Raiders, that cancelled their final two home games for the regular season and who knows how many in the playoffs. Those losses combined with a class action lawsuit versus the Canadian Hockey League, which all teams took a hit on, left the Raiders with a loss of just over $330,000 last season.
“We are a community-owned team so, from a financial standpoint, we are not hiding from anything,” Raiders business manager Michael Scissons said.
“I think we can go to any sporting organization or group or theatre house or concert facility, and anyone’s books are not going to be pristine this year and for the most part that is all related to the COVID pandemic.”
The year before was the opposite for the Raiders, financially. They had a profit of over $660,000 thanks to their long playoff run, that saw them take it all the way to a WHL title. That season has the Raiders in much better shape than many other teams in the WHL.
“You know without that run, without the success that we had and what it garnered in terms of increased fan engagement into the 2019-20 season, both in the stands and in the corporate sponsorship side of things, these would be harder times,” Scissons said.
Speaking of hard times, the Raiders’ arena has seen some hard times over the years. Whenever you talk about the future of the Raiders, the topic shifts towards the Art Hauser Centre. It’s an arena with great energy, but it’s old, out of date and only holds 3,300 fans — including 700 standing behind the last row of seats on the concourse.
It’s unsure when a new arena will be built as uncertain economic times continue.
“I’m not saying there are dire straits ahead over the next couple of years, we have an unbelievably loyal fan base and great support but for us to grow, and the organization to grow there needs to be a new building and we look forward to being able to help with that when the time comes,” Scissons said.
The Raiders and the WHL hope to get their season started on Dec. 4.