Outgoing Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars general manager Kenny Hunt confirmed recently that the club faced payroll challenges during the inaugural 2011-2012 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League season.
"I'm not going to lie; some were not made," he said
The Compass has confirmed the Stars finished the season with a deficit, after budgetting some $200,000. The shortfall stems from a surge in expenses, and lower than expected revenues during home games at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
"We under-budgetted our travel cost. Our stick budget and all of that stuff went a bit out of the way," Hunt said.
The new provincial league required the CeeBees to do more travel, as compared to the Avalon East Senior League, including weekend trips to Grand Falls-Windsor and Corner Brook. This increased travel costs substantially.
"We were used to going to Mount Pearl and Clarenville, which are only an hour and a bit outside of our hometown," said Hunt. "It was a (learning) experience for us."
Hunt estimates the club exceeded its projected budget by between $40,000 and $50,000, but noted, "We weren't surprised by the deficit."
He declined to divulge the exact amount of the deficit, but emphasized that fundraising efforts are being planned in order to balance the team's ledger.
Hunt is leaving his post as general manager, but is hopeful the new GM will inherit a team that is "on an even keel."
Numbers down at home
The CeeBees had faith the financial slack would be picked up during home games, but attendance actually dropped in comparison to past years.
"Because our gates were down, our revenue was down," said Hunt.
He attributes this drop in the gate to the rise in ticket prices and a new wrinkle in the scheduling - back-to-back games on the weekends.
"I think the ticket prices and the back-to-back factor hit was a significant loss," he said.
The club was especially hurt at the box office when games were scheduled on Sunday afternoons, which was new for CeeBees fans.
During many Sunday games, the rink was filled to roughly half its capacity, even for games against league leaders Clarenville Caribous and Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
"Sunday afternoon games do not work," said Hunt. "Our 50-50 was down; everything was down."
Hunt said the Sunday format worked in other markets, but is not a viable option for the CeeBees.
Some pundits believe the fact that some games were broadcast on Eastlink cut into the CeeBees' returns, but Hunt was quick to shoot down that notion.
It's also hard to single out the quality of play, considering the Stars had plenty of success in the second half of the season to secure the fourth and final playoff berth before losing in the semifinals to Clarenville, the eventual champs.
Despite the financial struggles, Hunt said there will still be CeeBees hockey come October.
"We fully intend to ice a team next year," he said.
He's hoping that fundraising efforts are successful.
"There is a golf tournament planned and we are looking into a couple more draws," he said. "I'm not walking away from a deficit by no means. I'm going to do my best to fundraise and get this (deficit) cleared off the books.