Brian's Banter - Merritt News - January 22, 2009
The Merritt Centennials aren't relocating to Kamloops and KIJHL junior B hockey isn't coming to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena anytime soon. Yes, there have been discussions by both the Cents Board of Directors and the BC Hockey League regarding the financial situation with the team -- which is not good, but contrary to published reports and rumors flying around, nothing has been approved regarding a sale or relocation. Kamloops Storm owner Barry Dewar has gone on record to say that he has no desire to relocate from the Tournament Capital to the Country Music Capital, nor does he have plans to relocate the Storm at all. So as far as I can see, the only way that the Cents and Storm can pull the old switcheroo is if someone buys both clubs, which would need to be approved by both the BCHL and the KIJHL, and then moves the two.
There are actually two stories on the go here. The first is that the Centennials are in financial disarray with a loss expected to be upwards of $60,000 this season and like any non-profit society, cannot sustain those types of deficits year after year. Director of Hockey Operations Rick Mettler and Interim President Tom Reynolds both confirmed earlier this week that there are discussions regarding a potential sale of the team, but nothing has been finalized with any potential ownership group and nothing has been presented to the BCHL Board of Governors for a vote. As for residents of Merritt and fans of the Centennials, we can only hope that if the club does end up being sold that a new ownership group gives it an honest kick at the can in our community before just pulling up stakes and relocating the BCHL's longest continuously run franchise.
The second story here is that Dewar says that Cents head coach and GM Al Glendinning was the one who approached him as recently as a month ago and as far back as a year ago about the Storm and Centennials switching communities. Cents acting President Tom Reynolds said that since Glendinning's titles are only coach and GM of the team, he doesn't exactly have the authority to speak to the issue of a sale. I would think that if Glendinning wanted to approach potential investors or ownership groups regarding the Centennials it should be in the club's best interests. If what Dewar is saying is right, and Glendinning was inquiring about moving the Centennials while on the payroll as an employee of the team, then there is a much bigger issue for the franchise's Board of Directors to deal with than simply the operations of the hockey club.
The bottom line is that the Centennials are a franchise on shaky ground and can use all the support they can get. It is imperative that hockey fans in the Nicola Valley show any prospective purchasers of the team that the community wants BCHL hockey here, the community deserves BCHL hockey here, and there's a reason why the Centennials are the longest continuously run franchise in the league. The Centennials have six home games left before the end of the season, it's up to the residents of the city of Merritt and surrounding areas to get out to the games and prove how much it means to us to have this level of hockey in our community, regardless of what you think of anyone involved in the club -- the coaches, players, board members -- no one is bigger than the franchise itself. Otherwise the overused cliche of "you don't know what you have until it's gone" could ring true.