A 25-year-old Manitoba junior hockey team that has churned out more than one NHL player is now in danger of folding.
The Neepawa Natives are $90,000 in debt, according to the team’s president, Dave McIntosh.
The small-town team relies on ticket sales and local sponsors to keep going but with only 3,800 people in the town of Neepawa, earnings are meagre.
“I mean, it’s dire,” said McIntosh. “Junior hockey now is a very expensive sport. We have budgets in excess of $300,000.”
Kyle McDonald made the team this year. He said losing the team would be devastating.
“I’ve always watched the Neepawa Natives growing up. It’s almost like a dream come true playing for my hometown team,” said McDonald. “I’d be devastated [if the team folded].”
The team has helped develop NHLers Triston Grant, Mark Kolesar and Shane Hnidy. Hnidy has had an extensive NHL career playing for the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild.
But finding funds for the team isn’t easy.
Each year, the town of Neepawa gives $10,000 to the team.
The mayor, Ken Waddell, said the town would feel the loss if the team disappeared.
“It means a lot to the community. You know, the name is out there all over the place because of the hockey team,” he said. “Also, for the Yellowhead Centre, it’s a source of revenue.”
McIntosh is getting creative trying to save the team. One of the ideas is to get a plot of land and have volunteers farm the land and sell the crop, with the team getting the proceeds.
“We need to get the community together and remind them – this is our team,” said McIntosh.
The town will hold a public meeting on the future of the team on Tuesday, and McDonald is hoping the support the team needs will come through.