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Lethbridge Hurricanes’ future remains up in the air following shareholders meeting

Kelly Friesen
Buzzing The Net

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The Lethbridge Hurricanes' future remains up in the air.

Several concerns surrounding the Lethbridge Hurricanes were brought to light at their shareholders meeting on Feb. 6, but the direction of the organization remains up in the air.

Hurricanes team president Brian McNaughton appeared to send mixed messages during the meeting. For example, early in the meeting he stated “I feel as good about the team now as I have in five years,” yet later on he said “I understand the frustration, none of us are happy with what’s happened.” Lethbridge doesn’t exactly have “good years” in their rearview mirror as they have missed the playoffs the last four seasons, but it still seems ridiculous for McNaughton to say he feels as good about the team now as he has in the last five years. The Hurricanes not only sit in last place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-39-2-3 record, but they also have had a handful of players, including prominent blueliner Ryan Pilon, walk out on the team this year.

The Hurricanes’ poor on-ice product has affected their attendance as they have hit an organization low this year with an average of 2,898 a game. With that, the team’s financial situation remains in tough shape. They are in $100,000 of debt and have lost $1 million in the last five years.

Here is more on the money situation from Lethbridge Global’s Paul Kingsmith.

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.

“The number one reason we’re in a cash crunch is because our attendance is down,” said McNaughton, noting a 12% 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.”

McNaughton backed general manager Brad Robson and head coach Drake Berehowsky despite the team’s dismal success in the first year with them in their respective roles. He wouldn’t comment on assistant coach Brad Lukowich leaving the team, though.

The option of letting a private ownership group take over the locally-owned team seemed to be a popular idea among some of the shareholders.

Despite the applause, McNaughton didn't seem to be high on selling the team. He claimed that there’s never been a purchase offer presented to the club. However, what he failed to state is that he never approached Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg with an opportunity to present an offer when the Hurricances alumni went public with his interest in the team in late October. Instead, McNaughton made it very clear at the time that the organization wasn’t interested in selling the club to Versteeg by telling the Lethbridge Herald 'the team isn’t for sale.'

While Twitter was buzzing with chatter of the shareholders meeting, a handful of Hurricanes alumni, including Carolina Hurricanes prospect Brody Sutter, voiced their opinions in favour of a sale to a private ownership group.

Meanwhile, media members close to the organization let out their frustration with the team’s direction.

As Kingsmith alluded to, one classless shareholder pointed a finger at Hurricanes play-by-play announcer Pat Siedlecki for "telling the score too much during games." Apparently, the shareholder believes Siedlecki shouldn't give fans an accurate description of games over the radio. It's sad when someone as juvenile as this person has a say within a WHL organization.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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