April 23, 2011
Credit Lewiston Maineiacs president Bill Schurman for being brutally honest. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's (soft) deadline for teams to apply for relocation passed without incident and the Maineiacs are now in the semifinal. However, their fiduciary problems have hardly been assauged, as sportsnet.ca's Patrick King detailed in a column posted Good Friday.
The crux of it is at the end, where Schurman seems to indicate it is essentially a matter of how long Lewiston owner Mark Just is willing to lose money in the U.S.-based market.
The MAINEiacs are operating as though they will be back in Lewiston next season, with a reduced price on season-tickets for current season-ticket holders. Given his financial commitment, Schurman feels it's unfair for those to question majority owner Mark Just's dedication to the community.
"He's probably invested more money than anyone in the Canadian Hockey League individually," he said. "I can't speak for him, but at the end of the day, he can't continue to do that.
"It's his decision at the end of the day how long he can go." (sportsnet.ca)
Cue the jokes about a retirement community in Florida being interested in buying. This hardly pours cold water on any talk the franchise will end up in Summerside, P.E.I., sooner or later, although one would think the QMJHL board of governors might be reluctant to vote for a move that puts two teams in the postage-stamp province. In the short run, we know the team's competitiveness can only help so much if the economic situation is untenable. (That seemed to be a central lesson of The Extra 2%, Jonah Keri's treatise on baseball's Tampa Bay Rays.)
King details that along with flagging fan support, the corporate support which keeps CHL teams flush is deficient in Lewiston.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's only American market struggled at the gate and in the community with an uncertain economy.
Lewiston's average attendance barely surpassed 2,000 while the number dipped to 1,743 for their six home playoff games.
"You only have two sources of revenue," Schurman says. "One is corporate partnerships and the other is through ticket sales. It's no secret that the United States has gone through some economic challenges — more so than in Canada."
"When you combine the inability of our franchise to attract the corporate partners that we need with the attendance being what it is, we're looking at a six- or seven-hundred thousand dollar deficit."
In other words, the Maineiacs are far from out of the woods.Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Getty Images).