They shoot they score.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are now the property of the Valley-based Port Alberni Junior Hockey Society.
Society officials made the announcement to a crowd of more than 50 at a press conference at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Friday afternoon.
The non-profit society purchased the team for $600,000 from the Okanagan Hockey School, the See Group of Companies and Dr. David Ness: $260,000 in cash was put down and $300,000 was financed.
A further $40,000 has yet to be raised. The team received a private donation of $5,000 this week, and Compliance Energy Corp. just donated $600.“We’re there but we’re not there yet. We have a ways to go,” society spokesperson Bob Cole said.
The society began its drive to buy the team in April. At the press conference, director Darren DeLuca displayed a freshly minted certificate from the BC Hockey League decreeing the sale at the conference.
The Bulldogs join the Trail Smoke Eaters, Powell River Kings, Merrit Centennials and Prince George Spruce Kings as the only teams to be run as locally-owned societies in the 16-team league.
The society designation gives the team tools that it never had before. “We’ll be able to different fundraising projects and maybe look at getting one-time grants,” Cole later said. “The society won’t just benefit the team. We can apply for other big tournaments and it could benefit things like Valley minor hockey.”
In the board room, the society’s new board of directors includes DeLuca, Ron Paulson, Rick Schievink, Al McColloch and Kevin Summerville. Former owners Dennis See and Andy Oakes will remain as advisors to the new group.
The new group doesn’t plan to institute a lot of changes to the hockey operations.
The coaching duo of Kevin Willison and Adam Hayduk will remain behind the bench. The group hopes to add a more local flavour to the ice. “We’ve heard the message loud and clear from the community and we plan to recruit more local players,” DeLuca said.
The team had to make a comprehensive business case to BCHL officials outlining such thing as a marketing plan, DeLuca said. “They said this was the best franchise application they ever saw,” DeLuca said. “Fiscal responsibility is a number one priority.”
Getting more butts into seats is the first order of business, McColloch said. Season ticket sales numbered 500 last year, which is down from 1,300 in the glory years, he said. “We need to increase ticket sales or we will have to move the team,” he said.
After the press conference McColloch said it wasn’t a matter of if the team would leave Port Alberni but when if the status quo remained. Declining community support and decreased ticket sales were harbingers of an exodus. “Without a cash infusion I would say we were dangerously close to losing it,” he said.
The team is 100 per cent locally owned now, McColloch said. “It’s part of the community and gives people value for their dollar,” he said. “We want to make the Multiplex the place to be. Where else can you get 1,800 people together on weekends?”
The team will be rolling out a series of fundraising initiatives that include draws, drives and raffles in the next while.