Trail Smoke eaters: AGM offers up room for optimism

Despite a losing season on the ice and on the books, the Trail Smoke Eaters have reason for optimism heading into the 2014-15 campaign.

Despite a losing season on the ice and on the books, the Trail Smoke Eaters have reason for optimism heading into the 2014-15 campaign.

The Trail Smoke Eaters held their Annual General Meeting at the Trail Memorial Centre on Tuesday evening revealing how its 10-win season translated into a not-surprisingly $77,000 disparity in revenue and expenditures.

However, as far as the product on the ice goes, there was good news. Trail’s Craig Claire and Barry Zanier are returning to assist head coach and GM Nick Deschenes, in addition, local assets could possibly double this year with up to six Greater Trail hockey players donning orange and black.

“I think we’ve identified some very strong candidates,” said Deschenes. “I’m really excited to say we might have six local players here born and raised in Trail . . . If we are doing our job as leaders in the community regarding hockey and development then we should be seeing local players coming up through the ranks and joining us.”

The team expects the return of Scott Davidson and Jake Lucchini, and the addition of Craig Martin, but the names of the other players will be released at a later date.

Claire has played a big part in identifying local players from his experience coaching the local Bantam Rep team, also a somewhat kinder-gentler relationship with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks will also result in potential additions.

Nevertheless, more losses occurred within the organization as trainer Kim Penner moved on to Merritt and board members Dave Rugg and Sandy Santori resigned. One of the more palpable losses is the departure of Dawn St. Jean who has decided to step down as director after seven years of balancing the books and running the souvenir shop.

The Smoke Eaters are down to just four board members including president Tom Gawryletz, and directors Rick Basso, Jack Beard, and Steve Robinson, so while recruiting players may be at the top of the list, a search for board members is also essential.

“The board of directors can add any new directors at any time, so we’ll go and find out what we need after the league meetings next week and decide what we’re going to do,” said Gawryletz. “But we know we can’t operate with four people on game nights.”

A bad home start and some untimely road construction contributed to a $29,000 hit in ticket sales at the door, down to $50,391 from $79,399 in 2013, yet the game-night sales improved by over $10,000. Season ticket sales were up $5,000, and hockey camps and donations also increased.

However, one of the more glaring deficits was the fundraising loss of more than $8,000, the result of a disappointing response to the lottery fundraiser.

Total expenditures, however, were the lowest in the past three years with the biggest savings coming in travel costs, down $6,000, and game-night expenditures dropping $14,000 from last season and $24,000 from 2012. The largest output of cash came as a result of a new BCHL policy that required teams to purchase all Bauer products, forcing Trail to layout almost $51,000 for new gear, up from $33,000 the previous season.  In all the Smoke Eaters total revenue tallied $426,742, while expenses came in at $503,651.

“The last three years we have not made the playoffs, and as you can tell by the revenue and expenditures each year we’ve lost money,” said Gawryletz. “The reason we’ve lost more money each year is the cost of doing business – it’s getting expensive for an organization like ourselves.”

This year’s BCHL season will also start later than usual with the Bauer Showcase at Prospera Place in Chilliwack tentatively planned for Sept. 18-19, which means the first Smokies home game might not be until the end of September. It also means that there likely will be more mid-week or Sunday games in the 2014-15 season. The BCHL board of governors meeting goes June 1, when the league schedule will be finalized.