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Puck battle in Quesnel: new Juniors versus old Seniors in sponsor market

The Kangaroos say they need $100,000 a year from any Junior franchise
A hockey fight has broken out off the ice between two franchise factions contending for the Quesnel sponsorship market. (Black Press file photo)

Rob McMillan wanted a Junior hockey (youth players) franchise for his hometown of Quesnel.

The existing Senior hockey franchise (adult players) in Quesnel likes the idea in theory, but not if it threatens their existence.

At a meeting last week of local government officials and the two sides, the North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee (comprised of elected Regional District and City of Quesnel officials) said the Junior team could occupy West Fraser Arena and begin business if they agreed to pay the existing Quesnel Kangaroos an annual fee of $100,000.

McMillan, an Okanagan real estate entrepreneur, wrote an impassioned public letter expressing his aggravation at such a lofty bill, one that means he is walking away from the Quesnel table. His proposal was to establish a team under the banner of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, which has teams in 100 Mile House, Kamloops, Chase, Sicamous, and a total of 20 locations in B.C. and Washington.

Mayor Ron Paull told The Observer he deemed it inappropriate to disclose the contents of the meeting, as it was an in-camera (closed door) session.

A letter from the committee was later released, containing the admission that the local government officials had sided with the Kangaroos organization. That letter can be read in its entirety on The Observer’s website.

The non-elected participants are not so bound, per Section 117 of the Community Charter.

“The proposed offer of $50,000 annually for five years fell short of their expectations,” McMillan told The Observer, outlining his offer to ensure his new team would ease the marketplace transition for the established team. He said he also proposed shared financing ideas “like a percentage. While there was discussion about giving both teams certain spaces to advertise, the final decision from the North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee was a flat rate, guaranteed for the term.”

The Kangaroos responded with a letter of their own. On the one hand, it stated that they were “in full support of Junior hockey returning to Quesnel” but quickly mapped out that in fact they had 100,000 conditions on that support. It’s a contradiction, but they articulated the financial implications such a team would pose for them.

“We are a non-profit organization which means we are owned by you - the community,” said the Kangaroos letter. “The majority of our funds to run this team come from sponsorship. If someone comes in and wants to take all the work we’ve done for 15 years and says we will take that and get more - but only give you 25 per cent or at max $50,000, the Roos will fold within a year.”

The Kangaroos organization did not outline in their letter how a second hockey business could, in their estimation, thrive in the Quesnel market if they were taking $100,000 of their funds (plus the invested overhead to obtain that money) right off the top.

They did, however, express a willingness to work with proponents of a Junior team.

“We would love to see someone bring a team to this community that we can work together with and have two great organizations here in Quesnel so that you can watch high caliber hockey every weekend,” said the Kangaroos.

McMillan said the $100,000 sticker price was far too much. He has already started calling other communities to see if they would be more amenable.

“It’s possible that the potential loss for Quesnel could turn into a gain for (a different municipality),” he said. He just wished it could have been in his old hometown.

The two parties’ entire letters can be read on the Quesnel Cariboo Observer’s website.

READ MORE: LETTER: Local gov confirms favouring Kangaroos franchise

READ MORE: LETTER: Quesnel Kangaroos support idea of Junior hockey, but only if paid $100k

READ MORE: LETTER: Junior hockey dream for Quesnel possibly dashed by local gov

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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