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Neepawa Natives In Danger Of Folding – The Pay To Play Debate – Manitoba Junior Hockey League

Much has been said in the last year and a half concerning many of Hockey Canada’s Junior A leagues moving to a pay to play system.  Traditionalists have come out against it, while many families now understand the economics of it.

The Neepawa Natives of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League didn’t just struggle on the ice this season going 14-41-5, they are seriously struggling in the revenue department as well.

The community owned team had a net loss of over $51,000 last season and is in danger of folding or relocating to a different community.

Much of Canadian Junior A, or Tier II junior hockey was built upon the operations costs of a franchise in the 1970’s, when ice was $100 an hour and gas was .50 cents a gallon.  In those days a team could survive on a few hundred people a night at the gate, and a little sponsorship.  Today that is no longer true.

Even community owned teams with lower ice costs, are experiencing the travel and equipment cost pinch.  Everything is simply more expensive.

While corporations are cutting many community support programs, thus reducing monies going to hockey, operation costs continue to rise.  While attendance may remain steady, ticket prices can not be raised enough to offset the loss of corporate support.

The only way for many small market teams to survive is by adopting the pay to play model.  Many teams and leagues in Ontario have adopted that model and it has not resulted in a talent drop off.

While many people think they should not adopt this model because that’s simply how it is, it is those same people that probably are not having to come up with $50,000 this year to cover losses.

Every player pays to play youth hockey.  Everyone pays to play Midget AAA.  So what is wrong with paying to play Junior A hockey?

If your reward for playing your way through the ranks of AAA hockey is the opportunity to play junior, where is it written that you should get to do so for free?  Is the reward of having your costs reduced while your scouting opportunity is increased not enough?

The Neepawa Natives are in danger of folding or relocating, and they are not alone.  There are several other Junior A franchises on the brink of folding or relocation because of these same issues.  Isn’t it time for everyone to pay something toward hockey, or have we become such a group of self entitled brats that we don’t care who folds or moves?

Joe Hughes

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