A crippling $12,000 deficit has dampened the hopes of the struggling Border Bruins hockey team as the squad attempts to pull themselves out of the cellar in the Neil Murdoch Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Grand Forks’ Bruins could be facing extinction if the funding deficit isn't solved in the near future.
The debt is owed to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) for past due arena expenses. Team President Jason Odland said the costs are mounting. "Expenses now and previous debt," are what Odland said have accumulated to reach the $12,000 total. The Bruins have approached the RDKB asking for their debts to be waived.
"Basically, from the previous board we were left with a huge debt," he added.
Councillor Michael Wirischagin brought this pressing problem to the attention of Grand Forks city council on Dec. 7 in hopes of encouraging the community to support the hometown team and enable them to continue operations.
“I attended a Border Bruins meeting in which they advised me that they are still facing major financial issues,” said Wirischagin. “If their finances do not improve, 40 years of Border Bruins hockey in this community may be over. Simply put, unless more people start coming out to the games, the Bruins may be gone next year for good. It is a solution that we, as citizens, can remedy. All we have to do is go to their games.”
As a volunteer with the team, Wirischagin said it is essential to support the Bruins with time and money to help the team succeed. He is concerned that the loss of the team will be damaging for the community and youth in particular.
“With so few things to do in this town, it is important that we ensure that they all remain intact. The Bruins not only give kids something to do, being that it serves as a youth center come game day, but the Bruins also bring money into this community,” said Wirischagin.
“Each kid that comes to town to play for the Bruins has to pay their billeting home a monthly fee. This fee contributes to that household’s income that in turn is spent locally. Also, these kids have family that often travels to town to watch their sons play. They also fill hotel rooms and once again spend money locally. We need to keep the Bruins in this town, for once they are gone, they are gone for good. That is my feeling.”
All is not lost though, as Odland agrees the solution to the dilemma is not a complex one. "We ask for people to show up and support the team," he said. "Support at the games would be unreal."
The addition of a beer garden at the Dec. 13 game and a large raffle draw on Wednesday, Dec. 16 are added attractions to the game itself. The next home game for the Bruins will be Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. against the Castlegar Rebels. In the meantime they are on the road.