The Quesnel Millionaires saga continues. Here’s an update of an earlier article from the Cariboo Observer:
Quesnel Millionaires on the block, no deals yet
By Percy Hebert – Quesnel Cariboo Observer
“The Millionaires are for sale,” Bob Sales, president of the Quesnel Millionaires hockey team said with a heavy sigh.
And with that, the end of a 35-year history of the Mills took a step closer to reality, a history that includes several NHL alumni such as Brad Gassoff and Jamie Leach, as well as current NHL players, including Carey Price, Sheldon Souray and Brett Festerling.
News of the potential sale of the Millionaires did not sit well with many.
“I’m disappointed that the team might have to leave,” Glen Watson, coach of the Millionaires during the 2009 – 2010 season, said.
Current coach, Doug Hedley also expressed disappointment.
“I understand the ownership’s position from a business point of view,” he said.
“But it’s like walking away from a touchdown from the five-yard line.
“Next year would have been a really exciting year for the Millionaires with all the talent we have coming back.”
Sales made the comment in front of more than 80 Quesnel residents packed into city council chambers to hear the latest information regarding the Multi-Centre project.
“This has made me sick,” Sales said after the meeting.
“We’re [owners] really bothered by this.
“We got involved because we wanted to keep the team here.”
The news was not good for the local economy.
“Not good,” Bob Moutray, general manager of the Sandman Inn said.
BCHL teams, Moutray said, account for about $35,000 worth of revenue for the Sandman Inn and the Denny’s restaurant and that does not include the playoffs.
Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom, also underlined the economic importance of the Millionaires to the local economy.
“It would be a huge economic loss to the community,” she said.
“I think it’s a loss that we haven’t been able to achieve what we wanted to achieve.”
Despite their best intentions and best efforts, the Millionaires owners have lost money for two years in a row. Not helping matters was the economic downturn and the loss of the Williams Lake Timberwolves.
The amount of money lost is not trivial.
“This isn’t a little bit of money we’re talking about, this is a huge amount of money,” he said.
However, Sales was quick to tip his hat to local businesses and volunteers who went out of their way to support the Millionaires.
“They’ve really done everything they can to support us,” Sales said.
The real problem, he said, was there were too many empty seats on too many nights, this despite “heavy marketing” based on the previous year’s playoff run.
“We just can’t get anybody to walk into the building,” Sales said with a resigned shrug of the shoulders.
“That’s our biggest problem.
“One night, after paying security and the referees, we made a $37 deposit.”
The playoffs, usually the icing on the cake for a sports franchise, were a disappointment this year, with less than 400 people in the stands.
Following two money-losing seasons, the Mills investors decided they can no longer continue to dump money in the pot and hence the decision to put the team up for sale.
Although the Millionaires are for sale, they have not left town yet and the ownership group are still hopeful they will find a “made in Quesnel” solution.
But it isn’t an easy sell, Sales admitted.
Potential owners, interested in keeping the team in Quesnel, have already remarked the state of the Vault and the less than enthusiastic fan support are drawbacks, Sales said.
“We have no firm offers,” he said.
The directors of the team met Wednesday night to go over potential options and will present the best options to the team’s investors.
“They’ll vote on it and we’ll go from there,” Sales said.