This past season, the Neepawa Natives found themselves in a very exclusive club, and we’re not just talking about making the playoffs. At the junior ‘A’ club’s annual general meeting, held on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at the Yellowhead Hall, the team announced it had posted a profit from the 2016-2017 season. The Steinbach Pistons and Portage Terriers are the only others from the 11-team circuit thus far to publicly announce a profit (Editor's note: Not all MJHL are required to release their financial details publicly.)
Though this year-over-year step out of the red was not substantial, with a net profit of just $1,295.00, it’s still a step in the right direction, as the team had suffered a net financial loss the previous year of $56,975. The overall revenues for the 2016-2017 fiscal year totalled $409,670, which was up from the $308,687 that was brought in during the 2015-2016 season. Meanwhile, expenses also rose, from $365,662 to $408,375. Notable individual revenues included fundraising, which increased from $142,616 to $231,416; and advertising/sponsorships, which went from $57,556 to $78,631. On the expense side of the ledger, the largest year-over-year increase was seen in the cost of fundraising expenses, which went from $49,916 in 2015-2016, to $81,164 in 2016-2017. The organization’s official financial statements were compiled by Kinley Thomson Chartered Accountants Inc.
Neepawa Natives board president Ken Waddell said that while the year-over-year profit are very positive, a much more significant matter will soon be wiped off the books.
“In September, a $100,000 promissory note will be forgiven by former team owner Gaynor Vivian, as the team has met the conditions of the note,” stated Waddell. “Back in 2007, Mr. Vivian gave the team to the community on the condition that if the team was sold within 10 years, he would get up to $100,000 after all the team bills and debts were paid. The team has remained as a community owned team for all that time, so the condition has been met and the note will be forgiven.”
That promissory note was a part of the club’s overall accumulated deficit of $162,309. With it now coming off the books in September, the Natives’ deficit will be $62,309.
Natives general manager Myles Cathcart said that the number of returning players to the Neepawa Natives is expected to be very high. He also noted that the optimism from those players, as well as the young prospects looking to earn a spot on the roster is also very good.
“There’s a lot of positivity we’re hearing heading into training camp. Our veterans are eager to get back here and get to work. As well, there are many younger players who have been hearing a lot about the organization and what’s we’re been doing to continue improving,” noted Cathcart. “Neepawa is a great place to play. Our travel [proximity to other teams] is low and our community is great. The fans are great and anyone who has been here for any amount of time knows that and has nothing but good things to say about the experience. Word spreads fast with all the social media out there and we’re a place now, where players want to come.”
Yellowhead Arena upgrades
For the second straight year, the Yellowhead Arena has been busy with major upgrades. The installation of new arena boards and centre ice scoreboard clock is underway and expected to be completed before the start of training camp, which will begin on Aug. 30. Natives coach Dustin Howden said many of the returning players are excited about seeing the changes, and more importantly, getting to work.
“Many of the players are looking forward to seeing the changes, the improvements that have been going on and they want to be a part of this thing,” stated Howden. “The same things goes for the young guys. We’ve had a good off-season of recruiting. Many high end players on their [AAA] teams are looking to make an impression during camp. That’s the type of people were looking for talented players with good character. They’re quality young men and good hockey players.”
Other notable upgrades by the Yellowhead included the repainting of the entrance doors and concourse floor. The Natives, meanwhile, did some off-season improvements of their own, repainting the coaches office.
Search for new assistant coach
The search for a new assistant coach for the 2017-2018 season is ongoing. Ryan Menei served in that role last year, but needs to step away due to family related commitments. After the conclusion of the annual general meeting, Howden noted that there are a few notable candidates being explored for the position and that they should have someone behind the bench before the season starts.
“We’ve had a lot of good applicants. It’s just a case of ironing out the details. We are still looking, but that being said, we should have some good news on that front very soon,” said Howden.
Election of board
Incumbents Ken Waddell, Cam Tibbett, Myles Cathcart, Mary Ellen-Clark, Mike Hodgins, Ross McBride, Kevin Cook, Alan Gillies and Rob James were all re-elected to the Neepawa Natives board. Meanwhile, Eoin Devereux informed the organization that he will be stepping away from the Neepawa Natives board for the 2017-2018 year. The organization thanked him for his efforts during his two years on the board.
The board for the Neepawa Natives noted that it was it was pleased with the results from its major fundraising events of the year; the Agricultural Expo and Sports Dinner. The inaugural Expo was held this past April at the Yellowhead Hall. Natives vice president Cam Tibbett as well as non-board members Matt Lowry and Scott Newton made up the committee that organized the day. The highlight of the Expo was an auction, which included 37 donated items and services. In total, $30,040 was raised, which went towards the operational expenses for the junior ‘A’ hockey team.
The Neepawa Natives also expressed pleasure with the final numbers from the eighth annual Neepawa Sports Dinner, held in November. The evening, which featured speaker Lanny McDonald netted revenue of $12,500. The 2017 edition of the annual sports dinner will take place on Saturday, Nov. 4. The guest speaker will be former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive tackle Chris Walby.