League take-over of West Kelowna Warriors just might be good news for the city | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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League take-over of West Kelowna Warriors just might be good news for the city

Kim Dobranski owned the West Kelowna Warriors for two years until it was taken over by the B.C. Hockey League.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/West Kelowna Warriors
October 16, 2019 - 6:00 PM

Despite a history of financial troubles, the sale of the West Kelowna Warriors to the B.C. Hockey Leage makes it more likely that it will stay in place.

“I know the league wants to keep the team in West Kelowna,” West Kelowna councillors and former mayor Doug Findlater told iNFOnews.ca today, Oct. 16. “I know that because, when I was mayor, the team changed hands two years ago – Kim Dobranski bought it from Mark Cheyne. The league commissioner came to meet me as mayor. They indicated they want to stay in this market.”

The B.C. Hockey League confirmed that it is buying the team but will not comment further until the deal is done, Jesse Adamson, communications co-ordinator for the league told iNFOnews.ca.

“Despite some rough edges, they’ve lost less money under Kim than they did before,” Findlater, who is a season ticket holder, said. “He’s proven that they can, at least, break even.”

In a letter to the editor published in iNFOnews.ca last month, Dobranski wrote that the team was close to going bankrupt or closing when he bought it.

“In my first year of ownership the club lost just under $60,000 for the year ending July 31, 2019,” he wrote. “While this may seem like a disappointment, we are actually pleased when looking back to the heavy loses the club faced over the last 10 years prior.

“Making up a $60,000 loss equates to about 3,750 adult tickets. This would require close to a 16% increase in attendance, or 133 additional fans per game on average throughout the season.”

That has not happened.

The team moved to the Westside (before it became West Kelowna) for the 2008-09 season and had an average attendance of 1,250. That dropped slowly to 828 last year. Instead of getting the increase needed to break even this year, the average has dropped to 541 per game in a season where they’ve only won three of their first 16 games.

But, with Dobranski stepping aside, that may actually help the team’s attendance.

“He ruffled a lot of feathers,” Findlater said. “Some people may not have wanted to go for that reason.”

There was controversy last year, for example, when coach and general manager Rylan Ferster quit just before the start of the season. He had taken the team to win the Royal Bank Cup in 2016, which is the national championship for Junior A hockey.

Scott Harrigan is the owner of Independent Sports News, an on-line sports site. He also gives the team a good chance of staying.

“If the league bought it, I can only surmise there are assets, something worthy for them,” he told iNFOnews.ca “My guess is it’s worth saving. They will find a buyer within the community.”

While there is always a chance it will relocate, one obvious choice is no longer available. Cranbrook has a new Junior A team - the 18th in the league - after the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice folded in January. The new Cranbrook Bucks team will take to the ice next season.

While some Junior A players are of NHL calibre, it’s also a feeder league for college hockey. For people like Findlater, that makes it well worth supporting.

“It’s still a lot of fun and it’s very, very good hockey,” he said.

Dobranski did not respond to an interview request as of press time.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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