By David F. Rooney
After months of angst and financial conniption fits over the Revelstoke Grizzlies future, owner Lew Hendrickson — backstopped by team marketer Steve Smith and all-around volunteer Dennis Berarducci — sought to ease the concerns of the team’s fans.
The three men had hoped for a decent turnout for meeting at the Community Centre on Thursday evening — at least 40 people (enough bums to fill the seating arrangement) would have been nice. What they got was just 19.
“It was a little disappointing,” Smith said after the meeting, “but I think we connected well with the people who were there.”
Certainly, he said, businesses have stepped up to the plate to help the team rebuild its shattered finances.
The team is $70,000 in debt and while he is, legally, still one of the ownership partners, Mike Roberts — who attempted to move the Grizzlies to 100 Mile House last spring — no longer has anything to say about the Grizzlies’ future, Hendrickson said.
“He has his tail between his legs,” he said, adding that Roberts will eventually be out of the picture completely “once we have a legal solution.”
Berarducci, who will be handling scoring and other duties, may be a life-long Grizzlies fan but he told the crowd he wouldn’t be involved now if he didn’t believe Hendrickson’s heart is in the right place.
Right now Hendrickson is focused on paying down the team’s debts. Most of what it owes the City has been paid off and the rest will be history within a couple of months, he said. And that is his main focus right now.
Although Hendrickson came here decades ago to play for the Selkirks, he has never managed a team. He plans to leave the actual coaching to Head Coach Kevin Kraus and his assistants, Darren Komonoski and Greg Austin.
“This is kind of a dream — we’ve all grown up on hockey,” Smith said after the meeting. “But none of us have ever run a hockey team.”
There are a lot of details — as some of the people who attended the meeting pointed out. Hendrickson, Smith and Berarducci need to finding fresh new volunteers, rebuild a badly bruised relationship with Revelstoke Minor Hockey, build a security team, harness nonprofit groups to run the 50-50 draw (and ensure that those draws are legally licensed) and more — much, much more. And that’s just the up-front stuff.
“There’s a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes we haven’t got to yet,” he said.
One really big question is the issue of season’s passes. The team wants to sell 200 season’s passes and is offering a powerful incentive to help sell them. A $3,500 houseboat cruise package is going to go to some lucky season pass holder. As well, RMR is putting up a ski pass for a draw during one of the games. Other local businesses have apparently indicated they will put up additional prizes if the team can sell all 200 passes by the end of September.
The team hasn’t yet begun selling passes but when it does, the Revelstoke Credit Union, which has come on board as a strong supporter of the Grizzlies, will be season’s pass central.
If there was any subtext to the meeting on Thursday it was this: only by working together will the community ensure future success for the Grizzlies.
Both Hendrickson and Revelstoke Grizzlies Society President Mavis Cann indicated (they quite couldn’t bring themselves to publicly and completely burying their hatchets) they were willing to work together. And, with perhaps as many as six of seven local kids actually making it onto this season’t roster there will be a lot of private pressures to ensure that the team actually does manage to get back on its feet.
“You have to realize that this will be a rebuilding year,” said team supporter Renee Howe.
It will be a rebuilding year in more than one way, too.
Smith said the team needs to instill valuable core community values in the young players and help them be the kind of heroes and role models younger athletes can look up to.
For more information, contact Steve Smith or Lewis Hendrickson. If you think you have something to offer as a volunteer, a billet family (for which you can receive $450/month as well as special discounts at Coopers and Southside) or want to purchase season’s passes please call one of the numbers below:
Lewis Hendrickson, President, Revelstoke Grizzlies 250-837-8584
Steve Smith, Business Management/Marketing 250-837-7848
Dennis Berarducci 250-837-5528
Kevin Kraus, Head Coach/GM, 250-814-8603
Grizzlies’ Office: 250-837-5588