Posted on: June 24, 2014
By: Adam Williams (Kamloops this Week)
(posted with permission of Kamloops This Week)
The WolfPack hockey team may soon be the next to fall victim to the changing athletic landscape at Thompson Rivers University.
The team was faced with a fundraising shortfall following the 2013-2014 season and had what head coach Don Schulz called a few “stressful moments” working to keep the team afloat financially.
Nonetheless, between the work of TRU athletics director Ken Olynyk and André Larouche of the Kamloops Collegiate Hockey Society, the team will live to see 2014-2015.
Whether it proves to be their last season remains to be seen.
“You know, funding is an issue but, like I said, working with the hockey society and Ken Olynyk, we’ve been able to stabilize things and we’re a go for next year,” Schulz told KTW on Friday, June 20.
“We’ve had to iron out some issues and increase some player fees, to offset some operating deficits, but it has all worked out.”
Club teams at TRU, unlike varsity teams, require students to pay fees in order to play. Baseball and hockey are the only remaining club teams at the university.
Olynyk said players on the baseball team pay about $3,000 each to suit up in the orange and black, while the hockey team previously charged about $1,500.
In order to keep the team afloat in 2014-2015, Schulz said the team was forced to increase those fees, a jump, KTW learned, to about $2,400 per player.
Based on a 27-man roster, which is what the WolfPack began last season with, the hockey team brought in about $40,500 of its $110,000 budget in player fees.
Next year’s increase will see that number rise to about $64,800 based on a roster of the same size.
The increase will bring about $24,300 more to the team’s coffers.
The club will also receive $2,500 from the university’s Comprehensive University Enhancement Fund (CUEF) and $2,500 from the office of TRU’s vice-president academic.
The remaining funds, about $40,000, will need to come from fundraising in the community.
Olynyk said the team came up short in its fundraising goals, putting it in its current financial situation.
Schulz agreed that was largely the case, but he thought there were some communication issues between the team and the athletics department, regarding who was handling the business aspects of the team.
He also said there was talk of hockey becoming a varsity sport, which would have brought the team more university funding.
Regardless, Schulz said, there are no hard feelings.
“I want to make it clear, I certainly have no blame,” he said.
“If anything, the school has supported us as much as they can.
“Would we like to be full varsity with full funding and be able to provide financial assistance, scholarships, to our players? Absolutely, but that’s not the case. So, you have to build your way. It takes time to make yourself economically viable.”
The work of Olynyk and the hockey society has ensured the WolfPack will return to Memorial Arena for 2014-2015, but Schulz was reluctant to say the team’s future was assured beyond that.
“We still have a ways to go in terms of longevity,” he told KTW.
“Certainly, you know, this next season will be a pivotal one in terms of being able to determine, like I said, its longevity.
“We’ll certainly have to address some issues through the course of the season and make some pretty important decisions by the end of January.”
All of this has happened in the midst of Schulz’s summer-recruitment campaign..
The four-year head coach is nearly finished setting his roster for the new season, though is looking to add one more goaltender and three more forwards before the season begins in the fall.
Recruitment is never easy for Schulz, as TRU and the University of Victoria are the only teams in the six-team B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League that ask their players to pay to play.
Selkirk College, Eastern Washington University, Simon Fraser University and Trinity Western University don’t have team fees and are able to offer financial assistance to at least some of their players.
But, despite asking more financially from his roster for next season, it appears Schulz will ice a competitive team.
He has added a number of players from the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League of late and is hoping to get his team back to the BCIHL championship final this year, after a first-round exit at the hands of the league-leading Selkirk Saints last season.
By that time, he should know better where the team’s future sits.
“This year we’re able to balance the books but, next year, again it’s a new challenge,” he said