Until Ross Coates tells him he’s decided to stickhandle his way back to Corner Brook, Junior Pinksen has the welcome mat out for the team’s return to Deer Lake.
Pinksen is the recreaton director for the Town of Deer Lake who oversees management of the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex where the Western Royals have called home for the past two seasons.
Coates, who is president of the Western Royals, is looking at his options for this year as the team gets ready to compete in the new four-team Central-West Senior Hockey League. A Royals booster group under the leadership of Dennis Waterman has been formed with the hopes of providing the team with a solid financial footing in an effort to have Coates operate the team out of the Pepsi Centre.
Pinksen said he’s still engaged in conversation with Coates about what he wants to do this year so the door hasn’t been completely shut. Pinksen said it was the Royals who approached the town two years ago about the possibility of playing in Deer Lake because the team couldn’t get a deal they could live with from the management team at the civic centre.
He said the Town of Deer Lake is still committed to having the team play in the Hodder. He was quick to point out that corporate sponsorship of the team improved 100 per cent since the team moved to Deer Lake and he was told by Coates and his group on many occasions that the volunteer base was impressive.
No doubt, he said, attendance at the Hodder, which he said was just under an average of 500 fans per game, wasn’t what the team expected, but low attendance seemed to be a trend with all teams in the provincial league last year.
“That’s not enough to sustain senior hockey,” Pinksen said.
Under Waterman’s watch, the booster group has set a goal of selling 1,000 season passes in an effort to entice Coates to bring the Royals back to the city. If that comes to fruition, then it would appear Coates has a benchmark he can work with to make the team viable in Corner Brook so that could change things, according to Pinksen.
“When people got to start forking over the money then the proof is going to be in the pudding. You got to put your money where your mouth is too,” he said.
Pinksen isn’t overly concerned about any loss of revenue if Coates decides to move back to the city because he can fill the time slots with other user-groups. But, he does feel there will be a sting to the business community that reaped the rewards of economic spinoffs from having games played in the town, which is why he saw so much more corporate support for the team than it had in Corner Brook.
“That commitment is still here. That hasn’t changed and our focus hasn’t changed, but I know when he left Corner Brook he wasn’t pleased a little bit there,” he said.
“So, it depends on this booster club and what tickets they sell and the volunteer base they can get to rally around.”
At the end of the day, senior hockey can only surive if there are bums in the seats so strong support of the team is critical regardless of the venue, according to Pinksen.
“That’s up to the people,” he said. “Really, if the people don’t step up to the plate, whether it’s Deer Lake or Corner Brook, then the writing is on the wall.”
He’s remaining patient as Coates has told him he would need time to look at the big picture before he reaches a final decision.
“There’s still a lot of ifs out there,” he said.