Summerside Western Capitals seeking new home

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Nancy MacPhee - TC Media

SUMMERSIDE — The ‘Summerside’ could soon be gone from the name Summerside Western Capitals.

The Maritime Junior Hockey League  champions have given notice to the league that the team is now in the process of seeking another venue for the 2013-2014 junior A hockey season.

The reason behind the move is a breakdown in negotiations between the city and management and owners of the team.

It’s a move the team, which has been losing money for at least the past seven seasons, doesn’t want to make, said general manager Pat McIver.

McIver said after months of trying to negotiate a new contract for the 2013-14 season and with looming deadlines, the organization has no other choice but to start looking for a new venue.

“We can’t get a contract done. We initiated discussions all the way back to January,” McIver said in an exclusive interview with TC Media late Monday.

“We’ve met several times without getting close. We advised them we would like to extend this year’s agreement. They said ‘no, that was just for the RBC Cup year’, which was unfortunate.”

The city just came off of a successful RBC Cup tournament, which generated, according to city officials, an estimated $1.5 to $2.5 million in economic spinoffs.

The Capitals were the host team, making it all the way to the final game against the Brooks Bandits, who won the national trophy.

That followed what was one of the Capitals’ most successful seasons on record.

McIver said after such a successful season it is disheartening that the city and the organization can’t come to an agreement that would sustain the team and keep them in Summerside.

“They countered with an offer that was not as good as our contract two years ago, which was not a contract that would enable the team to sustain itself in the City of Summerside,” added the team’s general manager. “The first offer we got was during the RBC Cup and it wasn’t close to what we would need to be able to survive in Summerside.”

The hope had been to have a contract finalized by the end of the regular season, which was March 8.

With the MHL’s AGM, set for June 13, and draft looming, the pressure is on.

“There are players that are wondering about school this year,” said McIver. “It’s pretty disappointing. We went all in this year. The city had a big commitment in hosting the RBC Cup. I felt we held up our own end of the bargain right from management to coaching to the players.”

He said in a market with 15,000 people and being one of two major tenants at Credit Union Place — the other being the Summerside Storm franchise with National Basketball League of Canada — the city’s support is needed in order to survive.

“We are all trying to just survive here,” said McIver. “I really don’t know where they are at with their (the Storm and the city’s) negotiations. I can’t say one way or another.

“We’ve been here for 32 years. We should be treated just as fairly as they are.”

He added, “If we have to move somewhere where we will be the main tenant for less competition for corporate and fan dollars we would have to entertain that.”

McIver said venues have contacted the organization and vice-versa.

He wouldn’t comment on where they are located and how far those negotiations have gone.

The Capitals general manager did confirm that the team, which is owned by George and Marybeth Roberts, is up for sale.

No contract makes selling the team even more difficult, added McIver.

“Our ownership would like to sell the team and has interested purchasers but without a lease on a building it makes it very difficult for ownership to sell and for buyers to even purchase,” he said. “You wouldn’t buy a hockey team without a building.”

The MHL has been advised by the organization that it is without a contract. The team had been getting pressure from the league on scheduling dates, which prompted the organization to make the news public on Monday.

“We have to have something in place by the AGM for the board of governors to decide,” said McIver. “We would like to take a location to the board of governors before that.”

A decision, he added, should be made within the next week to 10 days.

Calls and emails to the city were not returned by press deadline.

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