The Prince Albert Raiders posted a loss of $63,906 last season, a figure largely to blame on missing the playoffs.
At the club's annual general meeting on Thursday evening at the Ches Leach Lounge, team treasurer Brent Spademan explained the team's position.
The team's operations had a $142,900 deficit but the club's player education fund has nearly $500,000 in it and the capital assets has about $300,000. As a result, the Raiders surplus stands at $645,892, a somewhat misleading total because the team's multi-million franchise value can't be reflected on the statement.
"Our operations is a bad trend," Spademan said. "For example, we're like a big company with lots of expensive real estate; we've lost a bit of money but we still have the big assets."
With just one playoff appearance in the past five years and four in the last 12, an extended post-season run would obviously be a big help for the bottom line.
In 2011, the team's three playoff gates totalled $114,454 in their series against the Saskatoon Blades. While the team paid a playoff levy of $20,526 to the league in 2011, it was still a major hit to have no playoff games in 2012. There was an accompanying loss of revenue in 50-50 sales and in the Ches Leach Room.
"When you look at the growth in our attendance base, if we would have had a playoff run, with some of our improvements in our revenue, we would have posted a $100,000 profit," Spademan said.
There were some surprises. While the team lost the playoff games, their overall revenue was only down marginally and they lost fewer dollars than in 2011.
The team's total revenue in 2012 was $1,816,425, down just $9,268 from 2011. The team actually lost $3,435 less than in 2011.
Club president Dale McFee said the steps that the team has taken to put a better team on the ice will make all the difference if it pays off in wins.
"We have to fill the seats," he says. "A playoff run always helps. At the end of the day, that's where a lot of teams make their money. When you look across the league, playoffs have to be a focus because that's your gravy, that's your harvest."
The Raiders played in front of 94 per cent capacity in 2012, a number achieved in part with a nearly $40,000 increase in promotion and advertising. Their attendance was the fourth best percentage in the league and the team's high-water mark since the 1996 season.
McFee notes that if the Raiders had sold the other seats, they would have been in the black.
"We can't expect the taxpayers of this city to be our fail-safe; we have to find our own way," he says. "I think we've done a pretty responsible job."
One place the team saw rising costs will only change if the team has more players signing pro contracts. The team had its scholarship and school fees rise more than $30,000 to $115,504.
Players earn money towards a university education with the amount of time they spend in the league. But as soon as a player like Raider captain Mark MacNeill signs his professional deal, he becomes ineligible for the money.
Either way, the player potentially has something to move on to after their WHL career.
General manager Bruno Campese says it's money well spent.
"That's the cost of doing business in the Western Hockey League," he says. "You provide kids with a chance to play hockey at the highest level in this age group and to go to university."
In the spring, the team hosted an invititation-only summit and was candid about the issues it faced both on the financial and hockey side.
In May, Prince Albert businessman Gord Broda — a member of the team's board of directors — floated the team a $1.5-million line of credit to draw on in tough times. It's nearly a decade since the team was in the black.
"We have a safety net but we have a trend," Spademan said. "We have this little operating loss trend and we want to nip it in the bud and reverse it and build up some healthy reserves.
"We don't want to let this get to the point where this number becomes zero," he said, pointing at the $645,892 in surplus on the balance sheet.
He noted that having all of your money reflected in capital assets like tables and chairs isn't very helpful.
Last month, the Raiders released a report that pegged the club's annual economic impact on the region at $6.26 million. It's clear the team's value transcends what they do on the ice.
But that's where much of the focus has to be, McFee says.
"We're a community-owned team. We don't need to make a lot of money. We just need to make sure that we have a product that people can watch for a long period of time and in a price range that people can afford."