Debtless Cents optimistic, but new BCHL protocols a challenge:

This is posted on the Merritt News website.

June 29, 2010

John O’Connor
News Editor

The Merritt Centennials new board of governors will have its work cut out for it with a new league protocol and a promise to deliver more entertaining hockey for fans.

But this year is going to be a little different for the board. For the first time in a long time the Centennials have come out on the plus side in their budget and it looks like they will be able to meet the league’s suggested $450,000 operating budget.

A new board of directors was named at the Cents annual general meeting last Wednesday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

The new board is shaped by newcomers Andrea Barnes, Nik Vischschraper and Paul Barnes; while returnees Tod Dean, Brian Barrett, Frank Etchart, and Betty Doberstein round out the remaining seats.

“We’ve got some stability on the Board with all but one director returning and we’re excited about that,” said Jerry Canuel, who will again sit as team president this season. “We’ve got good community people who have been involved with the Cents and junior hockey in the past, and each director brings a huge amount of enthusiasm to the group.”

Tom Reynolds will sit as vice president with Cathy Frizzell as secretary, and Beth Nadeau as treasurer.

Despite Brian Barrett’s comments during the AGM that BCHL team owners appear to be trying to drive out small-market teams like the Cents, the new directorship will get a chance to show that it isn’t always the highest payroll that succeeds at winning games and entertaining fans.

“It was a tumultuous start to the year,” admitted Canuel, speaking of the Cents slow start last season.

Following the hiring and firing of three coaches, the Cents finally found what they were looking for in a local man and former Centennial player Luke Pierce.

“That enabled us to bring in our own brand,” said Canuel of hiring Pierce.

“We showed improvement, and I think what we did was instill confidence in the community.”

“Luke has a vision that we’ve all bought into,” continued Canuel.

Executing Pierce’s vision may not be as easy as it would have been before. The BCHL has implemented a new operations protocol manual that each team is expected to abide by.

“It provides each team with the direction they have to go (in a professional manner),” said Barrett.

“A lot of it is probably being brought in because of the Williams Lake situation.”

In May, the BCHL board of governors voted in favour of suspending the Williams Lake Timberwolves franchise due to what it said was the club’s lack of “good standing.”

“This year is going to be a real tough year as far as reaching expectations with the operations manual,” continued Barrett.

Pierce appeared not to concerned with the new BCHL protocol but said it goes a little overboard.

Home games at NV Memorial Arena may have a different feel this season as the Cents look to recruit more security staff.

And what of the much-complained-about arena heating? Barrett says there is not much he can do differently without upgrades to the existing system. City council may soon get a visit from the hockey club, looking to improve one of the league’s oldest buildings.

The Cents have beefed up the communication side of things by announcing Brian Wiebe as their media liaison person.

Wiebe currently maintains the Merritt Centennials website as well as his own personal blog, which is dedicated to everything and anything Cents. Maddison Canuel will continue in the marketing and sales department.

Merritt Centennials Home Projected Limited, which owns a house on Nicola Lake, is still looking to sell the property for an estimated $795,000.

The board admits that it made an error when it had the opportunity to sell the house, but instead held out to sell higher. The board says as markets dove it made it more difficult to sell.

Nadeau says the Cents budget will be released within the next few weeks.

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