Cash-strapped MMHA raises registration 25 per cent, looks for help

Mooretown Sports Complex

Heather Wright/The Independent

Cash-strapped Mooretown Minor Hockey is asking St. Clair Township council to help keep hockey affordable for kids.

The request came Monday, just a week after the group told parents registration fees would need to climb 25 per cent to help cover rising costs. “It’s about $1,000 per family to play hockey right now,” Marty Passmore, interim president of the association told council. That’s up from $875 last year, and far higher than the $500 in the 2000 season. “Because of this massive increase, we’re forecasting potential membership loss which would be unfortunate for anyone that would like to enjoy the game of hockey, the game we all love.”

Passmore says it takes over $530,000 to run minor hockey and it’s running at $31,000 deficit this year. The cost of ice time has increased as has the costs for referees. And the Ontario Minor Hockey Association now makes local associations foot the bills for training coaches. That cost about $26,000.

“Right now with a 25 per cent increase, we’re still not breaking even. We’re actually in the hole.”

Passmore asked the township to freeze the cost of ice time for two years and to work out a payment plan for the summer ice the association has booked this summer. Normally, the bill is paid up front.
MMHA has in the past received a grant from the township, from an education fund with the cash coming from a host agreement from Clean Harbors waste site. It did not receive that funding this year.

Passmore says hockey is an economic generator when teams travel to the area. “We also know that we support local businesses, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores.”

Councillor Cathy Langis questioned other revenue sources, such as Silver Stick tournaments. Passmore said most of that cash goes to International Silver Stick adding last year, MMHA received just $3,000.

Deputy Mayor Steve Miller said “We aren’t in a good financial position over there either,” noting last year there was a deficit of nearly $300,000 which the community covers with its taxes. “In the last two or three years we’ve lost two or three million dollars – we are subsidizing it.”

Councillor Holly Foster agreed. She said only 330 are involved with minor hockey. “I don’t know how we can subsidize this and like when we are running a deficit” she said. “I think we need to take a hard look at this. I’m sorry.”

Foster also asked the Director of Community Services, Kendall Lindsay about the affect of freezing the cost of ice times for the a couple of years. He pointed out the arena’s costs are also rising and the township took out a loan to improve the arena. He added there is still work to do in the arena including change rooms that are “falling apart.”

Passmore said without help, there will be kids whose families simply can’t afford hockey in Mooretown.

“I see the value in hockey in terms of our community. I just ask that you see how much of a deficit you can run in order to keep our families and our communities involved involved in hockey.”

“We can’t have cost so insurmountable that families can’t afford to play,” Passmore added.
Mayor Jeff Agar, a long-time supporter of minor hockey who was recently appointed the MMHA board by council, seemed to be in favour of some municipal help.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about us, it’s not about you, it’s not about all the parents out there, it’s about the kids playing hockey; if they can’t play, absolutely, there’s something wrong.”

Council asked administration for a report on MMHA’s request and gave the association time to pay the summer ice rental.

At the end of the council meeting, Foster asked her fellow councillors to reconsider a recent move to put the mayor and Councillor Langis being on the MMHA board. That failed for lack of support.