With the Abbotsford Heat accruing another seven-figure deficit – $1.66 million for the 2012-13 season – it leaves Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman and city hall in an unenviable position.
Last spring, the city and the Vancouver Canucks were in talks to bring the Canucks’ AHL affiliate to Abbotsford, with the Heat rumoured to be ticketed for Utica, N.Y.
The potential arrival of a Canucks’ affiliate was viewed by many as a golden ticket for the municipality – a chance to off-load a chronic financial burden from local taxpayers by bringing in a team linked to B.C.’s extremely popular NHL franchise.
The city raised eyebrows by taking a hard line with the Canucks, allowing them to move their farm team to Utica.
In the aftermath, Banman stated repeatedly that the city would not accept a deal that puts taxpayers in a worse position than they’re already in, which would suggest the Canucks’ offer must have been a very bitter pill.
Moving the Canucks into the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre would be a mighty political coup, particularly with a civic election coming up this fall.
However, having inherited this conundrum, Banman doesn’t want to be pegged as the new mayor who sold taxpayers down the river.
There is little point in signing on to another long-term hockey money pit, given that the present contract ends in another five (albeit presumably painful) seasons.
In the event that talks with the Canucks restart this spring, the Heat’s attendance numbers to date (down more than 30 per cent from last season) aren’t exactly bolstering the city’s negotiating position.
Rock, meet hard place.