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Grande Prairie Storm sending out an SOS

The Grande Prairie Storm are reaching out to the community to try and save their team. They owe about $100,000 in unpaid bills, and need at least another $100,000 to get them through the rest of the season. Swan City Hockey Association President Chris Luhtala says they’ve been losing money since they last won the league championship.

“The team’s performance has varied; obviously that had a huge component of it. Community sports waned when the attendance wanes and that happens, but then in the end we just couldn’t make money for the past six years. We ate through our subsistence fund.”

They’re surviving on a week-to-week cash flow basis right now and have launched a “Save Our Storm” campaign aimed at bringing in donations and sponsorships. They don’t want to sell, but would be open to having a group of investors take over ownership until the Storm are back on their feet. Luhtala says it happened before when they were the Chiefs in 1995.

“It is an alternative way that allows the team to access what you’d call ownership money and survive quickly with a set people of 20, 22, 25 people that you can directly deal with, without the risk of putting it up for sale where it could move to somewhere else.”

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League President Ryan Bartoshyk says there’s no contingency plans in place if the team folds, meaning there’s nowhere for them to move. He adds that all teams in the league are struggling with the downturn in the economy.

The Storm were hit hard right off the bat when they started out, as for their first 10 years they had to subsidize travel for teams that came from the south of the province. Head Coach Kevin Higo says their own travel expenses also play a big part. The Storm are set to take 17 road trips this year, a high for the league.

“We’ve adjusted our schedule so we don’t go the day before [a game] unless we’re going to Fort McMurray. A typical night in a hotel, just for the hotel, is getting close to $2,000, so when you’re eliminating that you’re costs, but it’s just the reality; where we are is we’re four and a half hours from the majority of our competition.”

Higo argues there’s a perception in the AJHL that the Storm are wealthy and always successful and that’s not the case. The team is on track for 44,000 less sales this season, with attendance at games as low as 450 people.

In addition to raising funds through ticket sales, sponsorships, and investors, the team is also working to bring in more talent from the Peace region. In the 2013/2014 season there were 49 man-games played by local athletes; this year it’s already at 129.

For more information on the #SaveOurStorm campaign, visit

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