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No more hockey for TRU

One month before training camp is supposed to begin, players for the Thompson Rivers University men's hockey team are being told there won't be a season this year.

The TRU club team was founded in 2009 and was a "pay-to-play" team in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League. It was funded in part by players and in part by sponsorship and ticket sales.

It is not a varsity team for TRU meaning there are no scholarships offered to students and was not supposed to be funded by TRU. It was a way for hockey players to stay in the game while attending university.

In June of this year, the board of directors met to grapple with a funding shortfall. Ken Olynyk, head of the TRU athletics department who sat on the board of directors and acted as liaison between TRU and the team said they decided at that time to try and raise the participation fees of $1,500 to $2,400. 

On June 24 they decided to try and guarantee the season and said they would re-evaluate the situation in December. On July 29, they pulled the plug, deciding it would be better to cancel the season before it started instead of possibly being left hanging halfway through. 

"There was a conference call with those players that were available and directors of the society responsible for the program in conjunction with ourselves and at that point it was felt there weren't going to be enough players committed to the program," he said.

The team, which typically had 22 to 25 players, could only secure 14 registrations for the upcoming season under the new fee system. 

The program typically cost between $105,000 and $120,000 per year to operate and with sponsorships disappearing TRU ended up paying more and more to help the team. 

Olynyk said TRU is constantly raising funds from the community for a variety of university programs and initiatives - they are not currently in a position to single out hockey for a separate funding drive.

"We were welcoming of hockey, but it had to be a partnership," he said. "The Society did tremendous work, but we couldn't fund the whole program."

Andre Larouche with the Kamloops Collegiate Hockey Society said they began to lose funding about three years ago as community support began to dwindle.

He said there were many reasons funding disappeared for the team. 

"Less community support, less energy and time from the Hockey Society, more and more constraints on the TRU Athletics budget, degradation of our volunteer base, losing our GM," were among the reasons he listed.

He said the Hockey Society and TRU agreed to try and sustain the program one more year by raising fees, which initially players had agreed to. However, it soon became evident they were losing players due to the increase and "after looking at multiple alternatives, it became obvious we were short by at least $30,000."

"In the past TRU and Society Members and/or TRU were covering those deficits, but this year it was clear that we were not in position to do that, so the decision was taken to pull the plug."

Trevor Bast's son Desmond was the final player to be secured by the team, barely two weeks before it was announced the team was being dissolved.

With only a few weeks remaining before classes and the start of the season, Bast feels not enough was done to try and salvage the team.

"I believe they needed more of a presence in the community and needed to put more effort into finding the money," he said. 

"This (team) is worthwhile, if these kids end up not going to school, that's a drag, it changes their path and their life." 

Desmond is still going to attend TRU in the fall, hockey or not.

Cameron Weir is a hockey player from Kelowna who had chosen TRU because it had a good reputation and had a hockey program. 

He said news broke that the season was cancelled before players had even been notified. Now he is regretting his decision not to play elsewhere.

"We felt everything was good and in the hockey world at the college level, you need to know well in advance," he said. "I had an option to play in the US but it made more financial sense to stay close to home.

"I have called some other teams, but they are full now."

 

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