The Swift Current Broncos were still able to generate a small profit in a rebuild year when the team did not make the playoffs.
The Broncos announced a net profit of $38,196 for the for the 2018-19 financial year at the annual general meeting, Sept. 25.
The team was starting to rebuild in 2018-19 after the previous championship year, and it was also their first full year under the guidance of Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Dean Brockman as well as Director of Business Operations Nathan MacDonald.
Chairman of the Board Trent McCleary felt upbeat about 2018-19 when he spoke to media after the annual general meeting.
“Well, it was definitely a year of transition,” he said. “After the season that we had in 2017-18 everybody knew that there would be a period of transition. So it’s as expected. We’re very happy with Nathan and Dean's performance, acquiring assets on the hockey side of it, and being profitable on the business side of it, and with the amount of changeover, we’re very happy with the way things went.”
The average paid attendance was 2,370 per game, which was helped by strong season ticket sales at the beginning of the year, and there were just over 2,000 season tickets.
“We knew that there was going to be kind of a honeymoon period after the championship season,” he said. “There was a lot of folks that bought season tickets to confirm their playoff tickets in 2017-18. So we knew that there was going to be some excess season tickets and things like that, but the job of the administration now going forward is to keep those season tickets. There is going to be a dip, and there has been, but it's a whole new generation of Broncos, and just like any other team, ‘89 and ‘93, you have a championship, and then you have to rebuild and remake yourself, and we're very confident Dean and Nathan can do that.”
Ongoing support from the business community helped to keep corporate sponsorship and suite commitments strong during the 2018-19 season. The profit at the end of the financial year was possible through additional income during the season.
“We had the Hockey Day in Canada game the Saturday night, they had the alumni game on the Friday night, just the overall excitement and added events like that, but also we had season ticket holders that put their money down in the 2017-18 season and followed through,” he said. “So a lot of things came together to have the profit, and now it's to keep that going and to keep the fan base, to grow the fan base, but also regenerate the fan base as well.”
Game day ticket sales dropped by approximately 40 per cent compared to the 2017-18 season, and ticket usage decreased by approximately 10 per cent.
The Broncos made a profit of $561,500 for the 2017-18 season, and McCleary noted that the team will use savings from that championship year to help them through the rebuild years when attendance will be lower.
“When you have a championship run like that, you make sure that you don't spend it all away and the club saved a lot of that money, because there are going to be tough seasons ahead,” he said. “With a young team there are going to be ups and downs and lots of that revenue was playoff revenue. We budget for no playoffs and then when you have a playoff year like we had in 2017-18 and you have 14 or 13 home games, that's huge revenue, and that's where we had a pretty nice profit two years ago. This year we pretty much broke even. We're very happy with that, and now it's to keep going forward and again hopefully we make the playoffs. If we don't, hopefully it's a breakeven. If not, we definitely have a rainy day fund for this type of event.”
MacDonald said an important focus of business operations during the past year was to look at ways to improve and grow operations.
“We have such a supportive fan base and such good support from our corporate community that it was a really successful year last year I thought, capped off by the Hockey Day in Canada festivities that were extremely exciting,” he mentioned. “A lot of people put a lot of work into that festival and it was fantastic. So it was a good year overall. Obviously the on-ice performance wasn’t quite what fans want and that’s completely understandable. But I thought we did a good job in our production and just looking for ways to always improve.”
They might have to look at additional ways of generating revenue to supplement income from game attendance, but their focus during the off season was to look at ways to improve the game experience for Bronco fans. Their goal is to ensure that a fan will get as much value as possible when they buy a ticket.
“I think that’s really going to help increase the overall engagement at our games, try and get more fans at our games,” he said. “That’s the solution that we want to focus on first and foremost, but when it comes to additional fundraisers going forward, it's something we always have to look at. But we have to make sure they're worth our effort, because sometimes you can create these giant fundraisers and generate only a little bit of money from it from the net perspective and sometimes that might not be worth it and you might be better off to focus that energy on the in-game experience and focus on your core product.”
An increase in season ticket sales will make a significant difference to the team’s financial situation, but the intention is also to convince people to become season ticket holders by providing a great game experience.
“So once we get all that stuff in place and get to show that to the fans and show them what we're doing, I think that's really going to help increase that season ticket from the base that it's at right now,” he said. “The base that it's at right now is an OK number for us. If that's sort of the bottom of the cycle that we're looking at, then I think we're looking at a really strong future to come, but certainly it's more about proving to them that their spend is worth it and that's where the focus is on.”
The Broncos created a new broadcast and communication approach, which resulted in the replacement of play-to-play radio broadcasts with online streaming of game-day audio broadcasts. It is also producing podcasts, videos and using social media live posts to increase the amount of coverage of the team. Craig Beauchemin has been appointed as the team’s new broadcast and community relations manager.
“He’s doing an incredible job,” MacDonald said. “He's extremely professional, he's got a great play by play call, and results so far from our streaming results have been pretty good. We get data on it all the time after every broadcast and we get to review that. Our home opener had close to 500 unique listeners and each one of them was listening for an average of about 45 minutes, which is really high. So that's showing that people that are listening are listening a long time and they're enjoying the product. That's a good sign and it's something that I think is going to keep growing as people get more and more used to the delivery method.”
The Broncos finished the 2018-19 regular season with a 11-51-4-2 record. The team was last in the East Division and did not make the playoffs. There were numerous trades during the season. Eleven players and three draft picks were traded for nine players and 14 draft picks.
“There’s processes to every kind of reset or rebuild or whatever you want to call it, and for us now it’s continuing with that process,” Brockman said. “We thought we had a good draft, but that’s only good if you follow it up with another good draft and making sure that we are out there watching. On ice you want to watch some of your older guys grow and get better. We still have to wait for the draft class to come in and push for spots, which we hope is as soon as next year. It’s really thin in certain areas or certain age groups and that’s going to take a little bit longer for us to kind of recoup that.”
The team started the 2019-20 season with several wins during the pre-season and they won their home opener during an exciting game. He felt those successes will help to build the confidence of players.
“That's the time where you can really just go over the top and push your guys and hopefully you push them in the right direction,” he said. “We're still going to have long nights and we know that there's going to be tougher days ahead, but as long as we're on a positive, we can push those guys to the limit.”
The message to players since last year has been to find ways to win games, because other teams will simply not give them a win.
“Everybody is fighting for positioning and for us it's trying to develop that character,” he said. “I call our team a bunch of no names, because we really are and nobody really knows who we are or what we can do, and as long as we continue to have that philosophy where nobody knows who we are, we can come in surprise some people.”