Wanted: a used coach bus that will safely transport young hockey players through the dead of winter.
Powell River Kings are looking for a replacement for the team bus that broke down on their BC Hockey League road trip at the beginning of November. The bus now sits in Richmond beyond repair.
The trip cost the club its bus, tow truck charges, a charter and a rescheduled game in Wenatchee that will have to be played in the new year, according to head coach Kent Lewis.
Lewis said the breakdown is a major challenge because the Kings run on a tight, strict budget and a bus, even a used one, will set the club back significantly.
“This has been a real smack in the head,” said Lewis.
The trip cost the team close to $4,000 to charter a bus and the Kings spent about another $4,000 to charter for its three-game road swing last weekend, according to Powell River Kings Hockey Club Society treasurer Joe Mastrodonato.
“We can't afford to go too many weekends renting buses,” said Mastrodonato. “That's a killer.”
Mastrodonato added the team wants to have its own bus as soon as possible.
The Kings account for the unexpected because a lot of things can happen in a season, according to Lewis.
“Through these long trips we've encountered issues with the bus in the last couple of years,” he said. “It's not something that's caught all of us off guard, or totally by surprise.”
The hit to the bottom line, according to Mastrodonato, means borrowing some interim funds.
“We're in a position to make it happen, but eventually we've got to pay it off, depending on what we want to buy,” he said. “We'll have to spend $40,000 to $50,000 to get something half decent.”
Kings have set a goal to raise $100,000 through an online crowd-funding platform. The team also hopes the community rallies around fundraising efforts through the annual Powell River Kings Dream Lottery.
An affordable bus for the Kings is a far cry from the $650,000 luxury coach it chartered after the bus bust.
“A bus is a bus,” said Kings broadcaster Alex Rawnsley. “The bus that we chartered was nice; USB ports in the seats and TV screens. The life of luxury is nice, but at the end of the day it's four wheels and an engine that gets you from A to B, not the comfy seats.”
The club has had four used buses in 30 years and its first did not have bells, whistles and comfy seats.
“The first one we ever had was a city bus from Victoria,” said Mastrodonato. “We paid $3,000. We put bunks in it and that lasted for a few years.”
Mastrodonato said he remembered one old grinder the team had, a city bus, stalling on the Coquihalla Highway.
“Here's the guys in the middle of the road pushing the bus,” he said. “We made it. It was one of those things that they still get a big kick out of.”
Mastrodonato said the team has made money in recent years. It made a small surplus last year and revenue from provincial gaming funds and the Kings 50/50 draw has been good. There isn’t enough in the bank for a major purchase such as a team bus, however.
“We just don't have enough because we keep paying debts off,” he said. “We're paying our bills.”
Kings have always had their own bus and there's reasons for that, according to Lewis.
“We spend the most time on a bus, outside of maybe one or two other teams,” said Lewis. “Our travel budgets are high because obviously we have to stay in a lot of hotels. There are times throughout the year that we have to spend the entire night on the bus. Driving back from Prince George, there's no stopping. The kids need to be comfortable.”
On the ice against BCHL Island Division rivals Nanaimo Clippers, Victoria Grizzlies and Cowichan Valley Capitals last weekend, Kings earned two points from one overtime tie, while their two losses were by a single goal.
The first defeat was November 10 in Nanaimo where the Kings lost 2-1 in overtime to the Clippers. Kings and Grizzlies tangled like it was a playoff game on November 11. The teams tallied a total of 13 goals, but the Kings came out on the losing end 7-6.
The road trip ended November 12 with the Kings playing the Capitals through two overtime periods, ending in a 2-2 tie, despite outshooting the Capitals 63-27.
The weekend results tightened the Island Division standings with the Kings remaining in first place with a record of 12 wins, five losses, two ties and two overtime losses.