Almost every Saturday night throughout the fall and winter I could be found in the friendly confines of Brennan Park Arena watching the Squamish Wolf Pack junior hockey team lose hockey games.
It started off kind of cute, but by the end of the season, it became a little depressing.
During my time covering them, the team won a grand total of six out of 46 games, including only three wins all season in Squamish. Wins were about as rare as fans attending the Pack's games this year, which is why it came as no surprise that the team announced on Tuesday (April 5) that they will be moving to North Vancouver.
I think the question that needs to be asked is: Does anyone care?
Attendance at games this season was sparse at best and non-existent at worst. In fact, it seemed like several of the midget rep games I went to had more of a following than the Pack. Quite frankly, I find it hard to place all of the blame on Squamish hockey fans.
From everything I've heard, the team was well supported during the previous two seasons and the fans came in droves when the Squamish Cougars competed in the now-defunct WHA. So, what happened?
It almost seemed to me like this season was a write-off from the get-go. I think general manager Matt Samson put together a decent team on paper, but the marketing of the team was sorely lacking. There were no promotional games, no special contests and really nothing to draw the casual fans in. Sure, they had a puck toss every game, but it's nice to shake things up once in a while. I also spoke to several fans with kids in minor hockey and the Pack made zero special appearances for minor hockey teams and really did nothing to involve themselves in the community this year.
Combine that with a lackluster performance on the ice and you get the poor attendance that the Pack suffered from all season long. But I think the problem goes even deeper - a clear lack of hometown talent on the team.
Samson did make an effort, signing Squamish's Konrad Sander and Whistler native Matt Bonin, but there was some significant local talent that he appeared to pass on. Victoria Cougars goalie Corey Koop was the top-ranked goalie in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League this season. Are you telling me he wouldn't have been an upgrade over Jordan Liem? Trevor Leblanc is another local talent who moved on to Creston of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Again, it's imperative for local teams to have some local talent and those two players are just a few examples of opportunities lost.
I wish the Wolf Pack all the best in their new home in North Vancouver, but management would be wise to avoid the critical errors they made this season. Otherwise, they could be looking for another new home much sooner than they hope.