By Fred Wallace
Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire ".
The annual Awards Banquet for the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks was cancelled this year due to COVID-19.
The WOAA Senior Hockey team did release a list of award winners with Blake Underwood being named as the Regular Season MVP and Goalkeeper Jeff Flagler being selected as the Playoff MVP for the club.
Underwood, who is from Port Elgin, and Flagler who is an Owen Sound Minor Hockey grad, represent a key facet of the Winterhawks operation in that they are marquee players from the region playing for a regional team.
That combination allows the Winterhawks to be highly competitive in a highly competitive league, plus the local nature of the Winterhawks roster allows them to remain appealing and recognizable to the local fan base.
Speaking with Saugeen Shores Winterhawks President Gord Lamont, there are many positive highlights for the operation, but there are massive storm clouds on the hockey horizon.
In fairness, those clouds don't just hang over the Winterhawks or the hockey community, but rather they reflect significant challenges going forward at many levels.
Using the Winterhawks as the example, Gord Lamont acknowledges the high level of community support the Winterhawks receive, but COVID-19 not only has impacted the team banquet, but also the many businesses that provide sponsorship funding for the organization plus the existing fan base who purchase game tickets.
If sponsorship money is reduced, or no longer available, how do you pay for ice time ?
If fans are limited, or if fans don't have disposable income as in previous years, how do you pay for team jerseys and equipment ?
How do you finance bus transportation and many other expenses that an organization like the Winterhawks incur ?
Gord Lamont, without being a voice of doom, has legitimate concerns for the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and the WOAA Senior Hockey League.
And it's fair to assume those concerns are shared by organizations, sports or otherwise, throughout the region, province and country.
I'm Fred Wallace