The Oceanside Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) is in financial difficulty and has turned to the Regional District of Nanaimo for assistance.
Dylan Martini, OMHA president, appeared as a delegation at the RDN’s Oceanside Services Committee on March 2 to express the difficult financial position the association is currently experiencing.
“We didn’t get our gaming grant this year,” said Martini. “I took over last year as president a quarter way through the season and I just assumed the budget was set without the gaming grant consideration. And now that I’ve dived into everything for next season, we will have to budget one with the gaming grant and one without because we’ve learned our lesson this year. And I don’t want to have to ask for money every year.”
To stay within their limited budget, Martini said, they made a difficult decision of cutting the ice time for the children’s hockey development.
“That’s really a hard thing for me to swallow,” said Martini. “I think hockey is an important sport for Canadians. But just to get down and have somewhere to go and something fun to do — when I have to be the person that tells them they can’t anymore, then that hurts.”
Martini said he has been part of Oceanside minor hockey since he was four years old and had the opportunity to play in Europe.
“I’m trying to give back to the community and my kids are involved,” said Martini. “And yeah, this was a tough year because we’ve had the gaming grant for I think 23 years in a row and this year we didn’t get it. It hurts.”
Martini said they don’t know why the OMHA was denied gaming grants this year, which they diligently apply for annually. He pointed out the Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Association and three other hockey organizations in the Lower Mainland also did not receive gaming grants.
The OMHA, which is a non-profit organization, has requested $30,000 from the RDN to be applied toward ice fees for the remainder of the 2022-2023 hockey season, and also for 2023-2024 to allow them to meet expenses.
“We’re going to lose more than $30,000 this year,” said Martini. “We already upped our registration at the start of this year to counter ongoing fees that everything in the world is rising. And we’re still treading water now. That’s where we’re going to sit at the end of this year.”
Martini said they have a pending application for a gaming grant next season but if they are unsuccessful again, OMHA will need to increase fees, which he is reluctant to do.
“If it’s too high, people will go elsewhere,” said Martini. “And without development ice and being able to provide the kids ice, they can also go elsewhere. And we’re seeing that. So it will be an ongoing theme of lower registrations. Our numbers are diving down every year. I’d like to keep as many kids in town as possible.”
In 2019-2020, OMHA registered 341 players, but the next season during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic enrolment went down to 259 players. This season 278 players registered, which Martini said is still a 19 per cent decline from pre-pandemic numbers.
Parksville director and mayor Doug O’Brien has been trying to find out what happened to the gaming grant and sought the assistance of Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker. In the meantime, O’Brien suggested the OMHA find out why their application was unsuccessful.
“You’re not going to get it this year, we know that, but we have to move forward,” O’Brien said. “There has to be a reason. Maybe was there something wrong with your application. Did they run out of money? Was it granted to other organizations? And what is your chance of getting it for next year? So I would suggest that as a maybe, moving forward.”
General manager of recreation and parks, Tom Osborne, suggested with the RDN’s budget currently in the works that staff be given an opportunity to come up with options for the RDN board to consider.
“We will endeavour to look at all approaches and bring that to the board direct for this fiscal cycle for the RDN, which is now.”
Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director Leanne Salter made a motion for staff to come up with an expedited report, to be presented to the board in two weeks, how best to assist OMHA with the subsidized ice time that they requested.