Neepawa Natives implement a travel fee


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

The board of directors for the Neepawa Natives has approved the implementation of a new travel fee for the 2018-2019 MJHL season. In a media release discussing the decision, the board indicated that the $1,600 fee will be used to help cover bus costs, road meals and motel accommodation when it is needed.

Late in the 2017-2018 season, the team’s bus, which has dealt with mechanical issues in the past, broke down to the point where repairing it was not cost-effective to the organization. For the upcoming season, the team will have to use a charter bus service. Team president Ken Waddell noted that this was a difficult decision to make.

“After much agonizing and consideration, [The board] voted to implement a travel fee of $267 per month per player for six months,” stated Waddell. “We realize this will impact players and families, but many Canadian junior teams charge a fee and the board feels a transportation fee is the fairest to all concerned.”

Waddell said that most of the players and their families have been informed of the travel fee and the reasoning behind the making of this decision. Waddell said that the responses varied.

“We have tried to contact all the players and the parents, as many as we can to explain the reasoning behind what we’re doing. There was a whole range of reaction. Some said ‘It’s been a long time coming. We’re in’, while others indicated that they didn’t look forward to paying more, but were in. Whatever is best for the team. While some said they’re done paying and would be exploring their options. We figured there would be the whole range [of reactions], it’s the way it is,” said Waddell. 

Moving forward, Waddell indicated that the board and the staff for the team have still received a good response to their upcoming summer evaluation camp, set for Brandon in July.  He also remained confident they will be able to ice a competitive team for this upcoming season.

The Neepawa Natives have lost money four of the last five years, with costs outpacing income by an average of $18,000 per year. Several other teams in the MJHL are believed to be in similar situations. Waddell said that like it or not, this new structure is an option that other teams and other leagues are reviewing.

“Long-term my bigger concern is how quickly the other leagues and other parts of the leagues are going to adopt this. We’re now three of 11 teams in the MJHL that have a fee of some sort in the MJHL. There are several [teams] considering it in Saskatchewan and also in Alberta. At least one team in Saskatchewan is implementing it. There’s already a league-wide fee albeit smaller than this one, in B.C. In the Ontario leagues, there’s already league-wide fees and some of them are hugely higher than our fee. It’s a coming thing. The business model has changed. Some of the money for the teams is going to have to come from the players, the same as it does from AAA bantam and AAA midget.”

It’s believed that two other franchise [Winnipeg and Selkirk] in the MJHL have previously established a player fee. In 2017, the MJHL implemented a player development fee of $500 to help aid teams along with going to promote the players through the league’s annual showcase and an enhanced dental plan.