“We're in desperation mode,” Fort Frances Lakers' president Milt Strachan had said back in April regarding the local Junior 'A' team's future here.
Carrying an expected $40,000 debt, there's talk the 2017-18 season may be the Lakers' last unless the team sees a significant increase in attendance, as well as new blood to help run the community-owned franchise.
As a way to boost both attendance and revenue, the Lakers have asked town council for permission to use the upstairs canteen at the Ice For Kids Arena to sell beer at its home games this season—a request head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said was “paramount and necessary to extend and consolidate the viability of the Fort Frances Lakers' hockey team.”
There are potential pitfalls to this request. If people are allowed to bring beer into the stands to watch the on-ice action, there's the responsibility of ensuring no minors can get access to it.
As well, there's the need to make sure beer sales don't fuel unruly behaviour that detracts from the family-friendly atmosphere the Lakers no doubt try to portray as young players attend games to watch their local hockey heroes and role models.
As long as these concerns are addressed adequately, the Lakers should be allowed to sell beer at their home games this season.
Local residents seem to be in favour of it, too. Of the 308 responses to a Fort Frances Times' web poll two weeks ago, 58 percent agreed council should approve the request, with 39 percent opposed and three percent “unsure.”
Being able to sell beer certainly won't solve all the Lakers' woes, but it's a step the town can take to help keep the club afloat here for future seasons without having to tap into taxpayers' money.
Given all the benefits having a Junior 'A' hockey team in town provides, it's a win-win decision.