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Wildcats taking Town to court

Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

After a seemingly successful inaugural season for the Hinton Wildcats with 23 wins in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), their time on the ice in Hinton could be coming to a grinding halt. 

A new Junior A hockey team, the Hinton Timberwolves, signed a multi year contract with the Town of Hinton, announced the WSHL through a Facebook post on May 30.

“Currently, the Town has confirmed a rental contract with the ownership group for the WSHL team the Hinton Timberwolves,” stated an email from Emily Olsen, communications and strategic advisor for the Town of Hinton on May 31.

“The Town does not have a current rental contract with the Hinton Wildcats ownership group. We are not able to provide any additional information on this or other rental contracts between the Town and private businesses.”

Limited availability of ice time at the Dr. Duncan Murray Recreation Centre only allows one team to call Hinton home. Previously, Council approved a multi year Hinton Wildcats Junior A Hockey Club facility use agreement at a council meeting on June 19, 2018.

The Hinton Wildcats are part of the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA), which operated as a division of the Junior A hockey league; the WSHL.

“We filed a legal court application [on June 3] saying that they broke the contract and the judge will be deciding on that in about a month,” said Derek Prue, expansion director for the WPHA who now own and manage the Wildcats.

“They arbitrarily said the contract wasn’t valid, but there are clear ways you can do that within the lease contract and they didn’t follow any of those steps. We’re not sure what their motivation is or what the deal is.”

According to Prue, the town claimed that the Wildcats have payments in arrears, yet Prue claims currently the ice payments add up to less than $1000.

There was no response from the Town of Hinton administration when asked whether the payments in arrears could be confirmed by Hinton Voice deadline.

Prue admits that until the WPHA took over ownership mid-season there ‘hadn’t been one dime put on the ice bill’ and when the WPHA took over accounting in the last month of the season it wasn’t in very good shape.

“We took immediate steps to figure out what was owed and then to pay it off I think when we first took over the bookkeeping the amount was around I think $14,000 was the arrears,” explained Prue.

Dino Buttazzoni, one of the three Hinton Timberwolves owners explained that the only reason the Timberwolves could sign a contract was due to unpaid bills at the ice by the previous team, “They didn’t pay for the ice so they lost their contract.”

Ron White, president of the WSHL, confirmed both the WPHA and the Hinton Wildcats were terminated from the league and would not go into detail about what transpired but did state, “They did not live up to written agreements with the WSHL.”

While Prue claims the Wildcats did not owe the WSHL anything and had paid their fees and dues in full, he added that the WPHA will continue to operate independently without the WSHL.

“We run as our own independent entity. Last year was good because some of those US teams came down to play but that wasn’t going to happen again anyways. So nothing really changes for the WPHA to operate independently, it will be business as usual,” stated Prue.

White added that the Town of Hinton has moved on, that the agreement with the Hinton Wildcats is no longer in effect and that he would like to move forward with the Hinton Timberwolves.

Buttazzoni added that he has tried to set up a team in Hinton for the last two and a half years, but was never directly involved with the Wildcats.

His son who played on the Hinton Wildcats is now moving on to other hockey opportunities.

“That’s kind of what the whole thing is about, that’s what I want it to be about, all the kids getting a chance to move on. It’s a place for kids to play and to get better and to move on to something different. That’s what we want for our kids and our community,” said Buttazzoni.