JASON PARKS EDITOR – Picton Gazette
With the rink rumour mill running overtime, the owner of the Wellington Dukes is setting the record straight on the future of the local Jr. A hockey club and its place in the community.
Some whispers in the junior hockey wind indicating the club could be sold and on the move to Newmarket have been swirling however owner Ken Clement stressed the team is not for sale.
“I have no intention of selling currently,” Clement told the Gazette via email last week “We have been approached by a few interested parties over the past six months. The interesting thing is that often rumours start and then reality follows. Some of the recent rumours in the community lead a couple of groups to put in significant offers, however each of the offers would see the team relocated. That is currently not my wish.”
Clement said the interested parties do not see Wellington as sustainable in its current situation due to the small market and with municipalities offering concessions such as free arena rental to lure an OJHL team to their community, the race is on to try and take what other communities hold dear.
Clement admitted Wellington’s financial outlook is not as strong as it could be post COVID but he’s willing to dip into his own pockets to keep the team here. With some helpful adjustments.
“I am committed to this team and this market, but some changes need to happen. I am willing to lose a little money to keep the team I love afloat, but the current situation is not ideal,” Clement said, adding that the club has had a longer than expected lull following COVID but that its meeting financial responsibilities.
“The team has been meeting its responsibilities, and will continue to meet its responsibilities. Saying that, we have been slow to catch up following the pandemic. You have to realize over 60 per cent of our revenue is derived from playoff attendance,” the owner said. “When the pandemic took away the 2020 playoffs as well as the entire 2020-2021 season, not only did we lose that revenue, we had to accumulate over $500,000 in losses for that period. It has taken time to recover. My core business as well as the Dukes are on the mend and will be in a good place moving forward.”
In addition to sale and relocation rumours, it’s also been speculated Wellington coach Derek Smith might be lured away from the Dukes to another nearby Jr. A bench.
Clement wasn’t hearing it.
“Derek Smith is a Duke and will remain a Duke until he is ready to advance to a higher league,” the owner stated. “The Dukes are committed to winning. That mantra will always be our mantra. Other teams in our league maybe used to share this mantra, but recent ownership changes may have changed their motivations. Derek wants to be part of a team where he can decide who is on his team and he has the resources to be a contender every season. I intend to continue to make this happen for Derek.”
Photo: Outgoing owner Micheal Mulvihill and incoming owner Ken Clement after the Dukes won the 2018 Buckland Cup (Ed McPherson/OJHL Images)