La Ronge Ice Wolves with fans on Feb. 25, 2017
With La Ronge considering restricting minors from alcohol-involved events, the Ice Wolves board is defending its record on responsible liquor sales and saying such a restriction would prove “fatal” for the hockey club.
Hugh Watt, a board member with the Junior “A” team, said in the 19-year history of selling liquor at the rink “we have never had a situation involving removing intoxicated people. That’s a fact from the hockey team.”
A survey done by the Northern Alcohol Strategy (NAS) in the Lac La Ronge region in early 2016 found that 61 per cent of respondents “said sporting events should be prohibited from selling alcohol and 72% said public events that involve families should prohibit alcohol,” and the NAS currently has a proposal with 49 liquor-related recommendations that’s being mulled over by town council.
While many have argued that selling liquor out in the open at events where kids are present sets a bad example, Watt said if the NAS and its affiliated community group want to control alcohol abuse in northern Saskatchewan they can’t take a blanket approach.
“This alcohol strategy group… they have to have the ability to somehow differentiate between public drunkenness, I guess in a sense, and responsible people drinking,” he said. “They’re nailing the wrong people, or they’re targeting the wrong people.”
Meanwhile, Watt said for the past five or so years, between $50,000 and $60,000 of the Ice Wolves’ annual income has been from liquor sales at the rink, and beyond the monetary loss “you’re going to see some fans choked that they can’t have an alcoholic beverage at the rink.
“Is it gonna be death to the hockey club? It’ll be death to probably, maybe 15, 20 per cent of the fan base. So now that fan’s not” attending a game.
“I gotta admit, I sit up there and I enjoy having a beer. I don’t drink a dozen beer,” he said.
Watt said there is common ground on NAS’s findings that alcohol is a major contributing factor to crime in the north and that the team is “in support of some of the initiatives” being proposed.
There is an upcoming public forum on the proposal, and Watt said as a town councillor he’ll be listening to what residents have to say.