Parkers the right owners for now
By Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
March 17, 2010
Regina Pats alumnus Jamie Heward is capable of finishing a cheque -- should he choose to do so.
That possibility was raised, albeit jokingly, when the Pats conducted a post-mortem with the media on Monday afternoon at the Brandt Centre.
General manager Brent Parker was surrounded by reporters shortly after Heward, fellow ex-Pat Mike Sillinger and friends completed a pickup hockey game. During the scrum, Parker fielded the inevitable inquiry about whether the WHL team might be sold to Heward, Sillinger, et al.
"Jamie, have you got a cheque?'' Parker said to Heward, who was standing 10 metres away. "They want to know if you're buying the team again. Do you have a cheque on you? Let's just get this over with.''
To which Heward responded: "$15 million!''
"You scooped it right there,'' a chuckling Parker said, "live on TV.''
The perennial sale rumours are percolating following a second successive non-playoff season for the Pats, who once again placed 10th in the 12-team Eastern Conference.
Heward and Sillinger reportedly have an interest in eventually being part of a group that would purchase their former team. Parker has acknowledged that Heward and Sillinger would be logical, eminently credible buyers if and when the team is sold. But such a deal, while it always provides fodder for speculation at this time of year, does not appear to be imminent.
"Nothing's changed,'' Parker said. "At some point in time, maybe it will, but nothing's changed.''
Nor is it imperative that a change of ownership occur.
Heward and Sillinger would be terrific owners when that time comes. They possess the requisite resources, having enjoyed successful NHL careers, along with a passion for this community and its junior hockey team.
However, the passion also burns inside the current owners. Calgary-based Russ Parker, who purchased the Pats in June of 1995, loves the team that he followed while growing up in Moosomin. His son, Brent, is of the same ilk.
If you have spent even a millisecond in the company of Brent Parker, his desire to win becomes apparent.
When the Pats have a shot at first place, Parker typically makes a series of deals to fortify the team. He did that in 1998 and 2008, when Regina finished first in the East Division's regular-season standings. The same philosophy applied as the Pats prepared to stage the 2001 Memorial Cup.
While examining the Pats' fortunes in 15 seasons under the Parker regime, there is one unavoidable fact. The team has not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since the spring of 1993, when co-owner/GM Bill Hicke coached the team alongside Al Dumba.
"I really believe -- and I know you guys (in the media) maybe won't buy this -- that there's a lot more that goes into the success of a junior hockey team than just winning,'' Parker said.
"Obviously, we're in a performance-based business and we all want to win, nobody more than me. You've sat upstairs (in the press box) enough days to see how hard I take losses and how excited I can get on wins, and maybe I get too high and low. I think we've done a lot of real good things as an organization.''
When the Parkers took over, the season-ticket base was around 500. Now it is around 3,300. There was a decline in attendance this past season, but other teams -- including the Saskatoon Blades -- are lamenting the same issue.
As owners, the Parkers have conducted themselves with class and conscience. An entire column could be filled with an enumeration of their community-minded initiatives.
The on-ice performance has not been spectacular, but the Pats have still won 28 more games than they have lost (499-471) since the Parkers assumed control.
So is there a need to sell to Heward and Sillinger? Not just yet.
Nonetheless, the team must be sold -- to the fans -- in the wake of another disappointing season.
"I know we have to earn people's trust back,'' Parker acknowledged. "I know we have to earn their faith in us back.''
Failing that, the earnings of Heward and Sillinger could come into play.
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