Just a couple days after the Watertown Wolves claimed that the city and its leaders were not talking to the team about trying to negotiate a new lease for the team at the Watertown Arena, city leaders fired back in a big way in a story posted late last night on the Watertown Daily Times website.
We’ll make this as short and as easy as possible to understand: Basically the city is calling the team out, saying the Watertown Wolves Facebook Page was trying to create sympathy with the post, and that the post resulted in city leaders getting a flood of calls from angry fans. Oh, and that the team was misleading its fans with the post. So yeah, probably not a great idea to piss off the people you’re trying to negotiate a new arena deal with.
Here’s a sampling of some of the quotes from those city leaders from the story linked to above:
“very unprofessional,” Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said that the city and its staff should not tolerate that treatment from the team.
“I was stunned,” she said, saying that she heard a lot of negative comments from the public because of the message in the posting.
“That should never have happened. It was uncalled for.”
She accused the team of trying to create sympathy from the public just as the city and Wolves are negotiating a new lease.
“I’m sorry but that’s not how I do business,” she added.
It gets better.
Calling it “misleading,” Councilman Cody J. Horbacz was so angry about the posting that he called team owner Don Kirnan and made him take it down.
The topper is that the Wolves did end up taking the post down from their Facebook page, basically admitting they were wrong to post it without formally admitting they were wrong. But, team owner Don Kirnan, who is also the Commissioner of the FPHL, remained upset with how he feels the city is treating the team and its attempts to secure a lease for next season.
In the post above, Kirnan did not go into specifics about what the city is doing wrong or has done wrong but said, “That’s not a way to treat a tenant…Obviously, I’m very frustrated,” and again threatened to pull the team from Watertown and to seek a new town and arena.
The city then countered the Wolves claim that they weren’t talking to the team, with Watertown Parks Superintended Erin E. Gardner saying she had spoken with Kirnan and that there were a couple things they want to work out between the two sides before a new lease can be completed.
The city also made it sound like they won’t be giving the Wolves a hometown discount on a potential lease after the season the team had at the gate, with City Manager Rick Finn saying they want to audit the team to see how its financial situation is. The city lowered the team’s lease by $6,500 last season after the team admitted it lost money in 2017-18. Then this most recent season the Wolves attendance jumped to 956 fans a night, a 266 fan per night increase, and the largest attendance in team history.
We saw this story this morning, and the thing the entire BLH chat thought was, “Boy does this make the Wolves look bad.” On the surface, it looks like the the team tried to throw the city under the bus for why a lease hasn’t been reached yet, only to get caught, publicly called out, and then having to take down the Facebook post where they blamed the city for the problems.
To make matters worse, it’s not just a team doing this, it’s the league’s damn commissioner, who also happens to own a team in the league that he is in charge of. To have the guy who runs the league (and that’s a whole different post for another time, how the commissioner of the league is allowed to own a team. Conflict of interests anyone?), call out a city and publicly shame them on Facebook, only to back down and pull the post to try and save face is not a great look.
And for the FPHL as a whole, the other eight teams have to be watching this saga unfold wondering what the hell it might mean if the Wolves don’t end up playing for some reason.
If the Wolves don’t end up playing, it likely results in having to re-create the entire league schedule, possibly having to re-configure the rumored divisional alignment the league was considering switching to, and also likely resulting in a dispersal draft for the players that remain on the Watertown roster following the FPHL Expansion Draft.
If there is one positive that might come out of this should they not play, it would mean an even eight teams in the league, making it so there isn’t one team off every weekend due to an odd number of teams. An extremely small, and absolute worse-case scenario positive.
But, remember back to last year where the city and the team did this dance, though not this public and this ugly, and ended up reaching an agreement that kept the team in Watertown, and we certainly hope that’s the case again this time around.
Again, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this saga and updating with any news we hear about the team and city either reaching an agreement, or if the team takes its ball and goes to find a new home.