Jason Klein, the Buffalo Wings C.E.O. asked me to reply to this post. As the former Vice President of Operations for the Wings, there are a couple of issues here that I would like to address with the hope of clarifying things.
The Buffalo Wings Roller Hockey Club was started in 1997 with the idea of operating a pro roller hockey team in RHI. RHI, at this time was not alive and well. I was part of pro roller hockey since 1994 and I watched that league deteriorate from when they peaked in 1995. The Wings got involved in pro roller hockey on their downswing. As a result of that, the Buffalo Wings organization, particularly the two owners, lost over $3 million on that venture. They are still trying to dig out from that fiasco.
Is the Buffalo Wings organization in debt and does it owe creditors money? Absolutely. In this day with the economy tanking here in the US, what small company doesn't have their credit stretched thin? The Wings have open invoices with a number of companies, both small and large, and have a payment plan in place with each one. Everyone of these companies has agreed to a plan and are getting paid. As a matter of fact, the two largest creditors are New York State government organizations. One is NYS Worker's Comp and the other is NYS Unemployment. These two cases resulted from audits that were done (audits that are done regularly by the state) and adjustments were made as a result of the Wings operating a pro team, particularly the last two weeks of the final 1999 season when RHI ran out of money and the individual teams had to play the players to finish the season. If anyone ever noticed, the Wings phones have never been shut-down, the Wings web site has never been shut-down, the Wings have never bounced a check to any tournament organization that their travel teams participated in.
The other bills that the Wings organization have are a result of poor cash flow. The Wings have a year round budget, but until recently, have only been operating roller hockey house leagues during the summer months and have done so by leasing time at various ice hockey rinks. Only recently have they begun running roller hockey year round. All this time, the Wings owners have pumped money into this organization to keep it afloat, to make sure everybody gets paid, including EVERYONE that has ever been employed by the Wings, with one exception. Currently the Wings have a duspute going with one employee who recently worked for the Wings. There are a number of issues involved with this dipute on both sides and the case may soon be going to court. Other than that, every employee has gotten what they worked for and then some. The owners of the Wings are so compassionate and generous, they have even given people extra money as part of a dismissal. I can speak directly to this. Is this the best business policy? No, but this is how the Wings treat their employees.
Was Jason Domitrovic forced to leave because of poor management? You would have to ask him, but as Jason's supervisor for a number of years before he left, I can give you my side of the story. Jason joined the Wings organization shortly after I was hired in 1997. It was his job to start and operate the Wings house leagues and non-pro travel teams. He did an excellent job. At the end of the 1997 season, I was promoted and became Jason's direct supervisor. Because he did such a great job, he was given free reign. Jason told me on a number of occasions that his utmost goal in life was to manage a roller hockey rink, particlarly here in his howntown. The Wings have been working for a number of years to get a rink built here in Buffalo. Jason became frustrated with the slow pace and lack of progress in getting a rink built. He wasn't the only one. Now Jason and I weren't friends, per se, but I respected his accomplishments and capabiities. I felt that he was wasting his talents here in Buffalo. After the 2000 summer season, Jason took a couple of months off to travel, to check out his options. I told him at that time that I thought it was in his best interest to expand his horizons, but he was welcome to come back. He's a young, single guy. He deserved it. At the beginning of 2001, we began looking for a replacement for him as the Wings Director of Development and Hockey Operations. In February, 2001, he informed me he wanted to come back and he was allowed to come back. One month later, he told me he was leaving to work for NARCh. As much as I want to be fair to people, him leaving shortly before we were to begin marketing our summer program hurt us. Now we had to find his replacement on short notice. I understand now that Jason runs roller hockey at Coast to Coast in Huntington Beach, CA. He is now fulfilling his dream in SoCal, probably sitting on the beach in shorts and a T-shirt. Yesterday morning, when I woke up here in Buffalo, it was -3 outside and -20 windchill. I don't think he was forced to do anything.
Now as far as sponsors boycotting the Wings, why? Just because the Wings, like many other small businesses owe companies money shouldn't effect a sponsor. The Wings have never stiffed a company or an employee, with the one exception that is currently in dispute. The Wings management may not always make the best business decisions, but roller hockey and running a first class organization on the floor has always been their number one goal. A recent example was their support for the University at Buffalo club roller hockey team. They joined the ECRHA last year and the Wings loaned them their old pro jerseys to help them save money. The Wings spent a considerable amount of money covering some of their costs and expected very little in return. You can ask any roller hockey player in Western New York and most of them want to play for the Wings. The Wings get e-mails from players across the country who want to play for them. These players don't care that the organization is in debt. All they care about is playing for a winning organization and the Wings do that. The Buffalo Junior Wings just won Gold at the NARCh Winternationals and last summer the Senior Platinum division team won Gold at NARCh Finals (Jason Domitrovic was on that team, by the way). This is a result of all the hard work that Jason Domitrovic and every other employee, including that of the employee that is currently in dispute with the Wings, has done and all the personal money that the Wings owners have spent. This is also all that sponsors care about.
Rich Graham asked me if I wanted this thread pulled and I told him not to. This is a free country and people have the right to say what they want. Hopefully, people can see the motivation behind the person making the orignal post and perhaps I helped set the record straight. If anyone has any questions concerning the Buffalo Wings and my past involvement with them or what I'm doing now, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]
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