Youth hockey back in good standing


August 25, 2023

Three years after having its nonprofit status revoked, the Cloquet Amateur Hockey Association is in good standing again, having had its federal tax-exempt status reinstated late last week.

“We’re not happy about it, but we took the steps to rectify it,” said board president Don Gentilini. “It’s a lesson-learned type of thing, and, hopefully, we’ll be better for it in the end.”

The association oversees youth hockey in the city, as well as operating the two indoor ice facilities now owned by the city, Northwoods Credit Union and Pine Valley arenas.

Commonly referred to as CAHA, the association lost its nonprofit status in 2020, following three years of failing to file annual 990 forms with the Internal Revenue Service.

The subject has been on the CAHA board radar since the spring. The association hired Emmett Robertson Rubric Legal of Minneapolis to marshal the reinstatement process, and also switched its accounting services to Alaspa and Murray Ltd. of Cloquet.

The goal is to put a system of accountability into place.

“We’re learning you need to keep track of your own comings and goings,” Gentilini said.

Like most youth sports organizations, the CAHA board is generally made up of people who have children involved in the sport.

“It’s rare to have people that don’t have kids actively involved in the association,” he said.

When their children leave or age out of the sport, those volunteers often leave the association, too, meaning institutional knowledge of the board can go with them.

“The IRS site is littered with volunteer fire departments and youth sports organizations (not in good standing),” Gentilini said. “Not that it’s something we felt good about.”

Gentilini explained that CAHA seemed to lose track of its reporting requirements following a changeover when it dropped its gambling component, no longer fundraising by selling pull tabs at a local establishment.

“It wasn’t malicious,” he said. “It wasn’t a misappropriation of funds or anything like that. … We weren’t hiding it; it was in our board minutes.”

The organization’s most recent meeting minutes, from May, show CAHA with checking and savings account balances totaling roughly $78,000.

Losing nonprofit status didn’t fundamentally change the way the association conducted business. But donors wouldn’t have been able to deduct contributions they made to the association, and anyone auditing the program would have seen its status as being revoked on the IRS database.

Board members for CAHA serve three-year terms, and Gentilini is in his fifth year with the board. As its current president, he said he felt personally responsible for getting the status reinstated.

“We’re youth sports,” Gentilini said. “We’re here to serve the community. A lot of it’s volunteer-driven and we never want to see negatives for a group of volunteers working for the community. We feel like what we do for the people we serve and the buildings we maintain that we’re a centralized part of the community. That’s why we want to make sure we get things right. We don’t want a mark on the city or the hockey



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