Ice a key perk for community, superfan says

Jacqui Bourque has lived in Red Deer for WHL team’s entire Kootenay career

Jacqui Bourque’s departure from Cranbrook 16 years ago coincided almost exactly with the arrival of the Edmonton Ice — now Kootenay Ice — of the WHL.

Since then, Bourque, who moved to Red Deer for work and who has lived there ever since, has been one of the Kootenay Ice’s most fervent supporters and believers. As often as she can, she makes the trek from Red Deer to Cranbrook to cheer the Ice on.

“Cranbrook is my home, and always will be,” Bourque told the Townsman during an intermission at last Saturday’s tilt between the Ice and the Lethbridge Hurricanes. “Having a team like this is a huge perk for the town. It’s too bad I wasn’t living here when they came.”

The Ice franchise was founded in 1996 as the Edmonton Ice, and moved to Cranbrook in 1998, becoming the Kootenay Ice. Now in their 17th season in Cranbrook, they played their first two seasons at the Memorial Arena before moving into the newly built Rec Plex in 2000 (now Western Financial Place).  The Ice have been to the national championship —  the Memorial Cup — three times, winning it in 2002.

“I’ve seen this team grow over the years,” Bourque said. “I think the Kootenay Ice have been a real cultural catalyst for Cranbrook. And the arena (Western Financial Place) is great. There have been concerts here that we couldn’t get in Red Deer.

“I get back here as often as I can, for safe travel.”

The Kootenay Ice are important part of the fabric of Cranbrook, and Bourque believes their continued presence will continue to be a boon for the community.

“Over the years coming here I’ve met huge supporters of the Ice,” she said. “It’s really for them that I want the Ice to continue to grow here.”