The Kootenay Ice are staying in Cranbrook.
After months of swirling rumours, the franchise has been sold — pending WHL approval — to Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, both of whom state their desire to keep the team in Cranbrook.
A special in-person meeting with the league has been scheduled for April 27th to review the new ownership application.
Cockell, who is planning on relocating his family to the city, will be taking over the role of President and General Manager and will be responsible for all business and hockey operations for the club.
Both Cockell and Fettes are looking forward to a fresh start for the team and the city.
“Our family is looking forward to becoming an active community member, and we are excited to engage directly with some of the greatest fans in the entire Western Hockey League,” Cockell said.
Cockell has previously served as Vice President, Corporate Partnerships for True North Sports and Entertainment, overseeing development and growth of business relationships with corporate partners.
A goaltender, Cockell has an extensive hockey background, playing three years in the WHL between 1996-1999 with the Saskatoon Blades, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Spokane Chiefs.
He was a fifth round draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in 1997, but opted go to the University of Manitoba through the WHL’s scholarship program, graduating in 2004 with an Honours degree in Marketing and Small Business Finance.
However, he returned to the game behind the bench in 2009 with the Brandon Wheat Kings as a goaltending coach for three seasons. He also served in the same role with Canada’s national women’s team during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Russia.
Off the ice, he’s also established relationships with Hockey Canada, the WHL, Winnipeg South Blues and Hockey Manitoba.
Fettes is the founder of 24-7 Intouch, a global customer service outsourcing company with over 8,000 employees in 14 sites around the world. He provides the strategic direction for one of the fastest growing companies in North America, helping them think outside the box and disrupt a stagnant industry for some of the greatest tech, retail, and consumer brands in the world.
Cockell previously served as Chief Customer Officer at 24-7 Intouch, where he ovesaw and led the strategy and execution for all sales, marketing and customer experience functions.
The announcement comes on the heels of persistent rumours over the future of the Kootenay Ice and whether the franchise was going to remain in Cranbrook.
Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt says he is glad to see the WHL franchise stay put, as it drives up to $7 million in economic activity for the city.
“When I’m promoting the area, talking to industry and different businesses about moving in here, I always mention the home of the Western Hockey League Kootenay Ice,” Pratt said, “and people are impressed that there is a Western Hockey League franchise here, so it’s a big selling point along with the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, the College of the Rockies and the Key City Theatre, so it’s another cog in the wheel when we’re trying to promote people coming to Cranbrook.”
The WHL relocated to Cranbrook in 1998 from Edmonton, rebranding to the Kootenay Ice under of Ed Chynoweth. In order to attract the team, the City of Cranbrook held a referendum to build Western Financial Place, that came with a price tag of $23 million.
The team played out of the Memorial Arena for two seasons while the building was constructed.
“After two decades of having them here, I think it’s easy to forget what it was like before they were here,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett.
“Our restaurants, our hotels, a lot of our small businesses benefit from this economic activity, even after a game that’s not well attended, you still have 1,500 people pouring out of that Rec-Plex and often, they’re going and doing something, either before or after.”
Bennett adds that he is looking forward to what the future holds in store under the new ownership group.
“My focus right now with the new owner is to work with that new owner and do everything we possibly can to prove to the new owner that with a new different approach, a new community-based approach, that the Kootenay Ice can be once again, very, very successful in this region,” Bennett said.
“I know we can do that, I know the mayor believes we can do that, I know that all positive people in this community believe that, we just need to work together to make sure that happens.”