The new ownership duo of Matt Cockell and Greg Fettes met with the Cranbrook business community shortly after acquiring the team in 2017. Pictured left to right: Greg Fettes, Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, Matt Cockell.

The new ownership duo of Matt Cockell and Greg Fettes met with the Cranbrook business community shortly after acquiring the team in 2017. Pictured left to right: Greg Fettes, Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, Matt Cockell.

COLUMN: ICE rumours heating up…again

Here we go again.

Another day, another relocation rumour.

READ: League responds to Kootenay ICE rumour

The Kootenay Ice is back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as a report from the Winnipeg Free Press says the team will be announcing a move to Winnipeg next week.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Over the last five years I’ve heard that the Ice are relocating to Fort McMurray, Wenatchee, Winnipeg, Nanaimo, Lloydminster and Timbuktu.

And yet, here we are.

Don’t get me wrong — the optics for long-term sustainability is not great.

Attendance declined at an average of 2,239 in 2015 to 1,754 two years later. Before that, average attendance was trending downwards from 2008, save for a spike in 2012 following the team’s third WHL championship season.

Average numbers bumped up by almost 700 after new owners Matt Cockell and Greg Fettes bought the team in the 2017 offseason, however, numbers have trickled down from last year.

It’s uncomfortable to stare at a sea of blue seats on certain game nights and think that it’s business as usual.

Other red flags abound.

A campaign to fundraise season tickets from a grassroots ad-hoc committee recently ended and all money returned after organizers vented their frustration at a lack of engagement with Ice ownership.

The Reach Out campaign, headed up by the Kootenay Ice Green Bay Committee —modelling itself after a fan committee in support of the NFL team — had solicited season tickets from local businesses that were donated and distributed to schools and clubs.

For the more conspiracy theory-minded, other circumstantial evidence could include registering winnipegice.ca and winnipegice.com web domain names a day after each other in April 2017. Or recent trade acquisitions that have a Manitoba or Winnipeg connection. Or the fact that there’s no geographic locator on the rebranded jerseys.

Every time relocation rumours flare up, it’s radio silence from the team. And fair enough; there’s no obligation from ownership compelling them to respond to every single anonymously sourced news report out there.

However, the silence is deafening, and one would think that if those rumours were baseless, they’d be vehemently denied.

As confirmed by the WHL on Friday, there is no planned announcement for Monday involving the Kootenay Ice or a rumoured relocation to Winnipeg.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand the sense of making a relocation announcement in the middle of the WHL season in December.

Seriously.

In order to approve a move, the WHL Board of Governors has to have a two-thirds majority from the table, but the next scheduled meeting isn’t until February next year.

Maybe relocation plans are in the works; I would not be surprised if has been explored.

The team has had a wonderful 20 year legacy in Cranbrook with three WHL championships and one Memorial Cup, along with plenty of famous NHL alumni, including Jarret Stoll, Adam Cracknell, Brayden McNabb and Sam Reinhart.

I’d love to see the team remain here for another 20 years, but at the same time, the team also has a bottom line to meet.

And based on attendance figures, one has to wonder if the financial numbers are adding up.

It’s an awkward argument to make, that there isn’t enough ‘fan support’ in Cranbrook. I’d say the opposite, there’s plenty of passionate fan support for the team.

But can that community passion translate into more ticket sales and support at the gate? Would attendance increase if the team started winning more consistently, or snagged a berth into the playoffs?

I don’t know.

The new ownership deserves credit for the way it engaged with the community after the sale of the team and were rewarded with a spike in average attendance for the 2017/18 season.

However, in the face of declining attendance once again, the relocation rumours are bound to fester, at least until the end of the season.

We’ll see what happens after that.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read