Scattershooting . . . with questions, thoughts about chill in Cranbrook and Ice in Winnipeg

Scattershooting

Scattershooting in the aftermath of the WHL board of governors’ decision to allow the Kootenay Ice to leave Cranbrook for Winnipeg. . . .

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When the Green Bay Committee surfaced in Cranbrook in November and expressed its intentions of selling tickets and sponsorships in an attempt to keep the WHL franchise in wpgiceits community, why did the Ice ownership choose not to help out, especially if the intention was to stay put? . . . When the committee quickly raised what it says was more than $50,000 and the ownership still wouldn’t get involved, why didn’t the WHL and the Ice owners fess up then?

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Taking Note has been told that the Ice “squeezed” season-ticket holders out of the north end of the arena and closed it off as this season started. Apparently, some folks didn’t want to move and chose not to renew their season-tickets.

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One fan told Taking Note that 10-game Flex Packs weren’t offered this season until the schedule was into November, more than a month later than the previous season. Prices for adult tickets also increased from $180 to $210, with child-student ducats going from $75 to $90.

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The season-ticket campaign — Drive to 25 — had a goal of 2,500 season tickets, which would have represented more than 12 per cent of Cranbrook’s population. Just wondering, but was that realistic? Or would it even have mattered had the goal been surpassed?

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A statement issued Wednesday by the City of Cranbrook:

“The City of Cranbrook is disappointed to hear that the Kootenay ICE Hockey Club has decided to leave the community, as indicated in the announcement by the team ownership group Tuesday.

“The City is proud of its residents and the business community for getting behind and supporting the Kootenay ICE during the franchise’s 20-year history in Cranbrook. The Kootenay ICE provided many memorable moments for its fans here in Cranbrook. However, Cranbrook will continue to be a strong hockey town and will find other ways to continue to provide hockey excitement in our community.

“There will be various business and financial details that the City will work through during the remainder of the season. The City is looking at opening discussions with the Kootenay ICE management on behalf of taxpayers. “The City will take the opportunity to reflect and look forward in order to plan for the future, taking time to fully explore opportunities that will work best for the community.”

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In January 2009, the Kootenay Ice and the City of Cranbrook signed a new lease that, according to a news release from the team’s website, didn’t include an exit clause. Jeff Chynoweth, then the Ice’s president and general manager, was quoted in the news release: “It has always been our number one goal to remain in Cranbrook and this new lease will ensure that stability for the next 15 years.” . . . Ten years later, the Ice has nine home games remaining before it moves to Winnipeg. . . . Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall when the Ice’s owners sit down with representatives of the City of Cranbrook to negotiate an exit.

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The Ice will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, including two in a row under the this ownership. Last season, the Ice finished 27-38-7 and was fourth in the Central Division, six points out of fourth. This season, at 10-32-8, the Ice is fifth in the five-team division, 24 points out of fourth. It also is 24 points away from the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . In other words, this season’s team isn’t anywhere near as proficient as was last season’s club. . . . In fact, this season’s team could set the franchise record for fewest victories. In 2015-16, the Ice won 12 games; in 1996-97, as an expansion team in Edmonton, and in 2016-17, the Ice won 14 games.

Prior to the WHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline, one WHL team insider told Taking Note: “They’re doing a horrible job there in every respect and losing a ton of respect around the league for tanking so boldly and not announcing Winnipeg.”

There are those who feel that the Ice is trying to improve its odds of landing F Matthew Savoie, who turned 15 on Jan. 1. From St. Albert, Alta., he has 57 points, including 25 goals, in 25 games with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team. Savoie and his family have applied to Hockey Canada requesting exceptional status, something that would allow him to play in the WHL as a 15-year-old. At present, rules limit 15-year-olds to five WHL games while their club teams’ seasons are in progress.

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Before acquiring D Chase Hartje, 19, and G Curtis Meger, 20, earlier this month, the Ice was carrying two 20-year-olds and one 19-year-old. Today, the roster features three 1998s, two 1999s, seven 2000s, nine 2001s and three 2002s. The Ice has had 43 players suit up for at least one game this season.

The Ice has been carrying three goaltenders, including Duncan McGovern, a Winnipegger whose name doesn’t appear on the WHL’s weekly roster report as being injured, but who hasn’t played since Jan. 6.

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A statement issued Wednesday by Tom Shypitka, the Kootenay East MLA (Liberal):

“Like many of you, I have had the pleasure of attending and being an Ice fan for the past 20 years. We can be disappointed or angry as our team packs its bags, or we can say Thank You for 20 years of great hockey.

“I personally look at the Western Hockey League in how they package and protect their brand. The WHL gave the green light for the Ice to relocate and I wonder if they provide enough security to those communities that take on the risk to invest in the infrastructure that goes with a WHL franchise.

“To the players, thank you for all the entertainment you provided and your professionalism that went with it. You were great ambassadors and role models for our Kootenay region. You will be missed.

“I am hoping my calendar permits me to be there to cheer you on when the puck drops for the last time.”

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Look, I get it. I understand why someone from Winnipeg would want to buy a WHL team and move it from Cranbrook to the Manitoba capital. Greg Fettes is a businessman, a wealthy businessman, who doesn’t get involved in anything with the intention of losing money. He would much rather drop a WHL team into Winnipeg, with a metropolitan population of 778,489 — from the 2016 census — than keep it in Cranbrook (19,259).

But there was Fettes telling Global News Winnipeg in a Sept. 9 email: “The entire Kootenay Ice organization is focused on providing a premier experience for our players, corporate partners, and patrons in Cranbrook.

“We look forward to another amazing season and continuing to build our relationship with the community of Cranbrook and the surrounding area.”

If you are wondering why hockey fans in Cranbrook and area are feeling used and abused these days, just think about that quote.

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The WHL is never going back to Cranbrook. Never. Period. Just like it will never go back to Chilliwack. If both markets aren’t finished with the WHL, well, the WHL is finished with them. Yes, the bridges have been burned and then blown up.

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The Winnipeg Ice started off by asking fans for $50 non-refundable deposits just to get on a list for seats in the U of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena. The Ice will spend the next two seasons there and, at the moment, that facility seats about 1,400. That figure should be closer to 2,000 after something like $400,000 is spent on improvements. . . . So for $50 you can get on a list but won’t know what the season tickets might cost.

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One fan in Cranbrook tells me that he now understands why “most merchandise with the Ice’s new logo on it didn’t have the Kootenay name on it.”

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One of those domain names — winnipegice.ca — that Fettes and his eight-year-old son had so much fun with in April 2017? It was up and running on Tuesday, the day the WHL announced it had OK’d the move.

You also are able to order Ice merchandise there. The link from winnipegice.ca takes you to the Kootenay Ice’s merchandise shop that is located in Western Financial Place in Cranbrook.

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The Winnipeg Ice will play its first game tonight (Friday) when it entertains the Swift Current Broncos in Cranbrook.

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3 thoughts on “Scattershooting . . . with questions, thoughts about chill in Cranbrook and Ice in Winnipeg”

  1. The owners said that we where the best fans so tell me something if we where the best fans how come when they had the press conference that no fans where allowed to it just the media was

    Like

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