While Thursday was the day for speculation, Friday was for denials.
On Thursday, you’ll recall, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that, according to its sources, Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, the owners of the WHL’s Cranbrook-based Kootenay Ice, would announce on Monday that the franchise is to be relocated to the Manitoba capital in time for next season.
On Friday, Fettes and the WHL issued denials.
According to a story by Bradley Jones and David Opinko of Cranbrook radio station Summit 107FM, Fettes said: “I’m saying there’s no announcement on Monday or anything pending.”
The Free Press also was able to reach Fettes.
“I’m saying there’s no announcement on Monday or anything pending,” Fettes told the newspaper, which added that “Fettes was not willing to discuss his plans for the team . . .”
Meanwhile, the WHL emailed a statement to Summit 107 that was identical to one that was issued in October:
“The WHL is very pleased with the commitment Greg Fettes and his ownership group has made to Cranbrook and the Kootenay region since acquiring the ICE franchise in 2017.
“The WHL is looking forward to the Kootenay ICE continuing to operate this season in Cranbrook.
“The WHL Commissioner continues to monitor the situation in Kootenay very closely and reports to the Board of Governors as required on any new developments. The discussions which take place on WHL franchises are internal and will remain confidential. With respect to the Kootenay ICE franchise, there is nothing new to report at this time.”
While it appears that nothing is imminent in terms of a relocation announcement, the Ice is expected to move to Winnipeg and play out of an arena at the U of Manitoba until a new facility is completed on the southwest side of Winnipeg.
Speculation about a move intensified a month ago when the Green Bay Committee called it quits, citing a lack of co-operation from the Ice’s ownership. The Green Bay Committee had hoped to help the Ice through the selling of sponsorships and tickets.
In a Nov. 13 email to Cockell, the committee wrote that “the absence of active engagement by you and Greg with our committee has become a major issue in our community. We believe that this failure has become the biggest obstacle in our ability to achieve a highly successful sales campaign and to create an effective steering committee.
“As a result, we are terminating our Green Bay Committee effective immediately. However, we will consider re-activating our committee if you provide us with a real commitment that you and Greg are prepared to immediately join us and work with us, as partners, and have no plans to move ‘Our ICE’ from Cranbrook.”
COUNTDOWN TO DEADLINE
(WHL trade deadline: Jan. 10, 3 p.m. MT)
No. of trades: 0.
Bantam draft picks: 0.
Conditional draft picks: 0.
Total deals (since Nov. 26):
No. of trades: 10.
Bantam draft picks: 18.
Conditional draft picks: 4.
(Note: On Nov. 30, Kelowna traded F Jack Cowell, 19, to Kootenay for a third-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft. Cowell chose not to report and the deal was voided, so isn’t included in these totals.)
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D Anthony Bishop, 20, has joined the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Bishop split 174 regular-season WHL games among the Saskatoon Blades, Victoria Royals, Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans. Bishop, from Kelowna, lost out when the Americans acquired D Aaron Hyman from the Regina Pats, a move that left Tri-City with four 20s, one over the maximum. . . . Bishop was placed on waivers and there weren’t any takers. . . . Last season, he had one assist in four games with Victoria and 15 assists in 62 games with Tri-City. . . . Injuries limited him to only two games with the Americans this season.
The Prince Albert Raiders scored the game’s first five goals and went on to a 5-2 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . Prince Albert (27-1-1) has points in 21 straight games (20-0-1). The Raiders were coming off a 3-2 shootout loss in Swift Current on Tuesday. . . . Brandon (14-8-6) had won its previous four games. . . . F Eric Pearce (3) got the Raiders started at 3:35 of the first period. . . . The Raiders outshot their hosts 22-7 in the second period and scored four more times, with F Sean Montgomery (12), F Cole Fonstad (8), F Noah Gregor (13) and F Ozzy Wiesblatt (6) finding the range. Fonstad, Gregor and Wiesblatt are linemates. . . . F Connor Gutenberg (8) got Brandon on the scoreboard at 19:47 of the second, and F Ben McCartney (7) added a shorthanded score at 18:14 of the third. . . . Brandon lost F Cole Reinhardt to a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a hit on D Brayden Pachal at 16:47 of the third period. . . . Montgomery’s goal gave him 30 points in 29 games; last season, he finished with 29 in 72. . . . F Brett Leason of the Raiders was held to one assist, but that was enough for him to run his point streak to 29 games. . . . He also moved back into the WHL scoring lead, his 62 points one more than F Trey Fix-Wolansky of the idle Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Raiders G Donovan Buskey, who normally backs up Ian Scott, stopped 24 shots and now is 5-0-0. . . . The same teams will meet again tonight in Prince Albert.
The Moose Jaw Warriors erased a 2-0 first-period deficit to beat the Blades, 3-2, in Saskatoon. . . . Moose Jaw (16-6-5) had lost its previous two games (0-1-1). . . . Saskatoon (17-10-3) had points in each of its previous three games (2-0-1). . . . The Warriors pulled into a second-place tie with the Blades in the East Division. Moose Jaw holds three games in hand. . . . F Eric Florchuk (9), at 4:31, and F Josh Paterson (8), at 9:29, gave the Blades the first-period lead. . . . F Luke Ormsby (5) pulled the Warriors to within a goal at 12:28 of the first period. . . . F Tristin Langan (20) tied it, on a PP, at 15:41 of the second. . . . F Brayden Tracey (10) broke the tie, on another PP, at 9:37 of the third. . . . Moose Jaw was 2-3 on the PP; Saskatoon was 0-5. . . . The Blades had a 35-25 edge in shots, including 14-5 in the third period. . . . Langan also had two assists, as did Moose Jaw D Jett Woo, who has six points over his past two games. . . . G Brodan Salmond, in his first appearance since Nov. 23, stopped 33 shots to earn the victory. . . . Ormsby has goals in three straight games — one with the Everett Silvertips and two since being dealt to the Warriors. . . . The same teams will play again tonight in Moose Jaw. . . . Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, was at Friday’s game and his piece is right here.
F Josh Prokop broke a 2-2 tie at 19:37 of the third period to give the host Calgary Hitmen a 3-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . Calgary (13-14-3) has won three in a row. . . . The Broncos (5-22-2) were coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on Tuesday. . . . Last night, Calgary led in shots, 45-13, including 14-2 in the second period and 20-7 in the third. G Isaac Poulter stopped 42 shots for Swift Current. . . . F Ethan O’Rourke (1) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at 14:39 of the second period. . . . F Riley Stotts (8) tied it for Calgary at 16:01. . . . The Broncos went back out front when F Joona Kiviniemi (6) scored at 8:01 of the third. . . . Calgary D Egor Zamula (5) tied it at 8:42, and Prokop won it with his sixth goal.
F Brett Davis scored the lone goal of a shootout as the host Red Deer Rebels beat the Regina Pats, 4-3. . . . Red Deer (18-9-2) had lost its previous two games (0-1-1). . . . Regina (8-21-1) has lost seven in a row. . . . The Rebels overcame a 3-1 deficit with two goals in the last half of the third period. . . . F Brandon Hagel (19) had given the Rebels a 1-0 lead at 18:26 of the first period. . . . The Pats roared back with the next three goals. . . . F Austin Pratt (12) and F Sergei Alkhimov (6) scored in the second period, and F Scott Mahovlich (4) made it 3-1 at 1:12 of the third period. . . . F Cam Hausinger (9), in his first game since coming over with Davis in a deal with the Kootenay Ice, cut Red Deer’s deficit to one goal, at 11:49. . . . F Alex Morozoff (5) tied it at 17:07. . . . Red Deer won 48 of the game’s 71 faceoffs. . . . Davis was the first shooter in the shootout’s second round.
G Roman Basran stopped 16 shots to help the Kelowna Rockets to a 2-0 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals. . . . Kelowna (14-15-2) has points in four straight (3-0-1). The Rockets are second in the B.C. Division, four points ahead of Victoria and the idle Kamloops Blazers. . . . Victoria (13-12-0), which has six games in hand on Kelowna, has lost three in a row. . . . F Lane Zablocki, a 20-year-old who was acquired from Victoria prior to the season, scored his third goal of the season at 8:31 of the third period. . . . The Rockets gave up a seventh-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and a fourth-rounder in 2021 to get Zablocki from the Royals on Sept. 28. . . . F Nolan Foote (18) added an empty-netter, on a PP, at 19:00. . . . Basran posted his first shutout of the season and the second of his career. . . . G Griffen Outhouse, Victoria’s workhorse, returned from a three-game absence to stop 30 shots. . . . Royals F Tanner Sidaway, who didn’t finish a 3-2 loss to the Blazers in Kamloops on Wednesday, was in Victoria’s lineup. . . . If you’re wondering, the Rockets are 10-5-2 under head coach Adam Foote, who replaced Jason Smith (4-10-0) on Oct. 23.
F Jake Gricius drew three assists in leading the host Portland Winterhawks to a 5-2 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Winterhawks (17-10-2) have won three in a row. . . . The Cougars (11-15-3) are back in Portland again tonight. . . . Gricius enjoyed the first three-assist game of his career. He has three three-point games, two of them this season. . . . The Winterhawks took control with the game’s first three goals. . . . F Joachim Blickheld (26) got it started on a PP at 14:52 of the first period. . . . F Seth Jarvis (5), on another PP, made it 2-0 at 16:51. . . . F Robbie Fromm-Delorme (2) upped it to 3-0 at 2:58 of the second. . . . F Josh Maser (9) pulled the Cougars to within two goals, on a PP, at 8:54. . . . F Cody Glass (12) restored the three-goal lead while Portland was two-men short, at 11:06, and D John Ludvig (2) made it 5-1 at 17:34. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk (9) got Prince George’s other goal, at 18:09 of the third. . . . Portland was 2-2 on the PP; Prince George was 2-8. . . . The Cougars were without F Jackson Leppard, who served a one-game WHL-issued suspension for a game misconduct he incurred at the end of a 5-3 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 2. . . . Portland D Brendan De Jong left late in the second period and didn’t return.
F Luc Smith and F Riley Woods each scored twice and added an assist to lead the host Spokane Chiefs to a 6-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Chiefs (15-10-4) had lost their previous three games (0-2-1). . . . The Hurricanes (15-9-5) had points in seven straight (6-0-1). . . . F Eli Zummack had a career-high four assists for the Chiefs. It also was the first four-point game of his career, and it came in his 137th game. . . . Zummack was in on the game’s first three goals — two of them by Smith, who has 11 goals, and one from F Jake McGrew (8). . . . Woods, who has 23 goals, made it 4-0 at 4:05 of the second period. . . . Lethbridge cut the deficit in half on second-period goals by D Igor Merezhko (1) and F Jackson Shepard (2). . . . Spokane put it was on goals from Woods and F Cordel Larson (3) in the latter half of the third period. . . . The Chiefs were 3-4 on the PP; the Hurricanes were 1-3.
The Seattle Thunderbirds outshot their hosts 43-22 in skating to a 4-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Seattle (10-13-3) is fifth in the U.S. Division, seven points behind Tri-City (14-12-2). . . . Seattle G Cole Schwebius stopped 21 shots in recording his first WHL victory. In five appearances, the 17-year-old from Kelowna is 1-2-1, 2.62, .915. . . . F Zack Andrusiak (19) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game. . . . F Nolan Yaremko (13) tied it, on a PP, at 9:55 of the second. . . . The Thunderbirds won it with three third-period goals, from F Dillon Hamaliuk (9), at 1:42; D Simon Kubicek (7), at 11:24; and F Matthew Wedman (9), into an empty net, at 17:39. . . . D Jarret Tyszka was in Seattle’s lineup for the first time this season. Tyszka, 19, is one of the WHL’s best defenders, but hadn’t played since suffering a concussion while in camp with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 9.