F Dominic Zwerger (Spokane, Everett, 2013-17) signed a contract extension with Ambrì-Piotta (Switzerland, NL A) through the 2021-22 season. The contract extension has an NHL exit clause after the 2020-21 season. This season, an alternate captain, he has 16 goals and 20 assists in 38 games.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, and the owners of the Kootenay Ice are to address the media in Cranbrook this morning at 10:30.
The news conference, which will include Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, is to be held at the team’s office in Western Financial Place.
At the same time, the Winnipeg Free Press has reported that the Ice’s owners “have scheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference to announce they are moving their franchise to Winnipeg after the 2018-19 season . . .”
The Free Press didn’t indicate a time or a site for that news conference, but Tuesday is expected to be the coldest day of this winter in Winnipeg, with a high of -29 C.
The news conferences are being held on Day 41 of the Kootenay Kountdown — it has been 41 days since Robison appeared with Dean Millard on Edmonton radio station TSN 1260 and said there would be an announcement regarding the Ice “very soon.”
The Ice, at 10-32-8, has the WHL’s second-poorest record and won’t be in the playoffs for a second straight season under the ownership of Fettes and Cockell, who purchased the franchise from the Chynoweth family prior to the 2017-18 season. This will be the fifth straight season out of the playoffs for the Ice.
Last season, the Ice finished 27-38-7, missing a playoff spot by 16 points.
The Ice began life in 1996 as the Edmonton Ice, but left the Alberta capital for Cranbrook after two seasons. In its 21 seasons in Cranbrook, the Ice won three WHL championships (2011, 2002, 2000) and one Memorial Cup, that in 2002.
The Ice will be first franchise to have won a Memorial Cup to relocate since the QMJHL’s Granby Predateurs. They won the 1996 Memorial Cup and moved to Sydney, N.S., in 1997 where they now are the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
The last WHL relocation occurred following the 2010-11 season when the Chilliwack Bruins moved to Victoria where they now operate as the Royals.
This season, the Ice has the lowest announced average attendance in the 22-team WHL, at 2,218. The Ice has nine home games remaining, starting Friday against the Swift Current Broncos, the only team in the WHL with a poorer record.
Last season, the average for 36 home games was 2,442, up from 1,754 in 2016-17, the final season under the ownership of the Chynoweth family.
The Ice has been playing in 4,264-seat Western Financial Place, which opened in 2001. In its first two seasons in Cranbrook, the Ice played in that city’s Memorial Arena.
In its first season in the new arena, the Ice’s announced average attendance was 3,635, which remains the single-season high.
That was one of seven seasons in which that figure was north of 3,000, somewhere it hasn’t been since 2008-09 (3,071).
The relocated Ice is expected to spend a couple of seasons playing in the 1,400-seat Wayne Fleming Arena at the U of Manitoba while it waits for its permanent home to be built. It is expected that some work will be done to freshen up that facility and that some seats will be added.
If you click right here and scroll down to the last two photos, you will see a couple of pictures from the interior of the Wayne Fleming Arena as it now stands.
The expected relocation announcement comes just days before WHL governors and general managers travel to Las Vegas, as they do every year on Super Bowl weekend, for meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
It’s too bad that they couldn’t have moved those meetings to Cranbrook this time . . . you know, just to thank the businesses and fans of the area for 21 seasons of support.
With G Jiri Patera (leg) on the shelf, the Brandon Wheat Kings have added G Connor Ungar, who turned 17 on Jan. 12, to their roster. He had been with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. . . . Ungar will back up freshman Ethan Kruger, who is 5-6-2, 3.45, .893. . . . Ungar, who began the season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, made two earlier appearances with the Wheat Kings, going 0-1-0, 3.09, .892 in 78 minutes. . . . The Wheat Kings open a four-game trip into the Central Division tonight in Edmonton against the Oil Kings. . . .
The Wheat Kings also have added F Jake Chiasson, 15, to their roster. He has been playing at the Yale Hockey Academy in his hometown of Abbotsford, B.C. Chiasson was the 15th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. This season, with Yale’s prep team, he has 22 goals and 36 assists in 29 games.
The OHL’s Owen Sound Attack fired head coach Todd Gill on Monday. Dale DeGray, the Attack’s general manager, announced that assistant coach Alan Letang has taken over as interim head coach, with Jordan Hill now the lone assistant coach. . . . The Attack was 61-42-12 under Gill, who was in his second season as head coach. . . . This season, the Attack is 23-20-4, and in fifth place in the 10-team Western Conference.
The BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors fired head coach Geoff Grimwood on Monday and named Brandon West as their general manager and head coach. . . . You may recall that this is the second time this season that Warriors owner Kim Dobranski has fired Grimwood. . . . Grimwood was named interim head coach iafter Rylan Ferster, the veteran GM and head coach, suddenly resigned on Aug. 21. . . . Three weeks later, Dobranski fired Grimwood, but reinstated him after the players rebelled, leaving the ice during one practice and going for a hike, rather than practise, the next day. . . . Grimwood had been hired on July 3 as associate coach and assistant GM. . . . West, who is from Kelowna, is a veteran BCHL coach. He was in his third season as head coach of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks when he was fired on Nov. 9, 2016. He spent last season as the head coach of the Surrey Eagles, but that ended in August through one of those mutual parting of the ways. This season, he had been with the Penticton Vees, as an assistant coach, since Oct. 15. . . . The Warriors are 25-21-1 and in fourth place in the Interior Division. They have clinched a playoff spot.
The SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks have fired assistant coach Gavin Brandl and replaced him with Devin Windle, a former general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. . . . Windle was in his third season as the Millionaires’ GM and head coach when he was fired on Nov. 29. He spent two seasons (2014-16) as an assistant coach in Nipawin, working with Doug Johnson, the Hawks’ general manager and head coach. . . . Brandl was in his first season with Nipawin.