Ice acquires Savoie, the elder. . . . WHL firms up a pair of indefinite suspensions. . . . Minor illness keeps Byram off ice


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F Travis Ewanyk (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with Krefeld Pinguine (Germany, DEL). This season, he had two goals and five assists in 40 games. . . .

G Ville Kolppanen (Lethbridge, 2009-10) has signed a one-year-plus-option year contract with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Rögle Ängelholm (Sweden, SEL), he was 6-10-1, 2.30, .916 in 18 games as the backup to Just Pogge (Prince George, Calgary, 2003-06). . . .

F Richard Mueller (Brandon, Saskatoon, Calgary, 1998-2003) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). An alternate captain this season he had 26 goals and 25 assists in 52 games. He led the Huskies in goals, assists and points. Next season will be his 16th in Germany. . . .

D Jonathan Harty (Everett, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with Fehérvár AV19 Székesfehérvár (Hungary, Erste Bank Liga). This season, he had five goals and 13 assists in 52 games.


The Winnipeg Ice has acquired the WHL rights to F Carter Savoie, who turned 17 on Jan. 23, from the Regina Pats in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and wpgiceconditional second- and third-round picks — the year or years undisclosed.

Those conditional picks will depend on if/when Savoie should sign with the Ice.

This has led to speculation that the Ice will select F Matt Savoie, Carter’s younger brother, with the first pick of the 2019 draft when it is held in Red Deer on May 2. The Ice also holds the ninth selection in the first round.

The Savoie brothers are from St. Albert, Alta., and both have committed to the U of Denver, Carter for the 2020-21 season and Matt, who turned 15 on Jan. 1, for 2021-22.

The Pats selected Carter in the ninth round of the 2017 bantam draft. He is playing with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders, having put up 31 goals and 42 assists in 58 regular-season games. The Crusaders are alive in the playoffs, and he has two goals and eight assists in 10 games.

Matt played this season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, scoring 31 goals and adding 40 assists in 31 games. In five playoff games, he had three goals and nine assists.

The Savoie family applied to Hockey Canada during the season in the hopes of gaining exceptional status for Matt, something that would allow him to spend 2019-20 on a WHL roster. Under present rules, a 15-year-old player is limited to five games — except under emergency conditions — while his club team’s season is alive. Although there has yet to be an official announcement from Hockey Canada, there have been reports that the family’s request has been denied.


Matt Cockell, the president and general manager of the Winnipeg Ice — formerly the KootenaynewKootenay Ice — did a question-and-answer session with the Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman the other day. . . . Patti Dawn Swansson, who blogs as The River City Renegade, spent a goodly number of years covering junior and pro hockey in Winnipeg so is quite familiar with the puck scene in the Manitoba capital. She responded to one of Cockell’s answers at her blog.

At one point, Cockell told Wyman: “At the end of the day, the passion for hockey is really what’s exciting about Winnipeg. When you look across Canada, there really isn’t another city that embraces hockey the way Winnipeg does. We really believe it’s the hockey capital of Canada.”

To which, Swansson wrote: “Whoa boy. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Good Ol’ Hometown has already let one NHL franchise get away (no, it wasn’t Gary Bettman’s fault) and two Western Hockey League outfits. Pegtown is the ‘hockey capital of Canada’ like Pierre’s boy Justin is a man of all the people. And that’s coming from someone born and raised in River City, someone who recalls seeing a lot of empty seats in the old barn on Maroons Road. Yes, I realize that Cockell is going to say all the right things in order to sell his freshly minted WHL franchise to the rabble, but I’m not sure that faux flattery is the way to go about it. Peggers are hockey wise, they aren’t rubes.”

Wyman’s complete 21 questions with Cockell is right here.

If you are/were an Ice fan, who lives in the Cranbrook area, you shouldn’t read this. It might be bad for your health, especially the part where Cockell responds to a question about “what do you say to the hockey fans of Cranbrook?”

Cockell’s response: “We’ve had a lot of dialogue with them. I lived there right through to our last game. What our message has been in dialogue is that everybody did everything they possibly could, including the business community in Cranbrook, the fans in that community and our ownership group. We did everything we could to see if there was a sustainable opportunity there. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get there, but at the end of the day we made a decision and we tried to be as honest as we could. It’s hard and yet, we need to focus now on what we’re doing moving forward and that’s really exciting.”

Some of that will be news to the Green Bay Committee, won’t it?


Chances are that F Logan Barlage of the Lethbridge Hurricanes will miss a game or two when the 2019-20 season opens, thanks to the slashing major and game misconduct that he was hit with as Tuesday’s game with the visiting Calgary Hitmen came to a close. . . . Barlage slashed Calgary F Carson Focht, who scored twice in Calgary’s 4-2 victory in Game 7 of the first-round series. . . . If you watch the video in the tweet below, you also will see the Lethbridge right winger break the stick of the Calgary left winger with a slash.


F Parker AuCoin, who played out his junior eligibility with the Tri-City Americans this season, has signed on with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. This season, he had 42 goals and 42 assists in 68 games with the Americans. . . . In 262 regular-season WHL games over four seasons, he has 88 goals and 92 assists. . . . From St. Albert, Alta., he was the 15th-overall pick in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft.


Dave Struch, the head coach of the Regina Pats, will be an assistant coach with the Canadian team that will compete in the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship in Örnsköldsvik and Umeå, Sweden, April 18 through 28. . . . Brett Gibson, the head coach at Queen’s U for 13 seasons, will be the U18 team’s head coach. . . . The other assistant coach will be Serge Aubin, who most recently was the head coach of the ZSC Lions in Switzerland’s NL A. . . . Adam Brown of the Kelowna Rockets will be the U18 team’s goaltending consultant.


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NOTES: The Victoria Royals will be without F Kody McDonald for the first four games of their second-round series with the Vancouver Giants. McDonald had been under an indefinite suspension after being hit with a match penalty for a stick-swinging incident during Game 4 of their first-round series against the Blazers in Kamloops on March 27. The WHL announced Wednesday that the suspension has been set at six games. He has four games remaining on it. . . .

The WHL also announced that the indefinite suspension to F Sean Richards of the Seattle Thunderbirds has been set at eight games. He took a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a hit on Vancouver F Aidan Barfoot in Game 4 of their first-round series on March 27. Richards, 20, missed the last two games of the series, so has six games remaining. He doesn’t have any junior eligibility remaining. According to the WHL, Richards “will be required to serve the remaining six games of his suspension during the 2019-20 season should he continue his playing career.” . . .

Barfoot hasn’t played since being hit by Richards and isn’t expected back for the early part of the Giants’ second-round series. They open against the Victoria Royals with games in Langley, B.C., on Friday and Saturday. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported Wednesday that Vancouver D Bowen Byram didn’t skate for a second straight day. “GM Barclay Parneta says it is minor illness” and that Byram is expected to practice today and play Friday. . . . Giants F Yannik Valenti also didn’t skate Wednesday. . . .

Sportsnet will televise the first three games of the second-round series between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades. . . . Games 1 and 2 are set for Friday (7 p.m. CST) and Sunday in Prince Albert (6 p.m. CST), with Game 3 in Saskatoon on Tuesday (7 p.m. CST). . . .

The Spokane Chiefs have added D Luke Gallagher, 18, to their roster as an AP. Gallagher, 18, had two assists in 22 games with the Chiefs earlier in the season. From Mead, Wash., he joined the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters in January, and recorded seven assists in 15 regular-season games and one in 12 playoff games.

Kootenay Ice (1998-2019), R.I.P.: ‘Most people never moved from the stands as if they couldn’t bring themselves to believe it was all over.’

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Long after Sunday’s game had ended, players from the Kootenay Ice mingled with fans, signing autographs, posing for pictures and bidding farewell to Cranbrook.

They showed up for a funeral at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook on Sunday afternoon. But, in the end, it was a celebration of life and of what used to be, of three WHL championships and the Memorial Cup title that put the city in hockey’s spotlight in 2002.

The Kootenay Ice played its final game in Cranbrook on Sunday, beating the Red Deer Rebels, 5-4, and there were more than 2,600 fans in the pews to witness it.

The franchise had been in Cranbrook for 21 seasons, most of them full of smiles, chuckles and success.

This season, however, has been more heartbreak than anything else. It began with rumours and speculation, with fans in a state of denial. That all ended in January when Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, and Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, who is the president and general manager, admitted that, yes, the Ice would be moving to Winnipeg upon the conclusion of this season.
That day came on Sunday.

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Ice players salute the fans following the end of Sunday’s game. That’s Ice captain Peyton Krebs, who was ejected in the first period, in the suit at left.

Here are some notes from a few fans who were in the arena, not only for the final game, but for a lot of games over the team’s time in the city:

From one fan . . .

“What a game and what a finish for the Kootenay Ice . . . An emotional game in many respects — 2,654 in attendance — for one of the largest walk-up attended games. Fans were lined up at the ticket window until halfway through the first period. . . .These fans came to watch the last game and were supportive of  the Ice the whole game. The Rebels, with four of their key players left at home, capitalized on Ice penalties — including the captain, Peyton Krebs, taking a major for boarding early in the first and being ejected from the game (deservedly so, I must add) — and then other penalties to the Ice giving the Rebels many chances.

“It was a hard-fought game, back and forth, with the Ice scoring late in the third, breaking a tie and winning, 5-4.

“Fans cheered throughout, and all were on their feet for the last three minutes of the game, the Rebels having pulled their goalie . . . the Ice being called for a penalty with 10 seconds left . . . the referees adding 4.5 seconds to the clock and then the clock goes for an additional 27 seconds instead of just 14.5 seconds until a scrum at the end resulted in the whistle finally being blown and the referees called the game as ended and giving the Ice the win. . . .

“The crowd stayed around and watched a long stick salute by the Ice players, who came up from the dressing room to sign autographs and talk to fans, to talk about how they are going to miss Cranbrook, their billet families, the weather and the fans.

“The crowd remained to meet with the players . . . probably close to 50 per cent stayed. There were many fans in tears uttering less flattering comments about the owners and noting they should have been upfront with us when they arrived.”

——

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There were some fans in attendance on Sunday who showed their unhappiness over losing the hockey team that they had watched play for 21 seasons.

Here’s how another fan viewed it all . . .

“There was one group of season-ticket holders, who sit below the CIBC signs. They watched kids juggle signs reading ‘GO ICE GO.’ After the kids were done, the adults stood up with individual signs that read ‘GONE ICE GONE.’ . . .

“Cam Hausinger, who was traded to Red Deer along with Brett Davis earlier in the season, came upstairs after the game and before our players got there to say hi to everyone and sign autographs. He said he misses everyone in Cranbrook. . . .

“There were tears among the fans and the hosts, and talk of getting the same seats when we hopefully get another hockey team in the arena. . . . We had four young hockey players from the university team in Castlegar (the BCIHL’s Selkirk Saints) sitting beside us who there specifically checking everything out. . . .

“As the game ended most people never moved from the stands as if they couldn’t bring themselves to believe it was all over. . . .

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Ice players, including captain Peyton Krebs, stayed well after the game was over to chat with fans, say ‘Thank You,’ and sign autographs.

“As I was getting autographs I couldn’t help but admire these young men who took the time to sign everything from hockey pucks, to hats, to shirts to programs. Peyton Krebs, who didn’t play the whole game, stood there having his picture taken, talking to even the smallest little one and thanking all the people for supporting the team. . . .

“It was a very class act by the whole team with the exception of Matt Cockell, who never left the box. Some of the stuff that happened over the last couple of games . . . with the awards ceremony, most seasons they set up a table on ice and did the presentations there. This time, they didn’t do that . . . just had people who were doing the presentations standing in the alleyway by the bench. . . .

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Prior to the game’s start, the Ice thanked the volunteers who gave so much to the organization over the franchise’s 21 years in Cranbrook.

“On Sunday, they had teachers and other people, who have contributed to helping the players, on the ice for a round of applause before the game. Also we had two players who were finishing as 20-year-olds, and the coach, James Patrick, gave them their gifts, not the GM or Mr. Fettes. Not that Mr. Fettes has put in an appearance in Cranbrook since the media circus began.”

——

From another fan:

“The second and third stars were the two 20-year-olds. As a final slap in the face, the first star was the Kootenay Ice fans, which brought about an audible groan from the crowd. Nuff said!”

——

Winnipeg Ice owner expects 4,500-seat arena to be full . . . Grrr! Chiefs sign a Bear . . . Battle of Kings goes to Edmonton

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For those who are wanting more on the Winnipeg Ice. . . .

“There’s no doubt we’re going to be in a competitive landscape for hockey dollars in Winnipeg,” Greg Fettes, one of the Ice’s owners, told a news conference in Winnipeg on wpgiceTuesday. “We’re building a 4,500-seat arena. We’re expecting it to be full.” . . .

The company that owns the Ice started out as 497840 Manitoba Ltd. It now has been renamed 50 Below Sports and Entertainment. . . . Mike Keane, a Winnipegger who played three seasons (1984-87) with the Moose Jaw Warriors, owns a piece, too. . . .

Ticket prices haven’t been set yet for whenever it is that the Ice will move into a new 4,500-seat arena, but Matt Cockell, the president and general manager, told the news conference that ducats will cost from $15 to $35 apiece. . . .

The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets have yet to offer any kind of comment on the Ice’s move to the Manitoba capital. However, they have shown no inclination to move their AHL franchise, the Manitoba Moose, to another locale. It’s worth noting that the Moose isn’t drawing nearly as many fans today as it did when it first arrived on the scene. . . .

Cockell also told the gathering that the plan is to bid on the Memorial Cup at some point down the road.

There’s all that and more right here in a column by Paul Friesen and a story, all from the Winnipeg Sun.


The Spokane Chiefs have signed F Bear Hughes to a WHL contract. Hughes, who will turn SpokaneChiefs18 on May 30, is from Post Falls, Idaho, and plays for the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. In fact, he leads all KIJHL freshmen with 59 points, including 39 goals, in 38 games. A list player, he actually is fourth in the KIJHL’s scoring race.


F Logan Stankoven, the fifth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, will be in the Kamloops Blazers’ lineup tonight against the visiting Vancouver Giants. Stankoven, Kamloops1who is from Kamloops, played two earlier games with the Blazers, earning one assist.

Stankoven will fill a spot in the lineup vacated by F Riley Appelt, who suffered a finger injury during a fight in a 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting Victoria Royals on Saturday night.

The Blazers may have D Luke Zazula (shoulder) back in their lineup tonight . Zazula, 18 and in his third season, has missed the past seven games.

However, D Quinn Schmiemann, a 16-year-old freshman, has been in concussion protocol since being injured on Jan. 20, and isn’t yet ready to return.

D Ethan Brandwood, 16, who played two games with the Blazers last weekend, has returned to the South Island Royals, the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League team that he captains. He was a seventh-round pick by the Blazers in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft.


As you likely are aware, a sentencing hearing began on Monday for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, HumboldtBroncosthe driver of the truck that was involved in the crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on April 6. . . . Laurie and Scott Thomas,  whose son, Evan, was killed in the accident, wrote a letter to their son as their victim impact statement. Scott, a former WHL player, read it in court.

You will find it right here.


TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Mark Kastelic and F Carson Focht each scored twice to help the Calgary Hitmen to a 5-2 Calgaryvictory over the Pats in Regina. . . . Calgary (24-19-4) has won three in a row. . . . Regina (13-34-3) had points in each of its previous two games (1-0-1). . . . The Hitmen held a 17-3 edge in shots in the first period but could only get two pucks behind Regina G Max Paddock, who had missed the previous six games due to illness. . . . Kastelic opened the scoring at 5:03, with Regina F Austin Pratt (19) scoring, on a PP, at 9:22. . . . Kastelic, who has 32 goals, put Calgary back in front at 17:11. . . . F Sergei Akhimov (10) pulled Regina back into a tie, on a PP, at 7:28 of the second period. . . . Focht broke the tie at 15:37, then gave the Hitmen some insurance with his 14th goal, on a PP, at 19:33. . . . Calgary F James Malm (18) added another PP goal, at 13:04 of the third period. . . . Regina was 2-3 on the PP; Calgary was 2-6. . . . Kastelic also had an assist, giving him a three-point outing. . . . The Hitmen got three assists from F Kaden Elder. . . . Paddock finished with 33 saves, 12 more than Calgary’s Jack McNaughton, who made his 22nd consecutive start. . . . Regina lost F Cole Dubinsky to a kneeing major and game misconduct at 15:11 of the second period.


The Edmonton Oil Kings erased a 3-0 deficit and went on to beat the visiting Brandon EdmontonOilKingsWheat Kings, 4-3 in a shootout. . . . Edmonton (27-15-8) has won two in a row. . . . Brandon (20-19-7) has points in two straight (1-0-1). . . . The Wheat Kings took a 3-0 lead on a first-period goal from F Ridly Greig (10), at 1:01, and second-period goals from F Ben McCartney (13), at 1:05, and F Luka Burzan (27), at 6:44. . . . F Vladimir Alistrov (7) started Edmonton’s comeback at 9:51 of the second. . . . F Josh Williams (12) got the Oil Kings to within at goal at 12:53 of the third period, and F Andrew Fyten (12) tied it, on a PP, at 17:38. . . . Brandon D Braydyn Chizen was hit with a headshot major and game misconduct at 14:39 of the third period. Fyten scored on the ensuing PP. . . . Edmonton was 1-4 on the PP; Brandon was 0-1. . . . The Oil Kings won it on a shootout goal by F Trey Fix-Wolansky, who was the first shooter of the third round. . . . Brandon G Ethan Kruger stopped 46 shots through OT, 25 more than Edmonton’s Todd Scott. . . . F Jake Chiasson made his WHL debut with the Wheat Kings. Chiasson, 15, was the 15th-overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. He plays for the Yale Hockey Academy prep team in his hometown of Abbotsford, B.C.


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WHL: Kootenay Ice, R.I.P; Long Live the Winnipeg Ice . . . Ice has nine games left in Cranbrook . . . Off to Manitoba capital after this season

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was in Cranbrook on Tuesday morning to provide the last rites to the Kootenay Ice.

The WHL’s Cranbrook-based franchise is dead after 21 seasons. It will be reborn in wpgiceWinnipeg after it plays nine more home games in Cranbrook’s Western Financial Place.

In Winnipeg, the franchise will continue to be known as the Ice and will play out of the WHL’s East Division, something that will result in the Swift Current Broncos moving to the Central Division. That allows each division to remain at six teams.

The Winnipeg Ice began taking $50 non-refundable deposits this morning, noting that the team will spend a couple of seasons in the U of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena and that seating will be limited. That deposit will get you on “a priority list for season-seat membership,” according to a news release at winnipegice.ca.

As for ticket prices, the news release stated: “Season-seat pricing will be communicated

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Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, arrives at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook on Tuesday morning to announce the relocation of the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeg.

prior to the seat-selection period. At this time, no decision has been made on whether fans can choose a multi-year season-seat commitment option.”

Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, who purchased the Ice from the Chynoweth family prior to the 2017-18 season, joined Robison at the news conference that was held in WFP and lasted about 30 minutes.

They had met with members of the business community earlier in the morning in an event that one observer told Taking Note appeared to be by “invite only to friendly business people.”

That observer said the message was that “we are apologetic that it didn’t work . . . and we had to make a business decision,” and that the situation was looked at from a league point of view “for several years and we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work.”

When the scene shifted to the arena for the news conference, there were a few fans present who had hoped to be allowed in. However, they were told that it was for media only. Someone did stream it on Facebook, so there were people elsewhere in the building who were able to watch.

According to two Taking Note correspondents who were in attendance, Robison began by acknowledging that losing the franchise is difficult for Cranbrook fans. He also thanked the fans for their support over the team’s 21 seasons in their city.

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Taylor Rocca (left), the WHL’s senior manager, communications, wraps up the news conference at which the Kootenay Ice’s move to Winnipeg was made official. Seated, from left, are WHL commissioner Ron Robison, and Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell.

Robison pointed out that the previous owners — the Chynoweth family — attempted to increase fan support but that it has continued to slide over the past number of years.

In Robison’s estimation, the Chynoweths, as well as Fettes and Cockell, did everything they could to get things turned around.

Robison tried to take some of the heat off the franchise’s owners by claiming that “this was a Western Hockey League decision ultimately — not the ownership decision — to transfer this franchise. It was a decision made over an eight- or nine-year period of assessment of this market and the ability of this franchise to be sustainable over a long period of time.”

It turns out that the WHL’s board of governors voted on the move in December; Robinson refused to say whether the vote was unanimous.

Asked what this announcement means for other small-market WHL teams, Robison responded that those teams, some of which are community-owned, have to work hard to maintain a balance. He added that moving the Ice isn’t a reflection on the Cranbrook community.

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The Winnipeg Ice will spend two seasons playing in the U of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena, which, at the moment, has a capacity of 1,400. (U of Manitoba photo)

Asked what went wrong in Cranbrook, Robison referred to the WHL playoffs in the spring of 2011, pointing to poor attendance at Ice games, and adding that the attendance has been declining since then.

The Ice won the WHL championship that season, but the announced average attendance for nine home playoff games was only 3,049. Kootenay beat the Portland Winterhawks in the final, winning in five games, but the arena wasn’t sold out. Of course, it didn’t help attendance that a lot of WHL games, including all games in the final, were televised.

Robison also admitted that attendance league-wide has been declining, saying that it has changed overall for most teams, and stating again that the Ice’s owners, past and present, did all they could to boost attendance.

When Fettes was asked how long he has been looking at the Winnipeg market, he said he had been wanting to buy into the WHL long before purchasing the Ice. He added that the Ice’s owners have been studying the attendance situation and began working on moving plans last summer.

As for the chances of another team moving to Cranbrook, Robison told the news conference that there aren’t any teams interested in moving at this time.

The Ice is the first WHL team to change locations since the Chilliwack Bruins were sold and moved to Victoria after the 2010-11 season.

Prior to the start of this season, the Ice launched a season-ticket campaign — Drive to 25 — with a goal of selling 2,500 season tickets, which would have marked an increase of about 600 from the previous season. Instead of an increase, however, the drive resulted in about 1,700 season tickets.

In 2017-18, the first season under new ownership, the team had an announced average attendance of 2,442, up from 1,754 the previous season.

This season, attendance has slipped to an average of 2,218.

In November, a group comprised mainly of local businessmen — the Green Bay Committee — began work to sell tickets and sponsorships on behalf of the Ice. After raising what members said was more than $50,000, the committee ceased operations due to an “absence of active engagement” from the Ice owners, who chose not to attend GBC meetings or provide anything in the way of support.

At the time, John Hudak, the GBC’s marketing director, told the Cranbrook Townsman that “it’s extremely disappointing that we have had to terminate our campaign at this particular time, but it is what it is.”

On Tuesday, Hudak told Taking Note: “I have never ever heard of successful business people turning down business.”

Asked if 2,500 season tickets would have kept the franchise in Cranbrook, Cockell admitted the community had reacted well in Year 1, but ticket sales didn’t show well prior to this season and reflected a reduction in management’s benchmark goal.

But, Cockell added, management had to acknowledge that people in the community have worked hard in support of the team.

Robison, Fettes and Cockell also spent time with Mayor Lee Pratt and some city councillors, but the franchise’s exit from its lease has yet to be negotiated.

It’s believed that the Ice players were given the spiel earlier in the morning. They then were taken to Kimberley for a team outing, so there weren’t any players around the arena to speak with the media following the news conference.

Robison, Fettes and Cockell departed via a side door, so didn’t have any interaction with fans who were waiting in the arena’s foyer.

“Leaving town and throwing the fans under the bus” is how Hudak put it.

With 18 games left, the Ice is 10-32-8. It is ninth in the 10-team Eastern Conference and won’t make the playoffs for a fourth straight season, the second in a row under the ownership of Fettes and Cockell.

Last season, the Ice went 27-38-7, missing a playoff spot by 16 points. This season, it is 22 points from a wild-card spot.

The franchise began as the Edmonton Ice, an expansion franchise that was owned by longtime WHL president Ed Chynoweth. Unable to gain any traction in two seasons (1996-98) in that marketplace, he moved the franchise to Cranbrook where it now is in its 21st season.

The Ice has won three WHL championships (2000, 2002 and 2011) and the 2002 Memorial Cup.

The Ice will play its final game in Cranbrook on March 17 against the Red Deer Rebels.

The Winnipeg Ice’s next game is scheduled for Friday against the Swift Current Broncos in Cranbrook.

JUST NOTES: Taylor Rocca, the WHL’s senior manager, communications, was on hand to do the introductions at the news conference in Cranbrook. Before going to work for the WHL, he was a sports writer at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman and, yes, he covered the Ice. . . . Fettes confirmed at the afternoon news conference in Winnipeg that he has reached agreement to purchase the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. The Blues are the only Winnipeg-based franchise left in the MJHL, which once also included the West Kildonan North Stars, St. Boniface Saints and St. James Canadians. . . . If you have been following this story, you will recall that Fettes purchased two domain names — WinnipegIce.com and WinnipegIce.ca — in April 2017. Asked about that, Fettes said that through his business (24-7 Intouch, a global call centre), he has hundreds of domain names. On this occasion, he claimed he and his eight-year-old son were playing around and just made up some more. . . . The website winnipegice.ca was up and running on Tuesday. . . . Robison has long wanted to have a WHL franchise in the capital city of each of the four Western Canadian provinces. Under his watch, the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers were awarded an expansion franchise that began play in 2007-08 in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital; the Chilliwack franchise relocated to Victoria, the capital of B.C.; and now Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital, has a franchise. Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital, has long been home to the Pats.

Ice situation should be addressed today; news conference scheduled for Cranbrook . . . Brandon adds goalie, forward


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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.


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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 Kootenaynewscheduled 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 BrandonWKregularUngar, 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 WestKelownanamed 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.


Tweetoftheday

Kootenay Ice dismisses assistant coach . . . Social media comments apparently draw pink slip . . . Move made late last week

Taking Note was told Sunday morning that the Kootenay Ice has dismissed assistant coach Roman Vopat, apparently over his criticism, via Twitter, of Tim Hunter’s work as head coach of Canada’s national junior team.

Another source familiar with the situation told Taking Note that “apparently they let him Kootenaynewgo on Friday.”

When contacted by Taking Note, Vopat, a former NHL and WHL player, responded: “I can’t confirm or deny. I will not make further comments.”

Matt Cockell, the Ice’s general manager, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Ice’s website no longer includes Vopat’s photo and bio on the Hockey Operations page.

Vopat was listed as an assistant coach on the Ice’s lineup sheet prior to a game against the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 31. However, it wasn’t there prior to Friday’s game against the Tigers in Medicine Hat.

Hunter, of course, also is the head coach of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

On Wednesday, after Canada had lost 2-1 in OT to Finland in a quarterfinal game at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver, someone on Twitter suggested “you have to feel for the kids. They deserve a much better fate!”

Vopat responded: “I feel for them but you don’t deserve a thing in sport — earn it!!! Out-coached!!”

Also on Wednesday, after Canada’s captain, Max Comtois, was unsuccessful on a penalty shot in overtime, Vopat tweeted: “He isn’t the natural goal scorer like Glass, Leason, Frost or Tippett so (to) put him in that situation was a bad move by Hunter.”

Vopat also was critical of Hunter, who chose not to respond early in the tournament after Comtois came under fire for diving during games.

Hunter had been critical of F Alexis Lafrenière for some uninspired play, but said he wouldn’t address the diving situation with Comtois.

Vopat tweeted: “You know my problem I have with all this — he challenged 17-year-old on national tv, paper and social media about not performing but he doesn’t have the guts to call out his captain on diving all over the place.”

Vopat, 42, is a native of Litvinov, Czech Republic. He played in the WHL  (1994-96) with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince Albert Raiders. His professional playing career included 133 games in the NHL, split between the St. Louis Blues, who selected him in the seventh round of the NHL’s 1994 draft, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks.

He retired after spending 12 seasons in Europe, the last one in 2010-11.

Vopat was in his fifth season as a WHL assistant coach. He was with the Prince George Cougars for two seasons (2014-16). This was his third season with the Ice.

Vopat was one of four coaches working alongside Ice head coach James Patrick. Jon Klemm is the team’s associate coach, with Gord Burnett the remaining assistant coach, and Nathan Lieuwen the video coach and goaltending consultant.

The Ice (8-27-7) has the second-poorest record in the 22-team WHL. After losing 6-0 to the visiting Vancouver Giants on Sunday, the Ice is four points ahead of the Swift Current Broncos (8-28-3), who hold three games in hand.

The Ice will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season amid all kinds of speculation that the franchise will relocate to Winnipeg at season’s end.

Last season, its first under the ownership of Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Cockell, the Ice finished 27-38-7.