Hoping for renewed support for ICE
By Ian Cobb
There was a time when spring and summer came along that the ICE never melted.
It was a time of victory and successes in terms of the on-ice product yet community support continued to decline.
Based in an area that has been historically one of Canada’s true hockey hotbeds – the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Kootenay ICE struggled to fill the seats at Western Financial Place.
Rumours of re-location sapped casual and crazy fans’ enthusiasm toward forking over their hard-earned. And a feeble attempt at communications over a prolonged period further reduced the potential to sell tickets.
The ICE needed to melt and blend with the community – become part of it – so arms would open, along with wallets and purses.
And then along came a wild breath-holding ride this past winter as voters in Nanaimo held the ICE’s continued presence in Cranbrook. A no vote in an arena referendum gave the ICE borrowed time, it seemed, in Cranbrook. One more season was likely but what beyond?
And then WHAM – along came Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, new owners from Manitoba who intend to keep the team in the East Kootenay and aim to see it thrive.
When one hears that for the first time, one (if one is a cynical old journalist) tends to think “meh; we’ll see.”
A few weeks back the new ownership met with city and business leaders, as well as local media, over a few informal beverages at the Heritage Inn.
A chief beef from the media about past operations of the franchise was the lack of communications or effort in reaching out or accommodating media needs.
Fettes and Cockell declared they would be communicative and I am happy to report they’ve been good to their words.
A thaw has definitely taken place; a new era has begun with this storied franchise, made so thanks to Ed and Jeff Chynoweth for their team-building genius.
The new ownership last week again reached out to local media, letting us know about the team’s front office growth and that they are hiring. Click HERE to learn more about that.
The team has also already hired two new employees.
“The incremental investment in our front office team is to support our community, player and fan experience initiatives,” Cockell said.
And now on to the fun stuff – the hockey!
The Kootenay ICE will take to Western Financial Place ice for the 2017/18 WHL season with a team stocked full of potential thanks to the past two difficult seasons and high bantam draft selections. This is a team heading in the right direction on and off the ice now – which is well timed as season ticket sales approach.
This spring has seen the ICE melt; this new era underway is a perfect time for hockey fans in the region to do the same and I believe they will.
The game of hockey’s great roots include branches that run deep into the Kootenays; let’s keep that going and up our support. I know I will be attending many more games this year.
Lead image: Greg Fettes, City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt and Matt Cockell. e-KNOW file photo
– Ian Cobb is editor/owner of e-KNOW