Without fans it is only just a game
Letter to the Editor
Re: Go Ice Gone?
Twenty years ago major junior hockey came to Cranbrook and the East Kootenay. Those early years were nothing short of magical as the team was very successful: Division, Conference and League championships, along with trips to and winning a Memorial Cup, were all part of the franchise history.
This small market community was proud of their Kootenay ICE.
For whatever reason, (ownership, management, scouting, coaching or player abilities), the past several years have not been so successful. Attendance at games dropped significantly, as happens with any team in any league in any sport. Only a core group of faithful fans remained and in a small market this does have a negative impact on the business bottom line.
(It is interesting to note that the statistics over the past 20 years show that there would appear to be a direct correlation between standings and attendance. It also shows that attendance over the entire league appears to be on a decline in the majority of markets, large or small).
The faithful fan core remained hopeful however, especially when the new ownership group took over less than two years ago. The future looked much brighter, the on-ice product improved, the business community support improved, attendance improved and even though we did not make the playoffs, we continued to hope that this current season would be the turning point.
It would appear this will not be the case. The rumours of the team moving to Winnipeg (still not confirmed or denied by the owners or the WHL), trades too numerous to mention and a team that has lost more games than it has won has destroyed our hopes of reversing the downward attendance trend.
The business community rose to the challenge in an attempt to increase attendance but that assistance was refused by the ownership group. Now the future of major junior hockey in Cranbrook looks very uncertain.
Are the rumours of relocation true? Was this the end game of the current ownership group all along? Are we to be the practice facility for a young team that will develop and play elsewhere next season? The silence of both the ICE ownership group and the WHL Board of Governors speaks volumes.
I am saddened and insulted by the manner in which this situation is evolving. The players deserve better (and hopefully the trades will provide them will the development opportunities they so justly deserve), the fans that have stuck with this team through thick and thin deserve better and this community definitely deserves better.
If these rumours are true and this is to be the end of our relationship with the Kootenay ICE, then perhaps it is time to accept our fate.
Losing the Kootenay ICE will be a blow, socially and economically but perhaps it is time for that faithful core of fans to request a refund of the balance of the season and let them go. Unfortunately, if these rumours are true then we were not given the opportunity to make this a final season to remember and look back on with pride, instead we have been given a team that is struggling and are being asked to support a franchise that is planning on leaving at the end of this season.
No matter the final outcome, no matter where the franchise is next season, the fact remains that without fans it is only just a game. Continuing to remain silent and letting the rumours flourish is not the answer.