Be hotly focused and don’t melt from the ICE
By Ian Cobb
There is an “aw shit” pall lingering over the East Kootenay hockey loving world today as it appears as though the surreptitious removal of the Kootenay ICE has entered the ‘enact’ phase.
Our Western Hockey League franchise is being spirited away to friendly Manitoba where the team nickname will make far more sense; due to real winter temperatures and the reception the team will receive thanks to the presence of the Winnipeg Jets and support-sapped Manitoba Moose.
I am saying all this as there has yet to be any refutation of numerous media reports, including in the Winnipeg Free Press, coming from Kootenay ICE ownership or management.
So based on silence reminiscent of the hollow fleece act we’ve all endured, it appears Western Financial Place will have some extra ice time.
We are going to hear, as we have already heard, that we didn’t support the team enough.
Thanks to folks hereabouts being wiser with their hard-earned dough than the ICE’s ownership would have you believe, based on their off-put around ticket sales (for a bottom dwelling team heading further into the muck), attendance has dropped this year from last year’s average of 2,442 a game.
Many hockey fans, myself included, have opted to spend our money elsewhere as the smell of shenanigans and dishonesty flitted from WFP.
Does that make us bad fans? Not a chance.
For starters, let’s consider the average attendance from last year, when we were all still buying into the fresh, young ownership talking the sweet talk we wanted to hear, with a shiny new vibe with name coaches and an explosion in social media trained sealsmanship. Ticket purchases improved despite the weak on-ice product the previous ownership, with all its failings in the community, never presented to we ticket buyers. At least Jeff Chynoweth iced quality teams, year after year after year.
Considering there are a touch more than 20,000 people in Cranbrook and 2,442 people attended each home game, on average, that means 12% of the city’s population was in the arena each night the ICE dropped another contest last year. Twelve per cent of Winnipeg’s population is 84,000; or more than double what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers draw in a sold out stadium, which isn’t often.
So to say we don’t support the team is complete BS. Of course we are the smallest market in the WHL – that’s simple truth. But we support the team, per capita, more than the average larger market does.
Add in the fact both ownership groups of the ICE have totally pooped the proverbial bed in terms of effective marketing outside Cranbrook (and basically crappy inside, too), where there is roughly a further 50,000 people to draw from, and I believe we have a market easily as fine as the five or six smallest market teams in the WHL.
Improve the product and reach to hockey fans in Invermere, Sparwood, Creston etc. on a consistent basis and show that being a part of the community is in your heart and not just in your mind and you will learn why the Kimberley Dynamiters, Fernie Ghostriders, Columbia Valley Rockies, Creston Valley Thunder Cats and Golden Rockets of the KIJHL have managed to stay afloat, and thrive, for so many years. (Side note: I’d love to hear Eddie Mountain’s thoughts about this.)
All this said leads me to this point: do not stop supporting the ICE this year. Increase your support, if you can.
For starters, the lads skating their guts out each game wearing the ICE logo have nothing to do with this. GM Matt Cockell’s odd tinkerings have kept this club in struggle mode. So keep going to games for the players. Show them that we care.
Let’s give the outgoing ownership, who have clearly duped us all, a giant middle finger in the form of a major boost in attendance and in doing so, loudly proclaim we are a great hockey market; because we are.
Using Winnipeg as an example, hold the hope we’ll get another shot at a WHL team.
In fact, the likelihood is far greater that Cranbrook and area will get another WHL team than it was for Winnipeg, which sucked at supporting Jets 1.0 (some for similar reasons that Cranbrook residents didn’t support the ICE), to get another NHL team.
Jets 2.0 is getting sonic support because Winnipeg hockey fans realized the error of their way in not supporting the previous club enough. I believe East Kootenay hockey fans will follow suit should we lure another franchise to the Rockies.
This has not been our failure. When a business fails is it the fault of the consumer or the business owner/manager’s fault? There ya go.
The next home game for the ICE is Tuesday, Dec. 11 against the Kelowna Rockets; 7 p.m. game time.
There is a great chance of a seriously awkward vibe knocking about the joint, so stay focused on the long game – making a show and a statement that this failure is not of our doing and support the young lads who will be, for the time being, our last WHL team.
Please allow me to sign off with a double entendre – Go ICE go!