WHL faithful in Cranbrook, BC fear Kootenay Ice bound for Winnipeg, suspend ticket drive

Click to play video: 'Are the Kootenay Ice on the move to Winnipeg?' Are the Kootenay Ice on the move to Winnipeg?
Fans in Cranbrook, BC fear they are going to lose their WHL team – Nov 14, 2018

Many in the community of Cranbrook, B.C. say they are losing hope amid fears the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice is moving to Winnipeg.

“It opens up an old wound,” John Hudak told Global News Wednesday morning.

Hudak is the marketing director for the Green Bay Committee, a group of Cranbrook residents who have been working with the team to increase ticket sales and outreach.

However, the group ceased all further ticket sales Tuesday saying they’ve lost faith in the owners and amidst speculation the team being moved to the prairies.

“It’s probably the single biggest thing that has impacted our ability to lock up some ticket sales,” Hudak said. “Why should we support this if these people aren’t going to remain in the community.”

“(We) haven’t heard from the Ice ownership if it will remain… their silence on the subject has become deafening.”

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READ MORE: WHL’s Kootenay Ice purchased by Winnipeg pair

The group said it had raised around $50,000 that will now be refunded to those who have purchased future season tickets.

In a letter sent to Ice co-owner Matt Cockell on Tuesday, Hudak said they are disappointed in the new ownership.

“We have made considerable progress… However, the absence of active engagement by you and Greg with our committee has become a major issue in our community.”

“We believe that this failure has become the biggest obstacle in our ability to achieve a highly successful sales campaign and to create an effective steering committee. As a result, we are terminating our Green Bay Committee effective immediately.

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Ice co-owners Greg Fettes (founder and CEO of Winnipeg-based 24-7 InTouch) and Matt Cockell purchased the franchise from Edmonton’s Chynoweth family prior to the 2017-18 season. The prior owners had relocated the team to Cranbrook from Edmonton, AB in 1998.

In September, sources told Global News the owners of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice were planning to move the franchise to Winnipeg in time for next season.

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Global News reached out to Fettes and the Western Hockey League at that time and received the following statement:

“The entire Kootenay Ice organization is focused on providing a premier experience for our players, corporate partners, and patrons in Cranbrook,” Fettes said to Global News via email on Sept. 9. “We look forward to another amazing season and continuing to build our relationship with the community of Cranbrook and the surrounding area.”

READ MORE: Pair of Manitobans named to Canada Under-17 roster

Fettes did not respond directly to questions about moving the team to Winnipeg. However, the majority owner did purchase two domain names, and, in April 2017 right after the initial sale of the team went through.

Both remain active.

Construction of new Rink facility south of Winnipeg.
Construction of new Rink facility south of Winnipeg.

Fettes has also partnered with Brad Rice, who opened Winnipeg’s The Rink Training Facility in 2009, and is building a new facility south of the city. Sources have told Global News a new 5,000 seat arena is planned to be developed on the site to accommodate the WHL team.

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“As a fan, parent, and owner, I am passionate about hockey development in Winnipeg and across Canada. Because of this passion, I am involved with The Rink Player Development and their new facility at McGillivray and Loudon, including their expansion and development in the surrounding area,” Fettes told Global News in September.

“My partners and I have considered a multitude of development options, including the possibility of an event centre, but no decisions have been made.”

The WHL confirmed it has not yet received an application from the owners to relocate the franchise. The league’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in February 2019.

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