In the first relocation since the Chilliwack Bruins went to Victoria the Western Hockey League has announced that the Kootenay Ice will relocate to Winnipeg. The relocation will occur in time for the 2019-2020 season. In a statement about the relocation WHL commissioner Rob Robinson commented about the move.
"The WHL appreciates the support we have received from the City of Cranbrook, the corporate community, and, in particular, hockey fans in the East Kootenay region." He goes onto say that after many years of monitoring the franchise operations it became evident that "this franchise is not viable in the market moving forward. It is a difficult decision, but given low attendance trends and the support required to operate a WHL Club, it is necessary to move the franchise to a market where it can be sustainable on a long-term basis."
The Kootenay Ice have played in Cranbrook since 1998 when they relocated from Edmonton. On April 27th 2017 the team's ownership was transferred to Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. "We understand this will be disappointing news for Cranbrook," says Matt Cocknell, President and General Manager of the ICE. "Unfortunately, our collective effort failed to achieve the results required to create confidence that the franchise could be viable in the market."
Greg Fettes stated that "The process of relocation is not an easy one and was made with thorough analysis and consideration for all parties." He goes on to say that the decision to announce the relocation now "felt like the right thing to do in order to allow the City of Cranbrook to prepare for the future and put an end to the speculation surrounding the franchise."
The Kootenay Ice's last home game will be Sunday March 17th against the Red Deer Rebels. There is no information about which rink the Ice will call home while playing in Winnipeg. The most likely place would be Bell MTS Place which has a seating capacity of 15,320. The arena already serves as the home of the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
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