WHL MOVING TO WINNIPEG

_MG_8879.JPGPhoto by Brandi Crowe

Brandon, MB (CKLQ) – The Brandon Wheat Kings will soon have a new neighbour.

The Western Hockey League announced on Tuesday morning that the Kootenay ICE will relocate from Cranbrook, BC to Winnipeg in time for the 2019-2020 season.

At a press conference inside Western Financial Place in Cranbrook, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison stated that this move was a long time coming.

“This was a Western Hockey League decision ultimately, to transfer this franchise,” said Robison. “It was a decision made over an 8 or 9 year period of assessing this market and the ability for this franchise to be sustainable over a long period of time. These are difficult decisions, especially difficult when you look at the passionate fans the community and how it’s supported this franchise.”

The ICE were originally based out of Edmonton but moved to Cranbrook in 1998. The club has seen some success, including three WHL Championships and a Memorial Cup, but dwindling attendance over the last number of years left the new ownership group searching for options.

“When we (ICE Ownership Group) had this opportunity, the league made it very clear to us that we had to go 110% to make it work here,” said Owner Greg Fettes. “We made that commitment and we were all in. That being said, we knew this was an uphill battle and we were aware of multiple different options including Winnipeg if this wasn’t right.”

The ICE, who sit in 2nd last place in the WHL have averaged just 2,218 fans per home game this season, the lowest number in the league. In comparison, the Brandon Wheat Kings are averaging 3710 fans per home game this season.

In their 2nd year of ownership, Fettes and his staff set forth a goal of 2,500 season tickets. A number that they failed to reach.

“When we continued to push on our drive to 2500 and we saw regression it gave us pause,” said GM Matt Cockell. “As we communicated a number of times, that was a real critical benchmark to look at sustainability for us as an ownership group.”

As of right now, the plan is for the ICE to play in the Wayne Fleming Arena on the University of Manitoba campus. The ownership group has pledged financial compensation for the University in order to bring the arena up to WHL standards.

The move is ultimately part of a much bigger redevelopment planned for Winnipeg that will see a new 5000+ seat facility build in coordination with The Rink Hockey Academy. The group is said to be in discussions to purchase the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Blues as well.

Winnipeg now becomes the first city in North America with an NHL, AHL and WHL franchise. There is no word yet on if or how Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose owners, True North Sports and Entertainment is cooperating with this move.

The last time Winnipeg had a WHL franchise was back in 1984 when the Winnipeg Warriors moved to Moose Jaw.

ICE CONNECTIONS TO MANITOBA

Team Owner – Greg Fettes
-Owner of 24-7 Intouch (Winnipeg, MB)
From the ICE website: Greg is also a thriving philanthropist! His extremely generous donations have helped foundations such as the Children’s Hospital, Health Sciences Centre, CancerCare Manitoba, KidSport, Project 11, True North, The Dream Factory, etc.

President & General Manager – Matt Cockell
-From Winnipeg, MB
-Brandon Wheat Kings goalie coach 2010-2016
-Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, for True North Sports + Entertainment (Winnipeg, MB)
-Chief Customer Officer at 24-7 Intouch (Winnipeg, MB)
-Graduated from the University of Manitoba

Vice President – Raylin Kirsch
-Wife of President & General Manager Matt Cockell

Manager of Communications & Community – Brant Hilton
-From Winnipeg, MB
-Former Winnipeg Blues (MJHL) netminder
-Former CKLQ (Brandon) Radio Personality

Head Coach – James Patrick
-From Winnipeg, MB
-Brother of former Wheat King Steve Patrick (Uncle to Nolan Patrick)

Director of Hockey Operations/Scouting – Jake Heisinger
-From Winnipeg, MB
Son of former Wheat Kings Equipment Manager Craig Heisinger
-Former Winnipeg Blue (MJHL)

Players From Winnipeg or Manitoba

Duncan McGovern – Winnipeg
Zach Patrick – Winnipeg
Marco Creta – Oak Bluff
Jordan Chudley – Souris
Cole Muir – Vista
Carson Lambos – Winnipeg

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