The Western Hockey League this afternoon announced that the Kootenay Ice will relocate to Winnipeg for the 2019-20 season. The Ice will play out the remainder of the current season at their home in Cranbrook, B.C. before moving to Manitoba in the off-season.
The Ice have played out of the Kootenay region of British Colombia for 21 seasons, moving there from Edmonton in 1998.
“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,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in the press release. “However, after many years of monitoring the operations of the Kootenay Ice, it is evident 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.”
In their 21 seasons in Kootenay, the Ice won three WHL President’s Cup championships in 2000, 2002, and 2011, capturing the Memorial Cup – the ultimate prize in Canadian junior hockey – in 2002. The Ice unveiled a new logo relatively recently, designed by Fanbrandz, the logo was a finalist for a Creamer Award in 2017.
“The process of relocation is not an easy one and was made with thorough analysis and consideration for all parties,” said Greg Fettes, Majority Owner of the Ice. “The decision to announce prior to the end of the season felt like the right thing to do in order to allow the City of Cranbrook and the Ice to prepare for the future and put an end to the speculation surrounding the franchise.”
Rumours surrounding the future of the Ice have been circulating for some time, Fettes and Matt Cockell purchased the Ice from former WHL President Ed Chynoweth and his family in 2017, the Chynoweth family originally brought the franchise to Kootenay from Edmonton.
This news marks the first relocation of a Western Hockey League team since the Chilliwack Bruins moved to Victoria, becoming the Royals, in 2011. The Vancouver Giants relocated about 45 kilometres away to Langley, BC in 2016 but retained the Vancouver name, Los Angeles Angels style.