The Western Hockey League is praising the new ownership group in Cranbrook after its inaugural season.
This week marks the one year anniversary since the Kootenay ICE were sold by the Chynoweth family to Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell.
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison says the new owners have done an excellent job investing in the market and promoting the franchise, which has produced results.
“Much better attendance,” he asserts. “Nearly 2,500 average a game. [Kootenay] led the league in overall improvement in attendance, close to a 40 per cent increase. So, we couldn’t be more delighted with the results in the first year.”
The ICE averaged approximately 1,700 fans at Western Financial Place during the 2016/17 season.
Robison says the league wants to see attendance numbers in Cranbrook continue to rise and settle somewhere in the 2,500 – 3,000 area to make the ICE organization feasbile.
“We’ve seen some nice response as well on the corporate sponsorship side, but the key is, obviously, to bring the attendance to levels that will make the franchise viable,” he adds. “We need to continue to push that number to to get to the level that is not only going to work for the ownership group, but ultimately the community as well.”
Last summer’s sale of the local WHL organization brought years of speculation and rumor to a head.
Upon arrival, the new ownership group assured their commitment to keep the team in Cranbrook.
The business community showed a reignited passion for the ICE, with some local business owners admitting it was difficult to support the club under the previous ownership.
A “Drive To 25” campaign was launched in an effort to sell 2,500 season tickets and sustain higher attendance.However, the initiative maxed out at 1,924.
On the ice this year, Kootenay surpassed its 2016-17 win total (14) with a record of 27-38-5-2.
With that said, the ICE went 4-18 in February and March this season to free fall out of a playoff spot and miss the postseason for a third straight year.
– Western Hockey League Commissioner Rob Robison