British Columbia

Cranbrook risks losing Kootenay Ice WHL team due to poor attendance

Despite having one of the best historic records in junior hockey, the Kootenay Ice WHL team is up for sale and could be leaving its Cranbrook, B.C. home due to low ticket sales and empty seats.

'We can't continue. We are bleeding bad,' says team owner, general manager

The Kootenay Ice have struggled to fill seats at home games this season. (Kootenay Ice hockey club/ Facebook)

Despite having one of the best historic records in junior hockey, the Kootenay Ice WHL team is up for sale and could be leaving its Cranbrook, B.C. home due to low ticket sales and empty seats.

Jeff Chynoweth, the Ice's owner and general manager, said the team has been losing money and fans for years. 

"We can't continue. We are bleeding bad right now, averaging under 1,700 people a night," said Chynoweth.

"That just doesn't work in today's economics of the Western Hockey League."

The team has officially been for sale since the 2012 season. 

"Ideally, we'd like to find ownership in Cranbrook and to keep it here, but time will tell if that will come to fruition," said Chynoweth.

Could team move to Nanaimo?

Nanaimo residents will vote in a March referendum on whether the city should borrow money to fund a new events centre, one that would include a WHL-ready arena.

But Chynoweth says the likelihood of his team relocating to Vancouver Island is far from certain.

"You know what? Talk is cheap until you actually see an offer," he said.

"I don't know what the future holds other than my family doesn't want to own the Kootenay Ice anymore," he said.

'I'd hate to see those dollars leave'

Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt doesn't want to see the team leave the B.C. Interior. 

"Unfortunately, a lot of people don't realize what the Ice brings to this city," he said. "I'd hate to see those dollars leave the community. This is our major tenant. This is the reason [Western Financial Place] was built."

The Kootenay Ice moved to Cranbrook from Edmonton in 1998. The Ice won the Memorial Cup in 2002 and WHL Championships in 2000, 2002 and 2011.

But the Ice have struggled so far this season and currently sit last in the WHL's Eastern Conference. 

The team has roughly three dozen NHL alumni, including Jarret Stoll and Cody Eakin.

With files from Bob Keating and Daybreak South 

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