Thursday, February 21, 2013

Could the Jets be Kootenay's undoing?

At a time in the season where almost all things Kootenay are going in the right direction for the Ice on it, it appears now that off of it could be troublesome.

Kelly Friesen, a WHL writer covering the league for Yahoo Sports tweeted the following a few hours ago:


Winnipeg Jets ownership group is looking to buy a  team..had talks with the Kootenay Ice...more details in my column on Yahoo tomorrow.


Following Sportscaster Jim Toth's breaking of the story that the True North Sports Entertainment - the owners of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets - were in talks with a WHL team last weekend to purchase and relocate a team to Winnipeg to play out of the MTS Centre a la Edmonton and Calgary, the nervous energy in the Kootenays should've went into overdrive.

Jim Tweeted this early Sunday morning:


True North Sports & Ent. recently met with a  franchise about purchasing the team & bringing it to  . 1/2


Jim Toth Ice fans will remember as the entertaining host of Ice-Chips on the local Shaw TV Channel for five years from 2003-08 before leaving to take a job with Shaw in Winnipeg. Jim is now the host of his own sports show with CJOB radio in Winnipeg.

After taking 2 of 3 on the road, splitting in Brandon with a win Saturday in overtime and then beating the Swift Current Broncos 5-2 Monday to overtake the Lethbridge Hurricanes and move into a the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference - an almost Herculean feat in and of itself given that the club was actually three points behind the last-place Vancouver Giants in mid-December - all that will likely get talked about now is the impending doom for the club off the ice instead of the great play on it.

But for the 2350 average fans per game this season, maybe there are more that need to take these reports  a little more seriously. Friesen's column more will likely only reveal that the Ice were the club that TNSE were talking to and talks broke off. But the fact there were talks held should scare the hell of you if you're a Kootenay fan.

And what of the 15-year lease signed by the club in 2009? If the club is sold, that would be for the courts to decide, I would imagine. Although the Niedermayer brothers Scott and Rob are minority partners with the club - a 24% stake - whether or not they still have first right of refusal on any sale is unknown.

The Ice have the third-lowest attendance in the league, ahead of only PG who hover just over 1800, and Swift Current who check in at about 2150 per game. The club has dropped almost 450 per game this season over last when it comes to average attendance.

The Winnipeg Free Press had a story on the owners of the Jets in discussions with a WHL team last week but talks had broken off. That story is here.

I'll be honest, when I seen Jim's tweet over the weekend and the Ice being in Brandon - it was a little too convenient. But I also brushed it off first because most around the league see the Prince George Cougars as the team first to be courted and bought or relocated and the fact the team has a great lease in Cranbrook with 11 years left on it, enabling it to make money with relatively lower attendance. However, the story Kelly will post tomorrow combined with the comments of Ron Robison to the FP at the end of the story above are concerning. (""If there was to be relocation certainly from an Eastern Conference standpoint, our first priority would be Winnipeg")   PG isn't in the Eastern Conference, Kootenay is.

And fans around these parts should probably start paying attention, or at the very least, more of them. About 500 or so at least.

The Calgary Hitmen are here Saturday night. Hopefully the news is more about the stuff happening on the ice rather than off of it.

UPDATE: Kelly Friesen has posted his column for Yahoo Sports here. Kootenay leads his speculative list of franchises that could be options for TNSE to purchase and move to Winnipeg. However, though his sources have indicated that talks broke off, Ice fans should be extremely concerned. I have also fixed the date that the Ice signed the 15-year lease with the Rec Plex and the City. That was in January of 2009.


34 comments:

ELL said...

Would be nice if more Cranbrook news outlets would pick up on this story. It is important for locals to know what is at stake. Losing the Ice would leave a hole in our area.

On the flip side it is a shame such a story can take away from the great renaissance that Kootenay is producing.

Anonymous said...

If the Niedermayer brothers owns 24% of the team. Does the Chynoweth family own the balance of 76%

Anonymous said...

Check the corporate registries, either B.C. or Alta to find out. You would need to know the corporation name, as I would assume they are an incorporated company. Cost a few bucks but then you would know.

Jeff said...

Yes, the Chynoweth Family are the majority owners and to the best of my knowledge there no others.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, put your Sherlock Holmes investigative talents to work and find out - lol - I am not totally convinced that there are not others involved - As above, a check of registries would provide the details.

ICEFAN16 said...

I guess thats why the marketing stinks and we have yet to recieve our playoff packages...Wish there was some local ownership that would step in and end this once and for all....Can't wait for my taxes to go up with an empty 4250 seat building...Been a season ticket holder since 2002....God SAVE OUR ICE!!!!

Anonymous said...

If I had the bucks, I would buy this team and kicks that miserable JC's ass right out of town.

Anonymous said...

Make sure we let everyone we can know this is out there...The people need to know, need bodies in the seats need to keep this team here...

Anonymous said...

Just read the release from a few years ago says new 15 year deal with NO OUT CLAUSE so WTF is going on here??

Anonymous said...

The lease won't stop anything. Out clause or not.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that true north was talking to Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Bronco's. My source knows nothing about the Ice being involved?

Jeff said...

Both the Broncos and the Raiders are community-owned and as such couldn't enter into such discussions without a mandate from the Board of Directors.

I have no first hand knowledge of the Ice bring the team True North talked to either but only the published stories that I referred to in the post. And their sources.

Anonymous said...

JC is in the drivers seat and can command whatever he wants for the team. Rumour is that he would like to sell as does not enjoy it in Cranbrook. If that were the case why would he have signed a 15 year lease a few years ago. Rumour is that he is asking crazy dollars and if that is the case he will have limited suitors. The hockey world is a small world and it does not take a brain surgeon to figure out what the going rate would be for the team. Nobody needs to get nervous here until such time as JC gets serious about wanting to leave and comes up with a realistic asking price. Until those two items get in sync nothing is going to happen.


The Animal said...

Following this story from Bellevue, Washington. Very sad to hear of attendance woes in Cranbrook, Prince George and Lethbridge. TNSE will get a team, and it'll likely be out of the Alberta Division.

There's no way the WHL BoG would allow the BC Division to shrink to 4 teams w/o expanding (back to Chilliwack?) Which of the Eastern Division teams would move west?

Anonymous said...

All very interesting, as an insider to the new lease that was agreed to in 09, it is clear that while the intent and committment of the two parties was to keep the team in cbk, the fact is any contract or lease can be broken and in the end the courts will determine the settlement. As for taxes if the team leaves, yes they will go up for sure. However the comment that JC is asking to much is bang on the money, and until he comes back to earth, there will be little more that some dancing around the table...so to speak. As well JC has made it clear over and over he and his family are not content to stay in cbk and if the deal is right, he will move on.

ICEFAN16 said...

Well then JC can move along and the team can stay in Cranbrook where it belongs....PERIOD.. The city needs to step in here and start marketing, why are there not cheap week night tickets when we can only draw from the city of Cranbrook, why are there no give aways for season ticket holders like in most markets. You dont think a Jumbo Tron would make a huge difference absolutley it would....Where are the 2 for 1 nites etc....Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, NO bus promotions to the Elk Valley and Creston area Flip a little promotion would go along way, Crap I'll do it for crying out loud this is getting ridiculous JC has threatened to move from day one...Get over it sell it locally take ur money and leave OUR KOOTENAY ICE ALONE....Sorry for the rant...GO ICE GO

Anonymous said...

Well, all we have done so far is crucify the management - well deserved, I would say. They list on their website that they have a marketing guy - what the h_ _ _ does he do???

JC is not losing money here - if he was, you know old cheapie would of been gone long ago. There have been some pretty good years here, and an accumulation of $'s would of occured in the old Ice bank account.
Maybe we should place an old stink bomb up in Jeffs hiding place in the SW corner of the arena, and force him to meet and greet his paying customers. One thing we can for certain - he certainly is not a chip of the old block ( Ed )

Anonymous said...

I think JC is totally running the show.
They do some great things ie: the anti-bullying night coming up but maybe they are only allow to do a few select things because he is really pulling all the strings.
As a fan, I firmly believe the team will stay but then again, who really knows but him.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess just to touch on some things Western Financial Place could do to get more people in the seats in Cranbrook would probably be ticket prices - I do believe Cranbrook and Kelowna charge the highest, but look at the population of Kelowna. So I can see why attendance is low that way. Another way is - Every game has the same ol' procedures IE, the music is lame.hear the same "if the house is a rockin' dont come a knockin" goal song for the past 4 maybe 5 years. No jumbotron for advertising or replays. Pretty sure every other city has those, except Cranbrook. Sometimes have a goal horn but not always. That sucks. And ive heard alot of announcers when indicating who scored, are very energetic about it. Cranbrooks is as if hes reading it robotically. Pretty bad..what else. Its just not exciting for the fans or the players to do the same thing night after night after..you get my point. You wouldnt like to eat the same meals everyday for a few yeara right. So spruce it up for everyone. Do new stuff. Make people want to be there. Not even going to touch on the rediculous beverage prices..(6.50) ... .anyways. Cranbrook and the Kootenay Ice could be together for a long time but these additions and advertising NEED..must..step up the game ALOT and quickly. Hopefully for 13/14 cause ive been a season ticket holder for around 9 years now and I myself along with all the others out there that spend big coin to support our club, would love to see a big difference inside that building for next season. Even if the price stayed the same..great. But give back to the fans who keep this team here..and gain new ones that will enjoy it there. Now if thats not a wild rant..I dont know what is. GO ICE GO!.

Anonymous said...

All great ideas here. I've never, ever even considered not going to an ICE game because I dislike something. I don't go to watch the GM, listen to see if the music is great or not, and if there is something I dislike I just move on. In answer to Anonymous with comment #19, although the ICE is responsible for anything that happens during the game such as music, announcers, and intermission entertainment, the ICE do not set beverage prices nor are they responsible, I don't believe, to purchase a jumbotron. That's the City's responsibility as they own the facility and the vendors pay the City rent. The ICE have nothing to do with the concessions or the prices they set. How far do you think we'd get if the City held a referendum whether or not to purchase a jumbotron. Not very far I'm thinking. I think a jumbotron would enhance the game experience 100% and I really wish we had one. How to go about getting one is another question. Maybe the WHL should have stuck to their insistance that every venue have a jumbotron by 2013 then we would have had no choice but to get one. The bottomline is jumbotron or not, we need more butts in the seats and it doesn't get any simpler than that. We can bat around and hash out what's done right or wrong at the games, but if we don't get more people to the games it won't matter, will it?

Cup Half Full said...

All great ideas here. I've never, ever even considered not going to an ICE game because I dislike something. I don't go to watch the GM, listen to see if the music is great or not, and if there is something I dislike I just move on. In answer to Anonymous with comment #19, although the ICE is responsible for anything that happens during the game such as music, announcers, and intermission entertainment, the ICE do not set beverage prices nor are they responsible, I don't believe, to purchase a jumbotron. That's the City's responsibility as they own the facility and the vendors pay the City rent. The ICE have nothing to do with the concessions or the prices they set. How far do you think we'd get if the City held a referendum whether or not to purchase a jumbotron. Not very far I'm thinking. I think a jumbotron would enhance the game experience 100% and I really wish we had one. How to go about getting one is another question. Maybe the WHL should have stuck to their insistance that every venue have a jumbotron by 2013 then we would have had no choice but to get one. The bottomline is jumbotron or not, we need more butts in the seats and it doesn't get any simpler than that. We can bat around and hash out what's done right or wrong at the games, but if we don't get more people to the games it won't matter, will it?

February 24, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Anonymous said...

And you are spot on with those answers good sir. Ofcourse the beverage price isnt the Ice's problem. Thats none to worry about. But prices for admission do scare people away. I would know cause half of my friends I ask to go argue that price is insane. I would set a trail period advertising in papers an radio that that the first half of next season for example only. adult since thats the high price..be dropped to say 15 bucks or something like that. See if the attendance goes up to 3000 - 3500 maybe 4000 some nights. Would still get the same or more money as having 2200 people at 22$ a head(adult). Or wouldnt you rather fill that building with twice as many people? Who knows. Drop the price a lil. that is just an example idea. If it doesnt work.. Try something else.

Anonymous said...

it was all just a matter of time, of course they were always gonna leave, as usual it comes down to greed, more money wins the race! Now bring back the Cranbrook Colts!!!!

Anonymous said...

Bring back the Colts. Funny! We can turn the Recplex into not too sure what. Then everyone can enjoy the game from the wood benches of the Memorial. Wow fun!

Anonymous said...

But if I remember, it was fun! We had better turn out for them. Have to face facts, they are gonna go where they get offered the MOST money. They don't owe Cranbrook squat, they have no loyalty here. If anyone didn't think this was going to happen, then they've been living under a rock for what, a 100 years. That's the world of finance :) The city will just have to bite the big one on making such a uneducated decision in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with all your points. Like anything that continues not to succeed or to succeed there is usually one common thread.
Edmonton - failed, Cranbrook - ?
But then again I still think people should come watch the games, if you really love hockey I think you would be at the games.
I love hockey and I am at all the games when I am not working.

Anonymous said...

The economy still is so bad so to have that kind of money readily available is not reality for families. I myself would not be able to pay our bills (family of 4) if we went to a game even one night a week. And btw, we really LOVE hockey.

Anonymous said...

It really would be a shame if the ICE left Cranbrook. It's pretty much the only thing the town has going for it. When they pack up and leave..that's when Cranbrook will really feel the pinch. People need to recognize this discussion and the reality of it. That building should be 3/4 to full for every game, not the opposite! Shaw doesn't want to broadcast games from here anymore cause it's an eye sore to see on the tv that the rink is half or less occupied. Any-who... the Colts or Royals. whoever..would just be.. hopeless as well. So the people out there from Cranbrook and the areas close around, really need to see these details. rumor or not. People need to show more support for this team in this town and get to every game. A lease is easily wiggled out of, and then all the selfish people who stayed home to watch american idol instead or god knows what, can be happy that nobody will have hockey to enjoy in Cranbrook anymore. Cause it wont come back.

And to that I say, Two thumbs way down!!

Anonymous said...

Now or in the future, the ice WILL leave Cbk for greener pastures (fatter paycheques), it's inevitable. Sorry to rain on anyone's parade. The sayings "them's just the facts" and "don't shoot the messenger" come to mind. Well maybe not, perhaps we'll all get rich from a hidden oil patch found here.

John Hudak said...

Remember this....if we lose the Ice we will not get a BCHL team here. Those already in the league will not want to travel over one more mountain pass to come here for a single game. Teams in that league are already having a tough time with travel budgets going to the Powell River, Prince George and Trail rinks. The additional distance to Cranbrook would have a majority of the other teams giving a thumbs down to our chance of securing a team in that league. The BCHL is good league but by no means as entertaining as what we have here even in a poor year. So we are then left with a KIJHL option if we have no Ice. That would then take away from what Kimberley, Columbia Valley, Fernie and Creston presently enjoy. Those communities have worked hard to support their teams and I don't think we need to muddy their waters because we failed to support the Ice. Those teams have placed some players into the WHL and the league is a good recruiting area for WHL scouts over the years as it is known our Kootenay boys are late bloomers because they don't have regular exposure at the AAA levels.

Let's start to look at the glass as half full and not half empty. Let's get out and support this team and fill the rest of the half full glass rather then do nothing and watch the remaining half evaporate. The boys have done their part. Let's get out and cheer them on and make this a season to remember for all the right reasons.

Anonymous said...

And that's all well and good but the bottom line is, those empty seats are not going to be filled with people that are still reeling from the effects of recession, it's just not going to happen. I am employed by a housing rental company part time, I have seen families giving up their rental properties to move back in with their parents, it's glum to say the least. We/they don't have an extra $60.00 a month, let alone a week, to attend a game. It's wonderful to think of nice, fuzzy, warm things like filling empty seats but most families are living reality here in the Kootenays, that reality being, family is priority! So if any of you people, the ones that are ridiculing others about missing out on hockey games, would like to trade lives for a couple weeks, speak up!!

John Hudak said...

Anonymous I hear you but I grew up here and know people around my age group that can afford it and are staying home. Those are the people I am speaking to.

As for having struggles in life. I grew up in the 200 block of 5th Ave S. and if you know where that is it's not on the other side of the tracks but not far from there. I have been blessed later in life but know what you speak of. I tell you what
call me at 250-426-0212 and I would like to treat you and your family to an Ice game before the season is over. Leave a message and ph. # if I am not in and I'll call you back. I'm not doing this because I feel sorry for you either. I am doing it because you had the guts to remind me there are people in my own community that are having a tough time. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Cranbrook doesn't have that great of a fan base. If say they they did, then you could go ahead with the admission prices present.. SO, why charge the maximum when people can't afford it??? I just don't understand that. Trying to gain attendance at that price is suicide to this teams future in the community.

Anonymous said...

cranbrook is very fortunate to have a whl team, as the league has outgrown markets this size since they relocated from Edmonton in the late 90's. the fan base has gone from being renowned as one of the best in junior hockey, to being one of the smallest in the league. which is perhaps most unfortunate is the quality of hockey teams that cranbrook has seen over the years - they deserve a solid fan base. my line of work has taken me to both Winnipeg and Grande Prairie, and both of these cities are hurting for major junior hockey. jets tickets in Winnipeg are very expensive and hard to come by, and with a large population base and TNSE in their corner, they seem like the most obvious choice. grande prairie (or fort mcmurray for that matter, although it is a little more isolated) would also be a great whl market, provided they get a new arena or expand the crystal centre. Nanaimo is also plausible (natural rivalry with Victoria, cost cutting for teams travelling to the Island), but again, they would need a new barn. Apparently Wenatchee is also hockey crazy, and fill their brand new arena for "Junior A" hockey (although the quality of the NAHL is closer to Junior B)... the bottom line is, there are countless Western markets that could support a team. step up cranbrook fans! let's see the town rally around the team like they did in the early days in the kootenays.