WHL Commissioner, Ron Robison was recently quoted in a Saskatoon newspaper as saying, “We’re monitoring the Kootenay situation very closely.”
The Ice and The Drive have a new three year broadcast agreement in place however; Kootenay’s attendance is second worst in the league to only Swift Current.
Robison says the average attendance at Kootenay Ice games is a little better than 2,200 a game and that’s very concerning.
“We monitor all of our franchises, particularly those who aren’t meeting expectations as far as attendance and revenues are concerned,” says Robison. “One of the franchises we’re very concerned about is the Kootenay Ice, this has been a trend for several seasons now and attendance is at levels that not only concern us but, concern ownership.”
Robison continues, “When we’re looking at the Kootenay Ice, we’re in an area where, quite frankly, it’s going to require more support locally in order for that franchise to remain. The numbers we’re currently seeing, 2,200 average attendance is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
However, contrary to some rumours swirling around the Western Hockey League, Robison says the league isn’t looking to relocate the Ice franchise but, attendance needs to improve in the short term.
“We need to assess it as to whether it’s going to be viable beyond next season, that’s not to say we want to move the franchise or feel at this point that that’s part of the plan,” says Robison. “That’s not the case at all, we want to see this franchise improve, its had a great history of success in the Kootenay market and we want that to continue but, in order for that to happen we need the attendance to improve significantly.”
On a positive note, Kootenay has made the playoffs for 17 consecutive years, have two Eastern Conference second team all-stars in Sam Reinhart and Rinat Valiev and face their number one rival, the Calgary Hitmen in the first round of the WHL playoffs, starting on March 27.
Kootenay has won three Western Hockey League titles (2011, 2002, 2000) and a Memorial Cup championship in 2002.