Thursday, March 26, 2015

WHL commish has message for Ice fans: 2,200 isn't good enough!

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has delivered a message to hockey fans in Cranbrook, telling them that the Kootenay Ice’s average attendance “is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
In a story posted on Between The Lines, a blog operated by Jeff Hollick, the radio voice of the Ice on The Drive102.9 FM, Robison is quoted as saying: “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.”
Kootenay’s average attendance this season (2,239) was the second-poorest in the 22-team league, ahead of only the Swift Current Broncos (2,162).
Robison attempted to soften the blow a bit when he added:
“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. That’s not the case at all. We want to see this franchise improve, it’s 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.”
In the last five seasons, starting in 2010-11, the Ice’s average attendance has been, in order, 2,501, 2,805, 2,411, 2,227 and 2,239.
On the Ice, Kootenay has been one of the WHL’s more successful franchises. When the Ice opens a first-round series in Calgary on Friday night, it will mark Kootenay’s 17th straight playoff appearance. The Ice won the WHL championship in 2000, 2002 and 2011, and won the Memorial Cup in 2002.
At present, Ice ownership, should it want to move the franchise, doesn’t appear to have a lot of options.
There are three arenas in the Lower Mainland that could house a WHL franchise, but two of them — Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre and the Langley Events Centre — are home to BCHL franchises.
Prospera Centre, of course, was the home of the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins for five seasons before the franchise moved to Victoria where it is the Royals. In their five seasons in Chilliwack, starting in 2006-07, the Bruins’ average attendance was 4,467, 4,533, 4,073, 3,260 and 3,372.
The third Lower Mainland arena is the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Centre, which was home to the Abbotsford Heat before the Calgary Flames moved their AHL affiliate to Adirondack, N.Y., last summer. In five seasons in Abbotsford, starting in 2009-01, the Heat’s average attendance was 3,897, 3,807, 3,545, 3,778 and 3,007.

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