W. P. Kinsella once wrote, “if you build it, they will come.” We built it and they came, in droves. In a scene reminiscent of an arena setting in Spokane or Calgary, the Kootenay ICE held their two inaugural home opening games this past weekend at Cranbrook’s brand new Recreational Complex and, to put it mildly, it was an unqualified success. Two consecutive sold-out crowds of 4301 were treated to two exciting and dramatic hockey games that seemed to play themselves out to an unofficial script that every hockey team opening a new home would be overjoyed to occur -wins. A 5-3 victory over the Regina Pats on Friday and a 4-3 nailbiter decision over the rival Calgary Hitmen on Saturday seemed to be icing on the cake for the many thousands of fans who took in the games over the weekend. “Incredible”, “fantastic” and “wow” were just some of the many superlatives mentioned by the visiting fans. “It doesn’t seem like were in Cranbrook” said visiting patron Tina White, “It feels like we’re in Calgary not Cranbrook, this place is really great”. For majority ICE owner Ed Chynoweth, the weekend was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people. “It was certainly a tremendous weekend. Personally the building is just total outstanding. Everything about it is major league and to start it off with a pair of wins is an added bonus,” said Chynoweth. For Chynoweth, the opening of the Rec/Plea was the payoff for a lot of people, most importantly the fans of the Kootenay ICE, “I couldn’t help but think when I was out at center ice for the opening ceremonies, I had goose bumps thinking about just how great the facility was and how happy I was for the fans because not only have they supported us in a building that was sometimes left a lot to be desired but they did so unconditionally. This was for them, it’s a great facility.” The crowds, both consecutive sell-outs surprised a lot of people. The club’s season ticket base is around the 2400 mark so getting the 1900 or so more people into the building needed for the sellout, even the eternal optimist had to be somewhat skeptical. “You know I’d be kidding you if I said I really felt that we would sell it (the games). You always wonder, especially two days before and we still got 800 tickets to sell. It just seems that the people come though, they rise to the occasion.”, said Chynoweth. If the building and the Kootenay ICE were the star attraction on the weekend, then the fans were definitely the theme. The fans, they came. From Cranbrook, Kimberley, Fernie, Golden, Invermere, Creston and all points in between. All the questions, the disagreements, the referendums, the YES side and the NO side, it didn’t really matter any more. We built it, they came and that’s all that anyone could really ask for.
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