The Curtain falls on Kootenay’s season

By Jeff Bromley



The Curtain falls on Kootenay’s season
Signaling the finale of the 2000-01
season, the Kootenay ICE returned to
their Cranbrook Rec/Plex dressing room
this past Thursday to clean out their
stalls and attend individual departure
meetings with management before
scattering to their respective hometowns
for the summer. It is an arduous process
unless you happen to be the last team
taking part in the tedious task and for
some, it would be the last time in their
junior careers that they would do so.
For Dean Arsene, the last remaining
member of the club that came with the
club from Edmonton, the sun has set on
a long and prosperous junior career. A
career of which by his own admission
was chock full of successes,
disappointments and some incredible
memories. “It’s been the best time of my
life, playing five years for this team,”
said the popular ICE captain. “Even
though I’m an old guy and the guys joke
around about it, it’s been the best time of
my life playing in this league and
especially here in Cranbrook with the
teammates I’ve got and all the fans and
all the support I’ve gotten throughout
the years, it’s been quite unbelievable.”
Arsene, who along with Bret DeCecco
and Mike Lee will be graduating from
the WHL was quick to point out and
thank the fans of Cranbrook as was
evident during the goodbye skate Arsene
did after the seventh game loss against
Swift Current. Arsene, while receiving a
rousing ovation from the ICE faithful,
gave the fans themselves a round of
applause in return in recognition of their
support. “If you ever have to lose, it’s
nice to lose on home ice,” said Arsene,
his eyes red from the emotion of the
moment. “Especially when it’s your last
game because you get to say thank-you
to the fans. I definitely didn’t want it to
end like this but my time here was
memorable.”
For Kootenay ICE G.M. Bob Tory,
having the season end earlier than
anticipated is disheartening. Tory
however states that there are numerous
positives that have come out of this
season and that no one in the dressing
room should hang their heads. “One of
the most important things to realize is
how precious winning a championship is
and maybe now we can reflect back on
the one we won last year,” said Tory.
“There’s not one team remaining from
the Memorial Cup last year still playing
and that tells you how hard it is to win a
championship.
“We should be very proud of what we
did last year and what we did this year
to come back with a 100-point season
and play as well as we did with all the
changes and I think it’s a real tribute to
the coaches and the players. There
wasn’t a guy in this room who didn’t
want to win and give everything he had –
to win a championship. You need things
to go your way and get some bounces
and sometimes the bounces don’t go
your way. Last year we seemed to be
getting a lot of them but sometimes you
eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats
you. As a city we should be proud of
where this franchise has come in such a
short period of time.”
Tory, not one to usually express his
emotions openly, makes no bones about
stating his pride in his players, the region
and its fans. “I’m proud of the players
and I realize that this is a special place to
play and it’s a special town. I’m just as
proud of the fans who have come and
supported us and been behind since we
got here. No one has anything to be
ashamed of.”
As for the future of the club, Tory is
indeed very confident that it will be a
bright one. “Next year creeps up on us
pretty quick and people have a lot to get
excited about. There’s a strong nucleus
coming back, I know that we return four
thirty-goal scorers, all six defensemen,
we return Dan Blackburn in goal, we’ll
be adding another European with the
graduation of Zdenek Blatny and we got
a choice of four overage players so I
think that the pieces are in place for
having a strong team.”

Quick Hits – The future for the three
overage players, Arsene, DeCecco and
Lee is undetermined for the time being.
Lee is a free agent and will explore both
options of pro and college as will Arsene
who has attended NHL camps in
Calgary and Vancouver but remains a
free agent with the same choices as Lee.
DeCecco however is awaiting a contract
offer from the Buffalo Sabers who
drafted him in 1999 (7th Rd). If the
Sabers do not offer DeCecco a contract
by the June NHL Draft day deadline, he
will become an unrestricted free agent….
As ICE G.M Bob Tory alluded to, it is
likely that Zdenek Blatny has played his
last game in junior. After signing a
contract with the Atlanta Thrashers only
a month ago it is expected that he will
play with them or their minor pro system
much like Jaroslav Svoboda did last
year.