Kootenay’s move greeted with cautious optimism

By Jeff Bromley

Kootenay’s move greeted with cautious optimism
When the notion of the Kootenay ICE
moving to the WHL’s West Division
surfaced, there were two main concerns,
rivalries and cost. With the
announcement this past week that
Kootenay had been realigned by the
WHL to the new B.C. Division of the
Western Conference, the development
of an unbalanced schedule would ensure
that the ICE would maintain established
rivalries with Calgary, Red Deer,
Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.

Addressing the issue of cost with the
increased travel into the B.C. Interior
and the U.S. with its currency
discrepancy however, is something that
won’t be gauged until the end of the
2001-02 season.

In the eyes of ICE vice-president Jeff
Chynoweth, the move is something that
will benefit the league as a whole, even
if all the benefits don’t immediately fall
on the side of the Kootenay ICE. “It’s
always been the way we’ve operated,”
said Chynoweth of the hockey club. “I
think it’s going to be good for the
league. When you’re one member of
nineteen teams, the old cliche applies in
that you’re only as strong as your
weakest link and if this will strengthen
the whole chain then will all be better for

Chynoweth noted that maintaining the
already established rivalries of the ICE
was key to any move of the ICE to the
West. “For us, it’s always been the
rivalries,” remarked Chynoweth. “We
just can’t lose Calgary. If you look at
our four games here last year, they were
all sold-out. Their four games there
against us were four of their best crowds
of the year. Red Deer, especially with
them being the Memorial Cup
champions is also a big draw. Those are
big numbers for us.”

The issue of monetary compensation for
the ICE should they incur more costs as
a result of the move was brought up at
the league meetings in Spokane last
week but will be addressed at the end of
the season. “Right now it is the
unknown. We don’t know what those
costs will be so we’ll sit down at the end
of the year and discuss it further,”
offered Chynoweth.

With the league playing an unbalanced
schedule, meaning that teams will face
most of the clubs an unequal amount of
times Kootenay actually ends up on top
when it comes to variety of clubs played
in the upcoming season. As it stands the
ICE will face Tri-Cities and Medicine
Hat five times, Spokane, Calgary, Red
Deer and Lethbridge seven times, the
five clubs of the Eastern Division and
Swift Current twice, Kamloops,
Kelowna, Vancouver and Prince George
four times and Seattle and Portland
three times each. The downside to that
scheduling for teams at the opposite
ends of the map such as Portland and
Brandon for example, could only see
each other once during the entire
season. Chynoweth says that although
he’s a traditionalist when it comes to
scheduling, it is also a sign of the times.
“I’m a traditionalist in that I like to see
everybody play each other but at the
same time I’m a realist and with the
distance of travel between teams, a
nineteen-team league and building
unavailability, I just don’t think it’s

Although positive for the league,
Chynoweth does have some reservations
about the deal including the new playoff
format that sees a divisional number one
vs. four scenario as opposed to the
conference number one vs. eight used in
the past. “We want to look at it and
hopefully it goes well. If it doesn’t go
well, we hope it’ll be reviewed but time
will tell on that.

“I’m not excited about the playoff
format. I was hoping to go one vs. eight
because if you use this year as an
example, Calgary or Kootenay would
have been out of the playoffs in the first
round and that’s a pretty good hockey
team that’s out of the first round. Being
a divisional playoff format, Prince
George and Vancouver are a long ways
away…. there’s going to be some
expenses, but it passed and we’re a
member of the league and we’ll see how
it goes.”

Quick Hits – The release of Calgary
Hitmen coach Dean Clark surprised
most across the WHL last week. I
realize that the Coaches in this day and
age are hired to be fired but this is
bordering on the ridiculous. A five-
season record of 192-118-23, 40 playoff
wins, three regular season Central
Division titles, two WHL regular season
crowns and a Memorial Cup appearance
(in which they lost in O.T.). Hitmen
G.M. Kelly Kisio has got some very high
standards and I hope he realizes that the
new candidate will have some very big
shoes to fill…. The Canadian Hockey
Association announced that three
Kootenay ICE players have been invited
to the National Junior Team summer
development camp and the Under-18
summer development camp. Both Dan
Blackburn and Jarret Stoll will attend
the World Junior camp while seventeen-
yr-old Andy Thompson will attend the
Under-18 camp.