Kootenay Ice ‘Drive to 25’ campaign continues

It may be the offseason but that doesn’t mean the Kootenay Ice are resting on their laurels.

Team staff and mascots were out and about at three different community events on Saturday this past weekend in Cranbrook as the club continues their Drive to 25 season ticket campaign.

First was an appearance at a local 5K run, then it was off to the Kootenay Children’s Festival, then the day wrapped up with a community barbecue at Bridge Interiors — a local furniture business.

Kids got the chance to play in bouncy castles and draw on pavement with chalk art, as club representatives that included Matt Cockell, the Ice president and general manager, assistant coaches Jon Klemm and Roman Vopat, and roster forward Sebastian Streu, mingled with the crowd of fans.

“We have a full schedule this year with our community promo team, we’ve put a lot of investment into that, as an organization,” said Cockell. “You’ll be able to find us almost every week at an event out in the community.”

That will include appearances at events such as Sam Steele Days, heading out to Fort Steele and Kimberley and an upcoming ‘exciting’ announcement for Invermere, says Cockell.

“It’s a time for us where we, not just in Cranbrook but the whole East Kootenay region, get out as much as we can,” he said. “We think we have an exciting team here moving forward, we want to let everyone know what we’re up to and hopefully that hard work will translate into some support.”

Ice appearances at the last weekend festivities was part of a push for their early bird deadline for the ‘Drive to 25’ season ticket campaign, which is fast approaching on May 18.

The campaign, which is aiming for 2,500 season ticket holders, has reached 1,309 as of the last public update from the club.

Cockell says 2,500 season tickets is a significant number for a few reasons.

“First thing, is it represents a commitment to our players, a commitment from the community,” Cockell said. “It’s something we feel we have to earn and we’re willing to work as hard as we can in the community to earn support.”

“It’s a number that certainly signifies, when you’re at a game — anyone who was at a game this year in the past — when you have over 2,500 fans versus less than that, it really makes a difference, in terms of atmosphere for our players.

“And it’s a critical number as it relates to sustainability moving forward for the franchise.”

While the club staff gets out into the community over the summer months, the hockey operations department just wrapped up a critical piece of the team’s future at the WHL Draft in Red Deer a week ago.

The scouting staff chose nine players; four forwards, four defenceman and one goaltender. The club got their top ranked player on their draft list with defenceman Carson Lambos at second overall, plucking the 15-year-old out of the Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg.

“We thought it was a fantastic day, we were committed to taking the best player available as we worked through it,” Cockell said. “Jake, Taras and our entire scouting team, they’ve worked hard all year. A big part of our approach was certainly building relationships along the way with coaches and parents and really getting to know players that we had identified and thought would be good Ice players.

“We want to have a team that skates, plays fast, thinks the game, moves the puck, high skill and I think those were attributes that Jake and Taras prioritized on draft day.”

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Trevor Crawley

Covered the Kootenay Ice and the Western Hockey League for three years with the Cranbrook Townsman before moving into general assignment reporting. However, the pull back to the arena and major-junior hockey was too hard to ignore for the 2017-18 season. Have lived in the city since the mid-90s and watched the Ice move to the area, win three league titles and a Memorial Cup. Excited to see what the future brings. Follow me on Twitter at @tcrawls.