The Kootenay ICE enter their final weekend in Cranbrook, playing their last two WHL games in the city Friday and Sunday before the franchise turns the page and relocates to Winnipeg.
Kootenay opens their weekend at 7:00 pm on Friday against the Medicine Hat Tigers at Western Financial Place. Friday's contest will serve as Fan Appreciation and Awards Night as the team sports their retro Cranbrook Colts jerseys for the final time and hands out their team awards in a pre-game ceremony.
Then come Sunday, the ICE end their WHL legacy in Cranbrook at 4:00 pm against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. Sunday's regular season finale is the team's Community Appreciation Game. In a pre-game ceremony, the ICE will honour community members that supported the franchise in Cranbrook since the team relocated from Edmonton in 1998.
"For the community, it's so important that we just try and put out the best effort possible for the support that we've got from this community and what this franchise has done over the last 20 years," James Patrick told Summit 107 heading into the weekend, Head Coach of the Kootenay ICE. "I think it's so important that we go out and play as hard as we can for the people that have supported this team in this community here, I mean if you are looking at these last two games, I think that's probably more important than anything."
While the team wants to put their best foot forward in their final two games of the season for the community, Patrick said the weekend will also be emotional for the players.
"A lot of them have gone to school here for the last two years, they've been billeted with the same families, the positives here - because it's a small tight-knit community it makes our team the same, so I think there's going to be some emotions definitely come Sunday, at the end of the game it's going to be emotional for our players."
"The billet families are like a second set of parents for all of our players and they're going to remember these years for the rest of their lives," added Patrick. "The relationship they have with their billet families will be there forever."
As the community prepares its final farewell to the ICE, the players will also be preparing to move away from their billet families and the local friends they've made during their time in Cranbrook.
Following the weekend, the ICE will officially relocate to Winnipeg for the start of the 2019/2020 WHL season, ending a 21 year run in Cranbrook that included 17 playoff seasons, three WHL Championships and one Memorial Cup.
Audio: James Patrick, Kootenay ICE Head Coach (Full Interview)