After purchasing the Cranbrook, BC. based Western Hockey League team, the Kootenay ICE in late April of 2017, and integrating a new logo and colours, 50 Below determined that the best course of action for the failing franchise would be a relocation. In late January of 2019, it was announced that the ICE would move to Winnipeg for the 2019-20 season, bringing major junior hockey back to Manitoba’s capital for the first time since 1984 (Winnipeg Warriors 1980-84).
That announcement came hand-in-hand with 50 Below’s purchase of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. Now owning both a WHL and an MJHL team (with the long-term vision of continued play out of the same building), the integration of a common colour theme and similar styled logos and sweaters was bound to occur.
Sticking with the 2017 light blue and black ICE-styled sweaters as templates, the new Blues attire will feature the all-familiar St. Louis Blues-style ‘note’, with ‘BLUES’ written over the logo in dark Winnipeg ICE font. Yellow pinstripes will remain on the sweaters across the bottom bars, arm bands and around the musical note, but all other yellow has been removed. Various combinations of grey, white and black make up the remainder of the 2019-20 sweaters.
While the new 4,000 seat arena at South Landing undergoes two years of construction, the Winnipeg ICE will set up shop in the University of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena at the Max Bell Centre. The Flem is also currently undergoing significant renovations to help bring it up to speed with the other WHL arenas. New seating, glass, a jumbotron and concession/foyer area are the main components. The Winnipeg Blues will play the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons at The Rink’s 700-seat facility, before also transitioning to the new rink at South Landing.
The Blues finished the 2018-19 season in sixth place with a 32-21-7 record, before falling to Steinbach in six games in the postseason. Kootenay collected just 13 wins last season and ended the year with 36 points in second-last place.