Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Great Northwest Showcase Preview:


The 2014 Great Northwest Showcase kicks off on Friday, January 3rd, at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre in Burnaby, BC.

The second annual Showcase once again features four teams – the host Simon Fraser University Clan (BCIHL), the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (CIS), the University of North Dakota (NCAA) and Princeton University Tigers (NCAA) - who will battle for bragging rights.

Tickets are very affordable, starting as low as $10 per game, but there is a four-game package available for just $48. Tickets are available online at GreatNorthwestShowcase.com or at the door, however only cash will be accepted if you're buying tickets at the door. If you buy tickets online, enter the promo code "Burnaby" and save 20 percent on the ticket price.

In addition, myself and Brady Trettenero will have the call of all four games available on Fast Hockey pay-per-view at FastHockey.com.

The Showcase format sees the two Canadian-based teams play each of the two U.S.-based teams over two days. Last year, UBC finished 2-0 after an 8-2 win over Arizona State University and a 4-3 overtime win against the University of Oklahoma. SFU had a 1-1 record at the inaugural event after shellacking OU 4-0 on opening day before falling 5-3 to ASU the next day.

Here’s a look at the four teams who will take the ice for the 2014 Great Northwest Showcase, courtesy of myself (stats) and colour commentator Brady Trettenero (write-ups):

SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY CLAN (BC Intercollegiate Hockey League)
Head Coach: Mark Coletta
Assistant Coach: Jimmy Camazzola

2013-14 Record: 10-2-0, 20pts

2013-14 BCIHL Ranking: 1

Last game: Saturday, December 7th (7-0 win over Eastern Washington University)
Streak: Won 2
Last ten games: 8-2-0

Average age: 22.04 years
Average height: 6'0"
Average weight: 182.6 lbs.
 
Goals For: 68 (Avg. 5.67) 
Goals Against: 28 (Avg. 2.33)

Power play: 15/66 (22.73% - 3rd in BCIHL)
Penalty kill: 54/64 (84.38% - 2nd in BCIHL)

2013-14 Top Scorers:
F - Nick Sandor (12gp-14g-16a-30pts)
F - Jono Ceci (12gp-11g-18a-29pts)
F - Aaron Enns (12gp-7g-13a-20pts)
D - Jared Eng (11gp-3g-10a-13pts)
F - Josh McKissock (11gp-5g-7a-12pts)

Team Scope: The SFU Men’s Hockey team currently leads the BCIHL with a 10-2-0 record.  Through 12 games on the season, the Clan have scored 68 goals.

The team has been powered by offensive catalysts Nick Sandor and Jono Ceci. Sandor leads the league in scoring with 30 points, while Ceci sits in third place with 29 points in 12 games.  The two powerhouse forwards combine with rookie Graham Smerek to form one of the most productive lines in the BCIHL.

SFU has been getting scoring from throughout the lineup, making it tough for opposing teams to completely shut down the Clan’s offense. SFU currently has seven players who are averaging a point per game, including two defensemen.

In net, the team has seen solid performances from the dynamic duo of Graeme Gordon and Andrew Parent.  Gordon, in his third season in the BCIHL, is 6-0-0 with a league-leading 1.50 GAA and 0.945 save percentage.

The Clan are coming off back-to-back wins over Eastern Washington University in early December and will be eager to get back into action after a long rest.

Key Stat: SFU has a power play that has scored in two straight games. Discipline is always needed when facing the Clan, as they have many options up front that can make you pay on the man advantage.

Who to watch: Nick Sandor is on a tear in his second season in the BCIHL, scoring 14 goals in 12 games. He is hot as of late, compiling eight points in his last two games, and is one to keep an eye on as opposing teams look to shut down the dynamic duo of Sandor and Ceci.

UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA THUNDERBIRDS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport)
Head Coach: Milan Dragicevic
Assistant Coach: Tyler Kuntz

2013-14 Record: 5-10-1, 11pts

2013-14 Canada West Ranking: 7

2013-14 CIS Ranking: 28

Last game: Saturday, November 30th (3-1 win over University of Lethbridge)
Streak: Won 2
Last ten games: 4-5-1

Average age: 22.28 years
Average height: 6'0"
Average weight: 185.1 lbs.

Goals For: 51 (Avg. 3.19)
Goals Against: 64 (Avg. 3.97)

Power play: 14/69 (20.30% - 11th in CIS)
Penalty kill: 62/76 (81.60% - 19th in CIS)

2013-14 Top Scorers:
F - Cole Wilson (16gp-7g-12a-19pts)
F - Anthony Bardaro (16gp-3g-12a-15pts)
F - Brad Hoban (16gp-4g-10a-14pts)
D - Neil Manning (16gp-4g-10a-14pts)
F - Nate Fleming (16gp-2g-11a-13pts)

Team Scope: The UBC Thunderbirds haven’t had an ideal season, currently sitting seventh in the CIS with a 5-10-1 record, giving up an average of four goals per game.

The team has a balanced offensive attack, led by Cole Wilson and Anthony Barbado. Wilson sits fourth in CIS scoring with 19 points, while his teammate Barbado has 15 points on the year. Wilson has followed up an impressive point per game season in 2012-2013 with an even better campaign in 2013-2014.

Despite the lackluster record for the Thunderbirds, the team is coming off a confidence-boosting sweep of Lethbridge in late November.

UBC took down Lehtbridge 9-2 on Saturday November 29th before going on to defeat them 3-1 the night after.

Captain Cole Wilson compiled four points over the weekend, while youngster Luke Lockhart made waves on Saturday, notching a hat-trick before adding an assist in Sunday’s win. What was even more remarkable was the fact all Lockhart’s goals came shorthanded, setting a new Canada West record.

The UBC Thunderbirds, as with the SFU Clan, will be eager to get back into action after a lengthy rest.

Though the 'Birds won’t face SFU this weekend, they did defeat the Clan 6-2 and 5-2 in two exhibition games earlier this season.

Key Stat: As with the SFU Clan, the Thunderbirds take great pride in the ability of their power play. Despite sitting seventh in league standings, the Birds have the third-best power play, operating at 20.3%. Cole Wilson and Neil Manning lead the charge with three power-play tallies apiece.

Who to Watch: It may be hard to keep your eye off captain Cole Wilson and the flashy Anthony Barbado, but the 20-year-old Luke Lockhart deserves some attention too. Coming off a weekend in which he registered a hat-trick, Lockhart now is tied for the team lead in goals with seven. Luke had spent his past five seasons in the WHL, racking up 75 goals, 165 points and 146 penalty minutes in 345 career games with the Seattle Thunderbirds.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA (NCAA Division I)
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol
Assistant Coach: Brad Berry
Assistant Coach: Dane Jackson
Assistant Coach: Karl Goehring

2013-14 Record: 9-7-2, 20pts

2013-14 NCAA Div. I Ranking: Tied-23

2013-14 NCHC Ranking: 3

Last game: Saturday, December 14th (3-1 win over Northern Michigan)
Streak: Won 5
Last ten games: 6-3-1

Average age: 20.85 years
Average height: 6'0"
Average weight: 189.9 lbs.

Goals For: 50 (Avg. 2.78)
Goals Against: 52 (Avg. 2.89)

Power play: 17/83 (20.48% - 25th in NCAA Div. I)
Penalty kill: 78/93 (83.87% - 21st in NCAA Div. I)

2013-14 Top Scorers:
F - Rocco Grimaldi (18gp-6g-11a-17pts)
F - Drake Caggiula (18gp-5g-6a-11pts)
F - Luke Johnson (18gp-4g-7a-11pts)
F - Michael Parks (18gp-3g-8a-11pts)
D - Jordan Schmaltz (17gp-2g-8a-10pts)

Team Scope: North Dakota is an NCAA powerhouse that has not only won 15 conference titles, but also captured seven NCAA titles.
 
Many elite hockey players have played for the University of Dakota, including current NHL stars Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, and T.J Oshie.

The university has a knack for developing elite talent. Ed Belfour and Garry Valk are just two of many retired NHL players who spent time earlier in their careers playing with UND.

UND boasts a 9-7-2 record on the season, but have won their past five games, meaning they are coming in hot to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. They have been led all season by Florida Panthers prospect Rocco Grimaldi, who has 17 points in 18 games on the year.

Grimaldi played in the 2013 World Junior Championship tournament, scoring two goals, including the game winner, in the championship game vs. Sweden.

There is plenty of other talent to go around on the UND roster, including a top tier goalie that will make scoring goals a difficult task for UBC and SFU.

Boston Bruins prospect Zane Gothberg has been a rock in net, going 7-5-2 with a .917 save percentage and 2.36 GAA.

UND closed out their first half of the season with back-to-back wins over Northern Michigan, and Gotherberg was a big part of each victory.

Gothberg earned wins on December 13th and December 14th, stopping a total of 37 shots and allowing just two goals as his team cruised to 4-1 and 3-1 victories, closing out a non-conference series sweep over Northern Michigan.

Jordan Schmaltz (St. Louis Blues 1st round draft pick) finished the series with three points, while Luke Johnson (Chicago Blackhawks draft pick), Paul LaDue (Los Angeles Kings draft pick), and Michael Parks (Philadelphia Flyers draft pick) all finished the weekend with two points.

The team boasts numerous NHL prospects who are ready to showcase their talents to British Columbia.

Key Stat: There are 15 NHL draft picks currently on the UND roster. Though the Showcase is simply exhibition play, UBC and SFU need to focus on their own game and forget the high-caliber of the opposing players they are taking on.

Who to watch: While you can’t really go wrong with 15 NHL draft picks, goaltender Gothberg is a can’t-miss. Through his recent five-game win-streak, the Bruins prospect is sporting a .938 save percentage while allowing, on average, just 1.60 goals per game.

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY TIGERS (NCAA Division I)
Head Coach:Bob Prier
Assistant Coach: Scott Garrow
Assistant Coach: Greg Gardner
Assistant Coach: Matt Farris

2013-14 Record: 3-14-0, 6pts

2013-14 NCAA Div. I Ranking: 57

2013-14 ECAC Hockey Ranking: 12

Last game: Sunday, December 29th (3-2 loss to University of New Hampshire)
Streak: Lost 6
Last ten games: 2-8-0

Average age: 21.33 years
Average height: 6'0"
Average weight: 190.5 lbs.

Goals For: 33 (Avg. 1.93)
Goals Against: 67 (Avg. 3.94)

Power play: 10/66 (15.15% - 44th in NCAA Div. I)
Penalty kill: 58/76 (76.32% - 50th in NCAA Div. I)

2013-14 Top Scorers:
F - Tucker Brockett (17gp-2g-9a-11pts)
F - Andrew Ammon (17gp-6g-2a-8pts)
F - Aaron Kesselman (15gp-3g-5a-8pts)
F - Jonathan Liau (14gp-1g-7a-8pts)
F - Jack Berger (17gp-4g-3a-7pts)

Team Scope: Princeton is another NCAA powerhouse, but has struggled this season with a 3-14-0 record. Despite struggling in their league, the Princeton Tigers have a great reputation for producing elite hockey players.

The Princeton men's hockey team has seen 23 of its players drafted in the National Hockey League's entry draft since the draft began in 1963.

The team has won two ECAC Hockey Championships, in 1998 and 2008. Success has been harder to come by this season though, as the team last lost four straight games heading into this upcoming weekend.

Junior Tucker Brockett leads the charge offensively with 11 points in 17 games on the season.

Andrew Ammon is having another good season in his third year with Princeton, leading the team with six goals.

Key Stat: Through 17 games this season, Princeton has only managed to score five first-period goals. Getting the first goal against Princeton will be crucial for SFU and UBC.

Who to Watch: Senior Andrew Calof is always a pleasure to watch. Calof has only played seven games this season due to injury, but has still picked up four assists in that span. He picked up one of those helpers in the Tigers’ most recent game, a 3-2 loss in the consolation game of the Florida College Hockey Classic at Germain Arena. Over his career with Princeton, the senior has 40 goals and 106 points in 102 games.

2013 Great Northwest Showcase Schedule (all times listed are PST):
Game 1 – Simon Fraser University vs. Princeton University; Friday, January 3; 4:00pm
Game 2 – University of British Columbia vs. University of North Dakota; Friday, January 3; 7:00pm
Game 3 – University of British Columbia vs. Princeton University; Saturday, January 4; 4:00pm
Game 4 – Simon Fraser University vs. University of North Dakota; Saturday, January 4; 7:00pm

Five BCHL Alumni Featured in Winter Classic Alumni Showdown Games:


With the NHL Winter Classic set for tomorrow at Comerica Park in Detroit, today features the two Alumni Showdown games involving some of the greatest players ever to suit up for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.

Among the players featured in today's early game were three former BCHL players and a current BCHL assistant coach.

On the Red Wings, it was forwards John Ogrodnick (Maple Ridge Blazers, 1976-77) and Dallas Drake (Vernon Lakers, 1987-88) and goaltender Ken Holland (Vernon Vikings, 1973-74) while defenceman Cory Cross, who's an assistant to West Kelowna Warriors Rylan Ferster, played for the Leafs.

In the late game this afternoon, only one BCHL alumni is featured, former Vernon Lakers (1970-71) forward Tiger Williams for the Maple Leafs.

A complete look at each team's roster is here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/blogpost.htm?id=24529&navid=DL|NHL|home

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

CJHL Trade Freeze in Effect:


You may have noticed there haven't been any trades between teams in the Canadian Junior Hockey League for a while, specifically since December 10th.

The reason is a CJHL-wide trade freeze which prohibited inter-league trades from 6:00 am PST on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 to 9 am PST on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. The new regulation was approved at the CJHL Annual General Meeting back in May.

There were two trades just prior to the trade freeze, both which I posted about at the time. The deals saw Cowichan Valley acquire F Taylor Allen (95) and F Alexis Guilbault (95) from Whitecourt of the AJHL and Cégep de St-Hyacinthe Lauréats of the LHJAAAQ respectively while only subtracting F Ambrose Firkus (94) from the Capitals roster.

There is no official holiday trade freeze in the BCHL, but out of courtesy, players aren't usually traded so close to Christmas.

Once the CJHL trade freeze is lifted on January 1st, it's only nine days before the final trade deadline of the season, so I'd expect things to heat up during that time. Follow me on Twitter (@Brian_Wiebe) for all the latest moves and I'll post analysis of each deal here on the blog once they're confirmed by the teams or leagues involved.

This is likely my last post before Christmas, so I want to thank you for visiting this corner of the internet, I appreciate all of your support and readership during the past year. All the best to you and yours for a very Merry Christmas!

Six BCHL Alumni to Play in Spengler Cup:


As I mentioned in a similar post I did around this time last year, I've always been drawn to watching the Spengler Cup. The six team, invitation-only tournament has been presented since 1923 and heralds itself as the oldest invitational hockey tournament in the world.

Over the years, there are a significant number of former BCHL players who have skated in the Spengler Cup - and not all for Team Canada either. Often, Canadians playing pro hockey in Europe wind up competing against their compatriots as their club teams are invited to the tournament.

This year, the teams competing are Team Canada, HC Davos (Switzerland), HC Genève-Servette (Switzerland), Rochester Americans (AHL), HC Vitkovice Steel (Czech Republic) and CSKA Moscow (Russia). There are four BCHL alumni featured, four on Team Canada and two on Rochester.

As noted in a posting on the BCHL website earlier today, in addition to the players, BCHL alums Brad Pascall (VP hockey ops), Brad Treliving (Management Team) are on the team's staff for the tournament.

Team Canada

D Geoff Kinrade (Cowichan Valley)

D Travis Roche (Trail Smoke Eaters)

F Ryan MacMurchy (Vernon Vipers)

F Glen Metropolit (Vernon Lakers)

Rochester Americans

G Nathan Lieuwen (Westside Warriors)


F Colton Gillies (Surrey Eagles)


Friday, December 20, 2013

31 Potential BCHL Prospects Heading to Mac's Midget Tournament:


The annual Mac's Midget Tournament gets underway in Calgary on Boxing Day and runs through to New Year's Day.

There are a number of players taking part who are on BCHL rosters this season as affiliate players/prospects. I've taken this format from Alan's Small Thoughts At Large WHL blog.

If you are interested in following your team's prospects in this year's tourney, the Mac's website is www.macstournament.ab.ca and they'll have game summaries there as the tournament progresses.

And to help you know which prospects your team has in Calgary, here's the list of BCHL prospects in this year's tournament, by midget team. I've given the player name, his position and birth year and the BCHL team owning his reserve roster rights for this season.

If I've missed a player or messed up some info on a player, corrections are most welcome.

Okanagan Rockets:
G Reid Kilburn (96) - West Kelowna
D Kristian Blumenschein (97) - West Kelowna
D Gen Bryshun (96) - Vernon
F Liam Finlay (97) - Penticton
F Tyson Jost (98) - Penticton
F Tanner Wishnowski (97) - Penticton
F Linden Hora (96) - Vernon
F Branden Wagner (96) - Vernon
F Cory Santoro (96) - Vernon
D Tanner Browne (97) - Penticton
D Mark Krabben (97) - Penticton
D Mitchell Oliver (97) - Vernon
F Tanner Campbell (97) - Merritt
G Brendan Barry (97) - Penticton

South Island Royals:
F Cameron Coutre (98) - Cowichan Valley
D Kurtis Gamble (97) - Victoria
D Tomba Huddlestan (97) - Victoria
F Duncan Cochrane (96) - Victoria
F Nick Guiney (96) - Victoria

Vancouver NE Chiefs:
D Alex Rasovic (97) - Coquitlam
D Austin Campeau (96) - Merritt
D Lucas Johansen (97) - Cowichan Valley
F Connor Burk (96) - Coquitlam
F Lucas Santucci (97) - Coquitlam

Vancouver NW Giants:
F Colton Kerfoot (96) - Coquitlam
D Dante Fabbro (98) - Langley
D Mitchell Stapley (97) - Nanaimo


Valley West Hawks:
F Jordan Funk (97) - Nanaimo
F Eric Callegari (96) - Surrey
F Mitch Newsome (97) - Penticton
F Matt Bradley (97) - Surrey

Upon looking at the players taking part in the tournament who are affiliated with BCHL clubs, there are a number of teams who don't have any representation. They are Alberni Valley, Chilliwack, Powell River, Prince George, Salmon Arm and Trail.

Prospects in the tournament this year, by BCHL club:
 

Penticton - 7
Vernon - 5
Coquitlam - 4
Victoria - 4
Cowichan Valley - 2
Merritt - 2

Nanaimo - 2 
Surrey - 2
West Kelowna - 2

Langley - 1

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

33 BCHL Alumni Featured on Great Northwest Showcase Team Rosters:



Once again this season, I'm looking incredibly forward to providing all of the play-by-play for the second edition of the Great Northwest Showcase coming up on Friday, January 3rd and Saturday, January 4th at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre in Burnaby.

The four team Showcase features three different levels of hockey: the host Simon Fraser University Clan of the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds of  CIS, and NCAA Division I teams in the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Princeton University Tigers.

There's quite a number of story lines heading into the four game Showcase, including the fact that UND has 15 players on its roster who have been drafted by NHL teams, and I'll have more to post after Christmas, but for now I'd like to highlight the homecoming for 33 BCHL alumni featured.

There are a ton of familiar names taking part as 33 players who have skated at least one game in the BCHL are sprinkled on each team's roster. UBC leads the way with 11 BCHL alumni on its' roster, while SFU is next with 10, followed by UND and Princeton with six apiece.

If you'd like to get tickets any of the four games, they are going fast! And at $20 each, it's no surprise, but there are still a number available. If you go to this page: http://www.burnabymountainhockey.com/tickets.html and enter the promo code "Burnaby", you'll get 20% off the ticket price!

13 of 16 BCHL teams have an alumni taking part (Alberni Valley, Coquitlam, Merritt, Nanaimo, Powell River, West Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Prince George, Surrey, Victoria, Cowichan Valley, Penticton, Trail) while just four teams (Chilliwack, Vernon, Langley) won't have an alumni on the ice on January 3rd and 4th.

Here's a breakdown of players with BCHL experience taking part.

UBC (11)
Ilan Cumberbirch (Westside, Burnaby, Surrey)
Linden Saip (Surrey)
Kevin Smith (Victoria)
Wes Vannieuwenhuizen (Surrey)
Jason Yee (Victoria, Powell River)
Anthony Bardaro (Surrey)
Greg Fraser (Nanaimo)
Scott MacDonald (Salmon Arm, Westside)
Ben Schmidt (Powell River)
Cole Wilson (Westside)
Matt Wray (Powell River, Salmon Arm)

SFU (10)
Graeme Gordon (Salmon Arm, Merritt, Vernon)
Jared Eng (Victoria, Coquitlam)
Trevor Esau (Prince George)
Tyler Mah (Nanaimo, Vernon)
Yan Kalashnikov (Alberni Valley)
Josh McKissock (Salmon Arm, Coquitlam)
Trevor Milner (Burnaby)
Trent Murdoch (Williams Lake, Alberni Valley, Prince George)
Mike Sandor (Victoria, Alberni Valley)
Nick Sandor (Alberni Valley, Trail)

University of North Dakota (6)
Troy Stecher (Penticton)
Mark MacMillan (Alberni Valley, Penticton)
Mitch MacMillan (Powell River, Cowichan Valley, Alberni Valley)
Wade Murphy (Victoria, Penticton)
Brendan O'Donnell (Penticton)
Adam Tambellini (Vernon, Surrey)

Princeton University (6)
Ryan Benitez (Prince George)
Sean Bonar (Penticton)
Tom Kroshus (Westside)
Kevin Ross (Alberni Valley)
Marlon Sabo (Cowichan Valley, Alberni Valley)
Garrett Skrbich (Westside, Victoria, Cowichan Valley)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cowichan Valley Snags Cégep de St-Hyacinthe Lauréats Leading Scorer Alexis Guilbault:


The Cowichan Valley Capitals swung a pretty significant trade that might actually fly under the radar for many casual fans.

The Caps picked up 18-year-old Alexis Guilbault from the Cégep de St-Hyacinthe Lauréats of the QJAAAHL for future considerations today. The move comes a day after Cowichan Head Coach and GM Bob Beatty sent Ambrose Firkus to the Okotoks Oilers for Taylor Allan and future considerations.

Guilbault was leading the Lauréats in scoring at the time of the deal, with 39 points in 31 games. Remarkably, those totals are only good enough for 31st in the QJAAAHL overall. However, those point totals are more than any current Capitals player has. 

It remains to be seen what kind of impact Guilbault has in coming west, but his point totals from this year and last can't be ignored.

Nothing posted officially from the Caps, Lauréats or QJAAAHL, but it is posted under Transactions on the BCHL website.

To Cowichan Valley Capitals:
F Alexis Guilbault (95)
To Cégep de St-Hyacinthe Lauréats:
Future Considerations

BCHL TRADE TRACKER (since Dec. 1)

10-Dec-13: Cowichan Valley acquires F Alexis Guilbault (95) from Cégep de St-Hyacinthe for future considerations.

10-Dec-13: Cowichan Valley trades F Ambrose Firkus (94) to Okotoks for F Taylor Allan (95) and future considerations.

01-Dec-13: Cowichan Valley trades D Taki Pantziris (93) to West Kelowna for F Ambrose Firkus (94).

01-Dec-13: Penticton trades D Matthew Berry-Lamontagna (93), D Clint Filbrandt (95) and future considerations to Cowichan Valley for F Steen Cooper (95).

01-Dec-13: Coquitlam trades D Matthew Berry-Lamontagna (93) to Penticton for future considerations.

---

Trades Made: 5
Trades Made Within BCHL: 3
Trades Made With Teams Outside BC: 2
Players: 7
Future Considerations:4

Victoria Grizzlies Change Ownership Structure, Fire Head Coach & GM Bill Bestwick:


It's been an eventful 36 hours for the Victoria Grizzlies.

The team announced a restructuring of its' ownership group at a media conference yesterday afternoon. A media conference in which Grizzlies Head Coach and GM Bill Bestwick was conspicuously absent. Then word came out today that Victoria had fired the long-time BCHL bench boss.

Victoria Times-Colonist sports columnist Mario Annicchiarico (@TC_VicSports on Twitter) posted this on his blog on the Times-Colonist website:

New Victoria Grizzlies director of operations Pete Zubersky was recalling Monday afternoon his three seasons as general manager of the B.C. Hockey League team when it was known as the Salsa.

It was like old-home week as he rejoined the organization in the new position, as well as one of part owner as Ron Walchuk welcomed a handful of new financial backers.

John Wilson, Kirby Yeats, Reza Binab and Don Robinson round out the new ownership group, joining Walchuk and Mark Wagstaff. (Binab was a previous owner and has jumped back in, while Wagstaff never left).

“As we move forward, I look at the venue that we’re in and I believe it’s the best venue for Junior A hockey in the country,” Zubersky began at a hastily called press conference in the lobby at Bear Mountain Arena.

“I remember the first game here. Reza had lined up some fireworks and it took about 15 minutes to clear the smoke. I’m not sure it was a good idea, but it was fun and the place was packed,” recalled Zubersky.

“I would love to see that again,” he said of weak crowds. “I come to the arena right now and the atmosphere isn’t in here.

“We’re in a community of Victoria that is north of 400,000 people. We’re in the Westshore here, where there are a lot of blue-collar people. I relate to those people, they are hard-working people,” stressed Zubersky, a former Colwood RCMP officer, who wants to make the organization popular again.

He’s determined to be the man to lead the group, which features Wilson as the new president.

“We’re going to take giant steps, right away,” said Zubersky, who wasn’t sure he would be joining the group until Monday. “Right now, we’ve only been in it for a few hours.

“Don (Robinson, a longtime Grizzlies’ scout and active hockey supporter in the community) took me through the dressing room today and I noticed the changes.”

There will be more changes to come, of that there is no doubt as Zubersky and Wilson will head up the BCHL club. The two are already co-owners of the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Zubersky does not see the two roles as a clash.

“I had owned the Junior B team when I was GM here when it was the Salsa. It works unbelievably well because there is a synergy there. The kids from Junior B can come up to Junior A. It actually fits like a glove,” said Zubersky.

“But, having said that, we want to partner with all the Junior B teams, but pay special attention to the Westshore Wolves.”

He was careful not to stomp on anyone’s foot on his first day on the job, although current general manager and head coach Bill Bestwick’s absence was confusing.

“It’s important and it’s in my heart to get into the community and be a community player,” Zubersky stressed. “We want to become best friends and partners with Juan de Fuca minor hockey. That’s our target group. We want to be involved with all minor hockey groups, really.

“The business of junior hockey is a tough business,” he continued. “There is entertainment value here, we just have to get that message out and we have to get people to come in.

“There is going to be a lot of work to do here and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves. We’re willing to do our work. We need the support of the community and it starts (Tuesday) night against the Nanaimo Clippers.”

Zubersky said all the right things, but it will be time that tells if this move – expected for almost two months – will pay off.

“I hope that we can build bit by bit, game by game and year by year,” Zubersky said. “I’m excited about the group and I think we can become a great organization. I believe there will be a marked change in weeks and months to follow.

It might start with the loss of Bestwick, although it would seem strange and probably a little idiotic to send him out the door now. He still has this season remaining on his contract and the Grizzlies would likely have to buy him out if they sent him down the road.

He may choose to go on his own, but Bestwick, and his right hand man Craig Didmon, have led this team to third place overall this season after a second overall finish last year.

He deserves a better fate.

We will find out Tuesday morning as he and Zubersky meet to discuss the future.

Bestwick was not asked to join the group at their press conference on Monday and that, likely, says a great deal.

If he remains the rest of this season, it’s highly likely Zubersky will go with his own coach come next season, although he wasn’t committing one way or another.

He isn’t a man to tip toe his way around building an organization, having previously worked along with Binab and Wagstaff with the Salsa.

But has Zubersky been paying enough attention to the BCHL, especially a month away from its trade deadline?

And how will the players react?

Huge questions that will need answering.


No official word from the Grizzlies about the firing of Bestwick, but this was posted on the BCHL website this afternoon:

The Victoria Grizzlies have relieved head coach and general manager Bill Bestwick of his duties with the club.

The new ownership group, which took over operations yesterday (Dec. 9), has decided it was important to move in a different direction immediately.

Craig Didmon will assume head coaching duties for the hockey club effective tonight (Dec. 10) for the club's home affair against the visiting Nanaimo Clippers with the puck set to drop at 7:15 p.m.

Victoria Grizzlies representative Pete Zubersky, who is in charge of operations for the club, will be available to the media at 5 p.m. until the game time this evening.

Once again, Annicchiarico continued his excellent coverage of the situation with this article from the Times-Colonist today:

The writing was on the wall when Bill Bestwick was not involved in the Victoria Grizzlies’ news conference on Monday regarding additions of new owners to the B.C. Hockey League club.

New team director of operations Pete Zubersky relieved the veteran general manager and head coach of his duties Tuesday afternoon after a three-hour meeting.

Citing business decisions, Zubersky — who came on as a part owner on Monday with John Wilson, Kirby Yeats, Reza Binab and Don Robinson — opted to let Bestwick go now and not at season’s end when his contract runs out.

Collectively, with assistant GM and associate coach Craig Didmon (who took over as head coach), Bestwick was 52-21-3-12 over just more than one and a half seasons, so it comes at a remarkable time. The Grizzlies were second overall last season and were tied for third overall entering Tuesday’s play.

“I agree with you,” Zubersky said. “This was a tough move to make. Our organization had to show some courage to make the move. We understand that it will not be met well in all quarters, but it is the business of hockey.”

And that’s the rub.

Attendance is down across the league and in the Western Hockey League. Bestwick’s ticket was likely the largest and he took a hit, warranted or not.

“Bill Bestwick is a quality coach, one of the better coaches in the league,” said Zubersky. “The product in the dressing room and on the ice we have no qualms with, at all. Unfortunately, there is another side to hockey and that’s the business side.

“The Victoria Grizzlies have been struggling to remain a viable business, a viable entity in the BCHL. We felt we had to make several moves and this is one of them.”

Having Bestwick commute from Nanaimo to his hockey job is obviously something the new group felt needed to be rectified.

“It’s crucial for us and it’s our business plan that we become deeply entrenched in the Western Communities and in Greater Victoria. ... It is common sense that it is a little tougher when your coach is from out of the area,” said Zubersky. “Craig is from the area. He fits like a glove in what we’re hoping to achieve, become very community-minded, and based. Moving forward we think hat’s the successful model.”

But this scenario is likely not done yet. There are still financial implications that need to be solved. Bestwick, who did come to Tuesday night’s game, but would not be interviewed, did send this reply to a text checking on his condition earlier in the day: “I am fine. Totally disrespected,” he said of his feelings in a brief exchange.

“Bill was very disappointed. He would have loved to finish the year, but this happens at the junior level across the country every day,” said Zubersky, who confirmed, in a round-about way, that Bestwick had not been paid in some time. What he’s owed was not made public, but will likely be fought over.

“We met today for close to three hours. Nothing is clear,” said Zubersky. “Bill is owed some money and hopefully in the next while, we’ll come to an agreement on what that number should be.

“On Friday, I will pay his salary through to the end of December. Then we will have some more discussion on what other remuneration is due. What he feels is due and what we feel is due.”

Zubersky would not say when the ex-GM/head coach was last paid.

“I don’t think this will be a legal issue in any way,” Zubersky stressed.

“The timing, in my mind, was right today because the new ownership group took over and we had to set a new direction immediately. [Monday] and today was the start of the new direction.”

And the end of Bestwick’s run as the boss.

IN THE DEN: Public relations director Tali Campbell was also let go. ... Didmon worked the bench with Scott Hawthorne on Tuesday night against Nanaimo. Didmon becomes the eighth Grizzlies head coach in the last seven years.

See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/victoria-grizzlies-new-owners-send-gm-coach-bestwick-packing-1.754707#sthash.ssraO9S8.dpuf

After tonight's win over Nanaimo, some of the Grizzlies players and staff took to Twitter, using the hash tag #BB to pledge their support for their former coach: