Although it occurred nearly a month ago, word came out today that Coquitlam Express Governor and President Darcy Rota had stepped down from the two positions. The Express confirmed it on their website and Coquitlam play-by-play announcer Eddie Gregory posted an excellent interview with Rota on his blog (which a link to is located over there on the left).
What's also intriguing is that if Rota doesn't resurface with any other BCHL team, 2014-15 will mark the first season in 16 that the Vancouver native hasn't been involved with the league at any level. He started out in the league as the Head Coach of the Burnaby Bulldogs in 1998. It's a post he held until parting ways with Bulldogs ownership in February of 2000.
He then set the wheels in motion for Coquitlam to join the league as an expansion team in the fall of 2000, serving as Owner, President and General Manager of the Express. He resigned as GM after the team won the RBC Cup in 2006, only to take on the position once again from 2008 to 2012 before handing the duties to Jon Calvano, who was Express Head Coach at the time. Throughout, Rota remained President of the team and a very public face of the franchise whose availability to fans and media alike was appreciated. He sold his stake in the Express prior to last season, but stayed on as President.
During Rota's time with the Express, the franchise reached heights that are the envy of almost any club in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
In addition to a number of alumni who have played in the NHL (David Jones, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, Mark Dekanich, Patrick Wiercioch, Brandon Yip), the franchise also can boast to having the highest player ever drafted directly to the NHL from a junior A team, when Kyle Turris was selected by Phoenix back in 2007.
Also under Rota's watch, the Express won the Royal Bank Cup (2006), Doyle Cup (2006), Mainland Division Championship (2014) and Clint McNabb Memorial Trophy as Coastal Conference Champions (2006) each once, and the Fred Page Cup (2006, 2014) and Mowat Cup (2006, 2014) each twice.
Among the individual honours Rota received while with the Express include being inducted in the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, named BCHL's Executive of the Year award in 2006 and 2011 (co-recipient with Vernon's Duncan Wray), served as BCHL Executive Committee Chairman in 2010-11, named Director of Operations for Team Canada West for the inaugural World Junior A Challenge in 2006 and named General Manager for Team Canada West for the 2007 World Junior A Challenge. He won gold medals with Canada West both times, something the team has only been able to do once since 2007.
With his 17-year-old son Adam skating for the Pacific Junior Hockey League's Port Moody Panthers, Rota is still likely to be a fixture at rinks around the Lower Mainland and I hope to see him involved in junior hockey in BC on some level once again in the very near future.