From a fans perspective, a lot of our prayers have been answered in the last eight weeks.
Usually a Junior A hockey club is solely concentrating on the on ice product at this time of year. You know everything from recruiting, scouting, perspective trades and having training camp ready to go. But, Ron Walchuk’s, VISE (Vancouver Island Sports Entertainment) new ownership group have really gotten to the root, of turning around this organization’s reputation off the ice as well.
Off the Ice
We all know some of the issues that affected the Grizzlies off the ice last year, so why rehash it.
One area where the new ownership group has taken great strides; is greatly improving the marketing and publicity of the franchise. They have put together, well organised press conferences where local media have been invited to get the word out about trades, changes in staff/coaching and in GM/Head Coach like Bill Bestwick; they have that guy who knows how to speak to the press and get the fans excited. This is something this organisation has lacked for a number of years now.
A disgruntled season ticket base has been reached out to as well. Recently hired, new business consultant Scott McWilliam is the former director of cooperate partnerships of the AHL's, Abbotsford Heat. McWilliam, has put into a place a season ticket reduction plan along with other perks and game day ticket price reductions. McWilliam, as he put it out to local press, states this is a new fan appreciation structure for the upcoming season. This type of sales and marketing is something that has been needed to revitalise the fan base for some time.
Other features for Grizzlies fans to look out for next season will be, a resurrected kids club as well as fan buses to some of the games in Nanaimo and Duncan. These initiatives bring fans and families closer to the club.
As the new ownership group builds bridges and mends fences, this almost feels like a Grizzlies 2.0 reboot is now well underway.
All things considered with this new professionalism, new personnel now in place and fan appreciation initiatives, it's safe to say the Grizzlies look like they’re in good hands with the VISE and co.
On the Ice
Our new GM/head Coach Bill Bestwick and Asst/GM Associate Coach Craig Didmon have done a fabulous job of using their expertise and experience to turn this roster into a contender.
In Bestwick and Didmon you have one of the best coaching tandems in the league. Success in the BCHL, reputation and experience to attract players, familiarity and respect locally and throughout the Island, contacts within the NCAA/CIS and a culture of winning and hardworking teams.
In come new Captain, Zach Urban, a 19 yr old defender who is touted as one of the best two way defenseman in the league and the key component in the Wade Murphy trade from Penticton.
The Fitzgerald triplets, with their skill, skating and scoring punch which should be one of the more feared lines in the league with Myles, Leo and Gerry entering their third year in the league.
Brady Rouleau, our new goalie who had a solid year and fantastic GAA as rookie with Cowichan, who acquired along with forward Garret Skrbich from the Westside Warriors for Rockafellow and BiliIous.
Another 19 yr old,acquired from the Vipers in the Sean Robertson trade is Turner Lawson. Lawson is a forward who had a good rookie year in Vernon last season and is expecting to further tap his potential and become a key contributor to the Grizzlies offence. It looks like he will be a good player on the PK as well.
Brett Hartskamp, a versatile forward with lots of energy and grit is expected to run the engine room on the ice this season and played for Bestwick in Nanaimo two years ago.
Former Surrey and Penticton defenseman, DJ Jones, going into his last his last year of Junior will add his RBC playoff run experience with the Vees, to further anchor and solidify the Grizzlies defence.
When you add Stefan Gonzales, Jaden Schmisser, Nolan DeJong, Chaise Kaiser, Mark McLellan, Myles Powell and promising youngsters David Walchuk, Mitch Meek and Eben Norman you have a team that should cause teams a lot headaches in the BCHL this year.
This is from a fans perspective and in no way endorsed by the Victoria Grizzlies.