The 2012-13 B.C. Hockey League season isnt just about a restructuring on the ice for the Victoria Grizzlies, its also very much about rebuilding the strength of an organization and a bond within the community.
After a complete dismantle at the BCHL trade deadline last January, that led to a tough final two-month stretch that concluded with a 7-0 pasting at home by Powell River, the team has brought in a new ownership group, management and coaching staff.
Bill Bestwick, the GM and head coach, is tasked with turning it around on the ice and in the seats for what is an important season for the Grizzlies, who begin play Friday in Chilliwack at the BCHL Showcase.
That message has come through for returning players such as 17-year-old defenceman Nolan De Jong, who has shown poise and maturity beyond his years.
Its a lot of change, a lot of new guys in, said De Jong, one of just a handful of returners. Bill has done a great job of recruiting, considering what he was given earlier in the off-season. Hes done a good job of turning those few guys into a lot of new guys.
And its a lot of guys who get along well and Im excited about how we play at the Showcase.
All eyes will be fixed on how this team performs, especially in the early going when it might get tough. Thats where a veteran like Bestwick will dictate the future of the organization.
Hes been very good, said De Jong. You hear a lot of stories about different guys. The big thing I heard about him was he was a bit of a hard-ass. We havent seen that side, but Im sure if we lose a bit, that could change.
Bestwick, who has a proven winner in Craig Didmon at his side as co-coach and assistant GM, knows what hes up against.
Absolutely, stressed Bestwick. Its re-establishing our status, our culture as one that the community can be proud of. Its about being good citizens in the community that you live in and were looking hard at all of those things.
The true test will likely come the following weekend at home after two games in Chilliwack.
I guess on September 14th, when we play our home opener, well see if the work weve been able to do pays dividends with how many people are in the stands, said Bestwick, who runs the team for majority owner Ron Walchuk. I think were making positive steps and strides.
When the curtain goes up, do we deliver on what we said we were going to do on and off the ice? If we do, well be appreciated for that, and if we dont, well get what we deserve.
On the ice, the Grizzlies return De Jong, David Walchuk, Chase Kaiser, Myles Powell, Mark McLellan, Jaden Schmeisser (who joined the team late last season with Powell and McLellan) and Jesse Ursic. The status of defencemen, Schmeisser and Ursic, remains cloudy as Bestwick continues to tinker with his roster.
Meanwhile, Bestwick has brought in Zach Urban and D.J. Jones from Penticton, Turner Lawson (Vernon), Brett Hartskamp (Nanaimo), goalie Brady Rouleau (Cowichan Valley), Garrett Skirbich (Westside) and the Fitzgerald triplets Myles, Gerry and Leo from Prince George. He also added Mike Stiliadis as a backup netminder from Ontario and just Wednesday was awaiting the approval of a deal that acquires forward Reid Jackman, who played 15 games with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL last season, via Orangeville of the OJHL.
Urban is wearing the captaincy with Hartskamp, Jones and Lawson his assistants.
Obviously, our captains, our veterans, will be counted on to lead by example, said Bestwick. The guys get along real well and there are few attitudes or egos.
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