Recent tumult has Geoff Grimwood seeking stability with the Kamloops Storm.
The junior B Storm last week hired Grimwood as head coach, replacing outgoing bench boss Steve Gainey, who is now the club’s director of hockey operations.
Gainey, who has three children under the age of 12 and is involved in several business ventures, could no longer commit the time required to handle head coaching duties in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Storm general manager Matt Kolle reached out to Victoria resident Grimwood, whose last few years in the hockey world have been tempest.
“The [Storm] program is built, there is really good ownership in place, there is a really good general manager in place, assistant coaches — all of that infrastructure,” Grimwood said. “Sometimes, when you go into a new place and you have to build all that, well, it takes time and if you don’t have the right ownership, it’s difficult.”
Turbulence began in September of 2018, when former West Kelowna Warriors’ owner Kim Dobranski, who bought the junior A franchise in August 2018, fired head coach Grimwood after 17 days on the job.
A few days after the termination, Dobranski reinstated Grimwood following a players’ walkout and social media protest which included the hashtag #grimmergate.
B.C. Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb said the league suggested to Dobranksi that Grimwood should be re-hired and noted the BCHL would oversee operations while the new ownership group found its feet.
The reinstatement was short-lived. Dobranski fired Grimwood again in January of 2019.
Grimwood filed a notice of claim in Kelowna Provincial Court claiming Dobranski did not uphold to their contract agreement.
“It’s been one of those things where the first 12 or 13 years of my career, I got to enjoy having a lot of stability and whenever I moved on, it was because there was a new opportunity,” Grimwood said.
“The last couple years, it was difficult to find the right fit and that’s what attracted me to Kamloops.”
The BCHL purchased the Warriors from Dobranski in October of 2019.
Grimwood was hired to be head coach and GM of the Swan Valley Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior (A) Hockey League in May of 2019. The club was 17-10-2 when he resigned in December of 2019.
He joined the Winkler Flyers of the MJHL in January of 2020 as an assistant coach and finished the campaign with the club.
Grimwood was hired in May of 2020 to be head coach and GM of the junior A Cowichan Valley Capitals. He resigned from the BCHL club in October of 2020 without ever coaching a game, citing ethical and philosophical differences with ownership.
“I’ve been around, for sure,” Grimwood said with a laugh. “Lots of experiences.”
The drama of recent years is only one part of Grimwood’s history, which also includes a wealth of experience in the major junior, junior A and junior B ranks.
He spent three seasons as an assistant coach for the Victoria Royals under head coach Dave Lowry, from 2012 to 2015.
Grimwood was head coach and general manager of the Kindersley Klippers from 2015 to 2018, guiding the Saskatchewan Junior (A) Hockey League squad to a 79-82 record and three playoff appearances.
His coaching resume in the Vancouver Island Junior (B) Hockey League includes three league championships, one Fred Cyclone Taylor Cup B.C. championship and a Cyclone Taylor Cup runner-up finish.
Kolle said Grimwood is a players’ coach who has developed a holistic and modern approach to the game.
“Steve still wants to have a major impact on the team,” Kolle said. “He does want to actively still be on the ice with practices and at games, but he doesn’t feel like he can be on site 100 per cent day-to-day. Geoff will be responsible for the on-ice product.”
Grimwood and Gainey met recently over breakfast.
“There is certainly no conflict in terms of him still being there," Grimwood said. "He’s going to be a great resource for me.”
Assistant coaches Andrew Fisher and Scott Norman and trainer/equipment manager Peter Friedel round out the club’s staff members.
“The group of guys right now do work together,” Kolle said. “We all know we have an opinion and we all impact the direction the team goes. Geoff seems very open to working together as a group to implement our program.”
Grimwood has aspirations to return to higher levels, but that is not his priority at the moment, he said.
“I don’t look at it as a demotion,” Grimwood said. “The important thing for me is being part of a good organization, no matter what level it’s at.
“To get back into junior A or the WHL, you have to put the best program in place in this league. Do a good job here and maybe people take notice of it, but the focus right now is on the here and now with the Storm.”