Cameron Hope never had a losing season and never missed the playoffs in his eight seasons as general manager of the Victoria Royals. As president of the club since 2014, he kept the Royals in the top-10 in Western Hockey League attendance.
But his teams never got past the second round of the playoffs.
That is the only reason he can think of as to why his contract, which was up this year, wasn’t renewed. Royals owner Graham Lee issued a statement saying the club is looking to go in a different direction but has not returned phone calls requesting more details.
“We’re in a results oriented business,” said Hope.
“And [results] are a matter of perspective. If you don’t win a championship, [well] you serve at the pleasure of ownership. I thought we had three good chances — in 2016 [when the Royals had the best regular-season record], in 2018 and, as crazy as it sounds, this year with a team that was poised and it’s disappointing not to get that chance. Often in sports, it’s in the hands of the gods.”
The WHL regular season and playoffs were cancelled last month due to the pandemic.
“It’s been eight terrific years in the best job in junior hockey,” he said.
“It’s extremely hard to create a sustainable business in this league. But I’ve enjoyed every day of it and it’s been a wonderful run.”
Hope said he has left the Royals in a good place.
“The goal was to bring a championship to Victoria and to make the Memorial Centre the go-to gathering place in the city,” he said.
“I think I’ve taken the club to the point that the next person who occupies this seat is in a good position to take this organization to the next level. I’m obviously disappointed I won’t be involved in that. But that’s the nature of the business”
The departing GM and president earned praise from Royals head coach Dan Price.
“Cam was a tremendous mentor who I learned from every day,” said Price, who recently signed a two-season contract extension.
“Cam believed in me and gave me an opportunity. I promised I wouldn’t let him down and that has been my driving motivation.”
The amiable Hope, accessible and popular with fans and the media, compiled a 316-205-52 regular-season record as GM, with Dave Lowry at the head coaching helm for five seasons and Price the last three.
The Royals’ last losing season was its first in Victoria under head coach and GM Marc Habscheid in 2011-12, although the team still made the playoffs. In the nine seasons the club has played on the Island, the last eight under GM Hope, the Royals, Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks are the only three of the 22 WHL teams not to have missed the playoffs in that span.
As for his future, Hope said he is uncertain. The 56-year-old from Edmonton is a lawyer who was part of the management team of the New York Rangers of the NHL from 2004 to 2011, first as vice-president of hockey administration, and the last four years as assistant GM to Glen Sather.
“This is still fresh,” he said.
“It will take a couple of days [to sink in]. The fans and people in Victoria are wonderful. The future is unwritten.”
Hope oversaw the WHL draft last week for the Royals and two recent off-season trades to unload veterans Kaid Oliver and Mitchell Prowse for forward Nick Dorrington and touted hometown defenceman Jacson Alexander. The moves winnowed the Royals’ list of returning 20-year-olds from 10 to eight. WHL teams are allowed only three such over-agers.
Speculation now begins as to who will continue that process. The Royals have yet to announce who will take on the day-to-day operations of the club until a new GM and president is named.