The Victoria Grizzlies are changing head coaches for the third time in just six months.
The team announced Tuesday that general manager Brad Knight will also be assuming the head coaching duties for the 2014-15 B.C. Hockey League season, replacing Craig Didmon, who is hanging up his whistle for at least a season due to personal reasons.
Didmon took over from Bill Bestwick, who was released in early December.
Bestwick was named GM and head coach two off-seasons ago with Didmon as his right-hand man in coaching and managing. Now, both are gone after two very successful regular-season campaigns. The two took the Grizzlies two rounds into the BCHL playoffs two seasons ago and this season Didmon led the team into the third round, losing out in the round-robin format that decided the two finalists.
“It’s been something I’ve been contemplating for a while,” said Didmon. “The team is in good shape. There are lots of good players coming in. They’ll have a very competitive camp.
“Brad is going to step in for a year. They’ll be in good hands. I’m not going anywhere, it’s just the wear and tear of being a head coach — the time and energy — I need a break from it,” said Didmon, who is also a full-time teacher who runs the hockey academy at Spencer. “I’ve decided to choose between one or the other for a year in order to get more rested.”
Didmon had also been in a car accident in January and is still recuperating from that.
“Sixteen-hour days isn’t exactly the recipe for healing,” he added.
Scott Hawthorne is expected to stay on as an assistant coach and Knight — who was an assistant under Bestwick in both Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley and also had a stint in Langley of the BCHL — is looking for another assistant, who will be local.
“Life is a big challenge, so I guess I’ll take it as that. I will continue on with what Craig has started and hopefully he’ll be proud of me at the end of the year, that I didn’t blow up his roster and hopefully I’ll be able to be successful with it on his behalf as well,” said Knight, who was coach and GM in Nanaimo with the Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League prior to joining the Grizzlies.
“I’m confident that I’ll work hard at it and do whatever it takes for us to be as successful as possible. At the end of the day, it still comes down to putting a collection of kids together that want it bad.
“They’re the ones that drive the ship and they always were going to be, whether it was for Craig or myself. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m everything in hockey because I’m not,” added Knight. “I’ve got things to learn, we all do, but I’m comfortable with my abilities and I will, as usual, surround myself with good people.”
Knight is already in the process of interviewing what he calls “highly successful” people who might join the organization, which was doing its best to put a positive spin on the move.
Fans might have a different take on it, however, as the Junior A franchise makes yet another change. The team has now gone through the likes of Rylan Ferster, Rick Lanz (who left the team just two months in to be a scout with the Colorado Avalanche), Jackson Penny, Geoff Courtnall, Vic Gervais (twice), Len Barrie, Rob Doyle, Bestwick, Didmon and now Knight in the last half-dozen years.
The multiple changes have obviously not affected the club’s abilities to recruit as Victoria is a much sought after destination, but the coach’s spot behind the players’ bench may as well be made of quicksand, rather than concrete.
“From the fans’ perspective, the Grizzlies are the Grizzlies, still the bear with the teeth and the claws,” offered Knight, who stressed the new ownership group and the longevity of the team are first and foremost.
He also stressed consistency, but that will remain under scrutiny with yet another change in personnel.
“It will be a seamless transition with the boys,” suggested Didmon. “We’re going to talk together [today]. There’s going to be a lot of skill and character on this team and now I get to be a fan.”