Key figure at Memorial Centre is leaving

Dave Dakers, who helped to usher in a new Victoria era in hockey and concerts as president of RG Sports and Entertainment, has left the company.

Dakers was second in charge to Graham Lee, owner of RG Properties, now known as GSL Group. The company owns the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League and operates the City of Victoria-owned Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

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Dakers said he won’t comment on the reason for the departure.

The company released a statement: “We can confirm Dave Dakers has left the GSL Group. The GSL Group is thankful to Dave for his many years with the organization and wish him continued success in the future.”

Dakers has been involved with the Memorial Centre since it opened in 2005.

“I am proud of all we accomplished in Victoria,” he said. “It was a spectacular opportunity and I can’t speak highly enough about it.”

He said the building — which has hosted Bob Dylan, Def Leppard, Elton John and Leonard Cohen — helped revitalize the region’s sports and entertainment scene.

“It speaks to the vibrancy and respect performers have for this market,” he said.

“In sports, we brought the Western Hockey League back with the Royals [beginning with the 2011-12 season], a league which should have been here the whole time.”

The first seven years of hockey in the building, which replaced the old Memorial Arena on Blanshard Street, were in pro with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL.

“Will people ever forget the Salmon Kings?” said Dakers, of the often wonderfully wacky world of minor-pro sports.

Under Dakers’ tenure, the facility also hosted the 2019 IIHF world junior hockey championship, 2019 Vancouver Canucks training camp and exhibition game, 2005 and 2013 Ford men’s world curling championships, 2006 Skate Canada International and 2011 Canadian figure skating championships, 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Canada-U.S. women’s hockey in 2009 and upcoming in February, Subway Super Series WHL-Russia games in 2009 and 2012 and upcoming bids for the 2022 Invictus Games, FIBA Olympic basketball qualifying for Tokyo 2020 and a future Memorial Cup national junior hockey championship tournament.

“Victoria has not been left out of too many things,” said Dakers.

Dakers began his career in facility management with the Ottawa Senators of the NHL as director of events for the Corel Centre, now Canadian Tire Centre, from 1990 to 1998. He joined RG Properties in 1998 and managed Prospera Place in Kelowna, home of the WHL Rockets, until coming to Victoria with the construction and opening of the Memorial Centre.

“When I first got to Victoria [in 2012-13], Dave Dakers was the first person I dealt with,” said Cameron Hope, president and general manager of the WHL Royals.

“I was really lucky to have Dave on the business side and [Royals assistant GM] Jeff Harris on the hockey side and they made my transition easier and I leaned on both guys heavily.”

Dakers said he has too many memories from Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to pick just one as a highlight, although he said there’s “a book to be written” about the opening act in 2005 when Rod Stewart jokingly came out in a hard hat with the construction dust barely settled in the new building.

He also described as “culturally significant” that the Tragically Hip chose Memorial Centre to begin their final tour before the death of lead singer Gord Downie.

Dakers, 59, said he does not yet have future career plans.

GSL Group has not announced a replacement for Dakers or if there will be one. Lee did not return calls on Friday.

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