Brad Tippett, the new head coach and director of hockey operations for the Peninsula Panthers, has a unique way of measuring success in junior hockey. He asks parents to take a video of the first game of the season and then of the last game of the season and to note the difference.
Tippett’s Panthers open the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season tonight at 7:30 against the Saanich Braves before a return engagement against the Braves on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Pearkes Arena. In the other VIJHL opener tonight, the recent league-power Campbell River Storm host the Oceanside Generals at 7:30 at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
Tippett, the brother of current Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, comes into his new role with an abundance of experience. The 57-year-old is a former head coach and GM of the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL and was head coach and director of hockey operations for the Regina Pats of the WHL from 1989 to 1993.
As a player, Tippett skated for Terry Simpson’s national Junior A powerhouse Prince Albert Raiders and later in the NCAA for the University of Michigan Wolverines. He earned a double-major degree in accounting and finance from Michigan and was vice-president and associate portfolio manager with RBC Dominion Securities from 1993 to 2012. He went out on his own and in 2014 became president of Tippett Wealth Consulting and Tippett Financial Services.
What people don’t remember about the Tippetts is that both were youth soccer stars — Brad played for Canada U-16 and young Dave put on a display of dribbling at the 1976 Montreal Olympics — before deciding on hockey as their main sport.
It’s that lure of sport that brought Brad Tippet back to hockey when interests brought him out to the Island this summer.
Panthers GM Pete Zubersky heard Tippett was in Sidney and the two made contact.
“It just clicked,” said Zubersky.
Tippett concurred: “Hockey people have a code, and Pete and I were just two guys who exchanged old hockey war stories and got a type of hot-stove league going.”
Both found they had similar philosophies about developing junior players. The Panthers had a head coaching opening and one thing naturally led to another.
“There was something nagging me to give back once more,” said Tippett.
“I’ve had so much fun with these [Panthers] kids.”
So get out those video cameras to compare tonight in September to the final regular-season game in February.
Meanwhile, the defending champions of the nine-team VIJHL are the Victoria Cougars, who open next Thursday at Archie Browning Sports Centre against the Braves.
Although the Cougars and Storm have dominated recent seasons, Zubersky sees a levelling this year.
“It’s going to be a really tight league,” predicted the Panthers GM.