Dan Price is a rarity in receiving a job promotion during the pandemic.
Victoria Royals head coach Price added the title of general manager Tuesday of the Western Hockey League club.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and responsibility,” he said.
Price replaces Cam Hope in the latter role, who was let go last month despite guiding the Royals to winning records in each of his eight seasons and never missing the playoffs. Hope was twice named Western Conference executive of the year and was selected WHL top executive once.
Price becomes the franchise’s third GM since it came to the Island, following Marc Habscheid in 2011-12 and Hope’s tenure.
It is Price’s first managing gig since his days with the Drumheller Dragons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. But he watched and learned from Hope, and earlier in the WHL, as assistant coach for two seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins and two with the Tri-City Americans.
“What I learned from Cam [Hope] is to be very thorough and very detailed,” he said.
Price has a 105-81-18 record in his three seasons as Royals head coach. He joined the team a season earlier as Dave Lowry’s assistant coach and was elevated to the head coaching position when Lowry departed after five seasons in Victoria to become assistant coach of the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL.
Price joins a select list of dual head coaches and GMs in the WHL.
“People like Mike Johnston [Portland Winterhawks] and Willie Desjardins [Medicine Hat Tigers] are doing it well. So there is definitely a history there and a model to follow,” said Price.
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Price was asked about his WHL managing philosophy. Hope went for a sustained level of winning each season but his clubs never got past the second round of the playoffs. Other WHL teams are more into boom and bust cycles — building to an explosive season or two followed by up to three seasons rebuilding.
“We will talk about that as a group with the coaches and organization,” said Price.
“But you can have sustained [winning] seasons, with a few up and down spikes. We want to put ourselves in position to win as much as possible.”
The latter week of the 2019-20 WHL regular season and playoffs were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What a return will look like and when is unknown. Few are expecting WHL rookie and prospects camps to open in August as usual. Preparation is the key, said Price, regardless of the eventual timeline.
“The runway [leading up to the restart] is important, whether that’s in August, September or who knows when,” said Price.
Yet, he realizes this is a situation that needs managing in a unique and understanding fashion.
“The players’ well-being is the most important thing,” said Price.
“They may be feeling isolated through all this, so mental as well as physical health must be addressed.”
Price was understandably in a difficult position Tuesday when asked if he understands why many fans and those in the media remain puzzled by the club’s move to replace Hope.
“It’s part of the reality of the hockey world, which is very unpredictable,” said Price.
“I just want to carry on what Cam Hope started.”
Royals owner Graham Lee has not responded to calls since Hope’s contract was not renewed. The club, however, issued a statement Tuesday regarding the elevation of Price.
“Dan has done an exceptional job since joining our organization in 2016,” stated Lee.
“He has an incredible passion and knowledge for the game which translates into creating an environment for those around him, including players.”