May 01, 2014
So much for Don Hay being behind the bench at the 2016 Memorial Cup that many anticipate will be in Vancouver, unless the Kamloops Blazers turn around their fortunes very quickly.
Anyone can be traded in junior hockey is the price is right, and that includes coaches. On Thursday, speculation began to pick up that a Western Conference team in the Western Hockey League was poised to make a coaching change. The bombshell is now official, with the league's sibling general managers, Vancouver's Scott Bonner and Kamloops' Craig Bonner, having made an arrangement that will see three-time Memorial Cup-winning head coach Hay rejoin the Blazers. He still had one year left on his Giants contract.
From Marty Hastings (@MarTheReporter):
KTW learned on Thursday (May 1) that Hay will indeed take the reins, with the official announcement expected to be made on Friday, May 2.
... The revered bench boss posted his 600th win as a WHL head coach when his Vancouver Giants thumped the hometown Kamloops Blazers 6-2 at Interior Savings Centre on Jan. 17. He is in the last year of his contract with the Giants.
Kamloops has reportedly struck a deal to acquire his rights. (Kamloops This Week)
"Blazers' Owner Tom Gaglardi contacted me last week and asked for permission to speak with Don," said Giants Majority Owner Ron Toigo. "I'm sure Don is looking forward to moving home and spending more time with his family and enjoying the time with his grandkids. He came here when we were a young franchise and helped develop an identity for the Giants, and showed us how to win. He leaves with a Memorial Cup, WHL Championship, and 5 BC Division Titles. I can't say how much we appreciate what Don has done and what he has meant to the Vancouver Giants Franchise."
It's wild, but it certainly explains why the Blazers left the top job vacant while playing out the string during a bottoming-out season where it finished second-last in the WHL with 14 wins in 72 games. Dave Hunchak was put on a leave of absence in January and former head coach Guy Charron returned for the balance of the year, but there was never a strong indication it was a permanent move.
The Blazers ownership group, of course, includes former NHLers such as Mark Recchi who had Hay as a coach during their teens. It's evident why there would be a desire to see if history can repeat itself, although needless to say that is far more easily imagined than achieved.
The notion that the Giants organization might have harboured some skepticism about whether Hay was suited to carry out "the long range plan" to host and vie for the Memorial Cup in two seasons seems plausible. A simple explanation could be that Hay was there nine years, and friction is always bound to develop between competitive personalities over that long of a stretch. In that regard, an early warning sign might have come in October, when the Giants dismissed Hay's long-time goaltending coach, Paul Fricker. Everyone has a shelf life in any hockey job.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.