The Victoria Grizzlies made it official on Wednesday that former Nanaimo Clippers head coach and GM Bill Bestwick will be taking over the same roles for the Colwood-based BCHL franchise.
Vancouver Island Sports and Entertainment Ltd. has purchased the majority ownership of the team from Len Barrie, who also coached the team. Former GM Victor Gervais stepped down after last year’s season, which the Grizzlies finished with a 21-38-1 record.
“One of the worst-kept secrets in the last 24 hours is who’s going to come up and help us to do this,” said Ron Walchuk, president of VISE, at a press conference. “Bill’s a great hockey strategist, he’s got passion in developing young players, he’s proven in the business side of running an organization, so I’m really excited to bring him to the Victoria Grizzlies.”
Bestwick was with the Clippers from 2001 to 2010, during which time the team won the BCHL championship in 2004 and 2007, and played in the Royal Bank Cup national in 2004.
As a current city councillor in Nanaimo, Bestwick said that he will be splitting his time between the two cities, but may distance himself from some committees and will consider his role with the Grizzlies as his primary focus. He said he will be living in Victoria for the majority of the week, while doing a lot of commuting.
Assistant staff have yet to be confirmed, but will likely play an important role for the busy Bestwick.
Attendance for Grizzlies games has been dropping since the arrival of the WHL Royals, but both Bestwick and the owners feel they can get the fans back in the seats by building an exciting, talented and winning team.
“My focus is to really work on the community,” Walchuk said. “Be dominate in this community, bring back our fans and bring back sponsors and have a successful franchise.”
“The city is big enough to coexist with two franchises so long as we provide quality entertainment, and so long as we provide our best effort,” Bestwick said.
“Are we going to compete with them? I don’t really think so. We need to concern ourselves with the product and our presentation and be better at it. And be sure that people feel compelled to support us when they can.”
Coming into the role in mid-June puts him well behind other franchises in terms of building a team in the off season, Bestwick said.
“We’d probably need to score about 10 goals right now with 30 seconds to go in the game. But that’s just part of the challenge.”
The ownership change needs to be approved by the BCHL board of governors.