This is posted in the Kelowna Daily Courier Newspaper:
Rockets' coaching search continues amid hires elsewhere
Kelowna had interest in Matvichuk, who took job in Prince George
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2016
Richard Matvichuk was on Bruce Hamilton’s radar.
Jason McKee had also applied for the Kelowna Rockets’ coaching vacancy.
Both those guys landed jobs in the WHL’s B.C. Division this week, with Matvichuk hired by the Prince George Cougars and McKee getting the Vancouver Giants’ gig.
Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, is still searching for Brad Ralph’s replacement after Kelowna parted ways with its one-and-done bench boss on May 9 — 12 days after the Rockets were swept by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference final.
Ralph was actually in the running for Vancouver’s job, with the Giants’ owners among those who have approached Hamilton for permission to speak with Ralph, who is still technically under contract to Kelowna.
“There’s been a couple teams contact me and ask, but I don’t know where it’s gone,” Hamilton said. “This is a young guy that I want back in the game . . . this just wasn’t the right spot right now.”
Hamilton had a productive week, returning from the Memorial Cup in Red Deer where he had duties as the WHL chairman of the board and spent his spare time researching the more than 70 candidates.
That long list now includes both of Kelowna’s current assistant coaches, Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard, neither of whom had initially applied. Mallette has another season remaining on his contract, as an assistant, while Crickard has yet to re-sign with the Rockets upon completing his two-year deal.
“I hope that he’ll stay. I think he’s waiting around to see what unfolds once we make our decisions,” Hamilton said of Crickard.
“We’ve got lots (of applicants), they have kept coming in,” Hamilton added. “I think we’ve got some good people, and now it’s time to start to dial in.”
The Rockets hope to have a head coach in place by the NHL draft — slated for June 24-25 in Buffalo — though Hamilton quipped: “If I find the guy I want next week, then we’ll get it done.”
Hamilton revealed that he does have a short list in mind.
“I think I’m down to four or five guys, and I’ll probably start to notify them that I want to meet,” he said. “I’m travelling lots the next couple weeks (for league meetings in Vancouver, then to Halifax and Toronto), so I’ll probably have guys meet me somewhere along the way.”
Matvichuk likely would have got an interview as well, with Hamilton clearly impressed by the former NHL defenceman who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Matvichuk made his off-season home in Kelowna for 12 years while playing, then worked four years as a firefighter at Big White ski resort before getting into coaching.
“I wouldn’t say I know him real well, but I know him, and he’s a guy that I probably would have considered bringing in,” Hamilton said of Matvichuk, who was recently named the East Coast Hockey League’s coach of the year after leading the Missouri Mavericks to a 52-win season (52-15-0-5). “I think he would have liked this spot, but I wasn’t prepared to move on that (hiring him) yet.”
The Cougars targeted Matvichuk and got their man, introducing him in Prince George on Thursday.
“He’s a great story in my mind because he’s gone back and paid his dues at the bottom end, right from minor hockey all the way up,” said a complimentary Hamilton. “I just like it when guys like him, who played in our league, go full circle and come back. I honestly think he’s going to be a good coach; I think that’s a great hire by P.G.
“I give Richard a lot of credit for going up there,” Hamilton continued. “That’s where he’s going to start and that’ll bode well for him in the future when teams are looking for guys at the pro level, that he wasn’t afraid to take that job. I think he took the first one he got.”
Not to worry Rockets fans, Hamilton assured that his short list has candidates with similar credentials and career accomplishments to Matvichuk.
“They have probably been coaching quite a bit longer than he has, and at a higher level,” said Hamilton, who wasn’t naming names or discussing rumoured applicants because most are still under contract with other teams.
As for the McKee hiring in Vancouver — or rather Langley, with the Giants relocating there for next season — that one came as no surprise to Hamilton.
“I was pretty sure that’s where he was going to land,” Hamilton said of the former Spruce Grove Saints coach and GM who won three AJHL titles in his six seasons at the helm of that program as the successor to Steve Hamilton (head coach of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings). “Teams have been interested in (McKee) for a couple years, he’s had pretty good success, but I’m not necessarily interested in a Junior A guy.
“I’m just working away, taking my time to find what I want,” added Hamilton, who ruled out Rylan Ferster of the RBC Cup champion West Kelowna Warriors, as well as Fred Harbinson in Penticton and Mark Ferner in Vernon.