Oceanside’s Save On Foods Generals split their two junior B hockey games over the Thanksgiving weekend, but the results on the ice became small potatoes when word came down that two coaches and both goalies are done like dinner.
In what is easily the biggest mid-season shakeup in the club’s 21-year history, Generals’ general manager and head of hockey operations Dave Johnston released first year head coach Jason Dubyna and assistant coach Bryce Abbott last Saturday afternoon following Friday’s listless loss to the Glacier Kings in Comox.
That loss dropped the Gens to 2-9-1.
On Wednesday in an interview with The News, Johnston confirmed Dubyna “has been relieved of his duties.”
The Generals also parted ways with second year assistant coach Bryce Abbott from Port Alberni.
“We just felt we weren’t going in the right direction,” said Johnston, adding the decision to cut Dubyna, a longtime General, loose, “wasn’t easy … it wasn’t really based on style, it was really based on results, and we just didn’t see our team getting better … the players weren’t buying in.”
Johnston didn’t have to clear the decision with the board, though he said he did inform Generals’ Hockey Club president Dean Henderson of his plans, and made the point such decisions “totally falls under my job description.”
Johnston continued his early season house cleaning Wednesday when he told The News “both of our goaltenders (second-year starter Kolding Larson and first-year back-up Tighearnan Marshave) have been released today. I’m working on some stuff. I’ll have some new goaltenders in place by Friday.”
Johnston, up until this seaon, coached the local club for 13 seasons, including two Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Island Championships.
Contacted in Victoria, Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) president Greg Batters was surprised by the news, but stood by his old teammate.
“Both his goalies? Wow. Well, fair enough,” he said.
“I think what’s happened here is Dave thinks he has a team that can push for a league title and that they needed to change direction.”
This is Batters’ second year as president of the VIJHL.
He and Johnston laced up together for the old Victoria Cougars and Batters spent 16 seasons scouting the Island league for the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers
“For sure,” he said when asked if Oceanside’s Thanksgiving shake-up ranks up there. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever heard.”
Jason Dubyna was his usual ice-cool self and took the high road.
“I think maybe I felt there would be something happening,” he said when asked if he saw it coming. “And judging from the mood after the game Friday in Comox, I knew enough that when I was called in on Saturday something was up.
“I didn’t care — it’s not like I could change it,” he said, “so I thanked them for the opportunity, and now I’ll be looking elsewhere.”
Dubyna, 34, and part of a well-known Nanaimo lacrosse family, was 12 games into his rookie season as head coach, and in his eighth campaign with the Generals. He spent five seasons as an assistant coach under Johnston and played two years as a goalie.
“Having spent that much time … it’s definitely tough,” he conceded, adding, “I think for me emotionally … you know you spend a lot of time building relationships with players to keep them coming back to our program … that’s why I started (coaching with the Generals) was to help the young kids further their careers (and) having to walk away from them is the unfortunate part of it.”
Johnston said he has stepped in as head coach “on an interim basis, and we have started accepting applications for vacant coaching positions, including head coach.”
Anyone interested in the job is asked to send their application to firstname.lastname@example.org.