The Oceanside Generals Junior Hockey Club is set to host its main selection camp this weekend, and as always, expectations for the upcoming Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) campaign are high.
“It’s going to be an awesome camp, and we’re extremely excited about what this year is going to hold for us,” Generals’ skipper Dave Johnston told The News Wednesday.
This year’s band of Generals head into battle having undergone some changes, with Johnston handing the head coaching reigns over to five-year assistant Jason Dubyna. Johnston retains the role of General Manager and assumes the duties of the newly-created Director of Hockey and Business Operations position.
Former Generals Hockey Club president Jen Kennedy has moved on to her new position as director of sales and marketing for the Nanaimo Clippers of the BC Hockey League (Junior A). Dean Henderson, former Generals’ owner and head coach, is back in the fold after a year away. Henderson takes over as president of the community-owned club and is back on the bench as an assistant coach along with Bryce Abbott, who was the Generals’ video coach last season.
“We’re in excellent shape,” Johnston said of the recruiting side of the ledger and that first big step towards this year’s team.
“Just the level of talent we have coming in here, in conjunction with the number of quality returnees we have … it’s going to be a real high level camp, and we’re really excited about the team we’re going to ice this year.”
There will be 44 players on the ice at this weekend’s camp including four goalies. The camp runs Friday through Sunday culminating with the traditional blue/white game. Puck drops at 2 p.m., admission is free.
Returnees already committed include Kyle Yamasaki, Travis Flug, Keenan McConnell, Josef Chase, Travis Briggs, Dylan Haugen, Jeff Bartel and Luciano Somerville.
Nanaimo puck-stopper Kolding Larson will be back battling for the starting position.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Dubyna chuckled when asked if he’s ready for camp. “It’s been over a month of phone calls and e-mails, getting everyone prepared … a lot of preparation, and I’ve still got another night to do yet, but I think it will be good; it’ll be exciting to actually get it going.”
Dubyna said he has no intention of reinventing the wheel this year, and will continue working towards the type of team he and Johnston have had success with.
“We’re carrying on,” he said, adding, “I was involved a lot with Dave building the team so it’ll be a lot of the same. We’re looking for the same style of players we’ve had the past few years. I think we’re looking to have as an offensive a team as possible. Myself and Bryce (Abbott) both feel comfortable teaching the defensive game, so we’re looking for guys that are more creative offensively.”
Put on the hot seat and asked if the returning players will notice a different style of coaching Dubyna paused and said, “I’d say being a younger coach I will probably be more open to trying to new things; be a bit less cautious and more creative I think … maybe.”
The Oceanside Generals Junior Hockey Club is one of only two community-run Junior B teams on Vancouver Island, the other the Victoria Cougars.
Johnston said of the 40-plus Junior B clubs in B.C., no more than five are community owned.
“We don’t have a private owner to bankroll the team, we have to go out there and be extremely active and creative to find the money to run the team, but the other side of it is that all the money we do raise goes directly to our program.
“The better we do financially the more we can offer our players. If we turn a profit at the end of the year we’ll upgrade our equipment, whereas a private owner would pocket it.”
Looking ahead, the Generals will open the 42-game regular season on the road Sept. 8 in Victoria against the Cougars, and have ‘a big blowout party’ planned for their home opener Sat., Sept. 10 against the Saanich Braves (puck drops at 7 p.m.).