There have been some big changes to the Columbia Valley Rockies just six games into the season, as head coach and general manager Marc Ward and assistant coach Jan Kascak have both resigned from their positions, effective immediately. Rockies director of hockey operations Ross Bidinger will assume the role of interim head coach and general manager while brothers Wade, Scott and Kirk Dubielewicz will join the coaching staff along with Rockies board member Dave Tomalty as assistant coaches.
“We wish both (Ward) and (Kascak) well… but we have no reservations about what we’ve put into place over the last 24 hours,” Rockies vice-president Graeme Anderson told The Valley Echo. “I’m extremely confident that you’re going to see the Rockies performing as well as they have done, and better.”
Bidinger, now the the former director of hockey operations, has had a role in all major team decisions over the off-season, from scouting players to roster decisions, and as such said he is quite familiar with the roster as it currently stands. Bidinger has also served as an assistant coach with the Rockies in the past and is the current BC Hockey District Evaluator for the East Kootenay. While he acknowledges that it may not be the easiest transition for him to become head coach and general manager, he’s confident he and the rest of the coaching staff will be able to put a solid product on the ice at Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena.
“It’s fairly overwhelming,” Bidinger said, when asked how it felt to be named the new head coach and general manager. “I’ve got lots of help and lots of guys have stepped up… that’ll ease the the burden of it for sure.”
The first priority for Bidinger will be introducing his players to the new system of hockey, and continuing to develop the young talent on the team. The Rockies are off to a promising start to the season, having reached their win total from last year in just six games, and so it will be up to Bidinger to ensure that the change behind the bench doesn’t effect how his team plays on the ice.
“We’re obviously looking to make this team better in any way that we can and develop these guys to move them to the next level,” Bidinger said. “There’s definitely some younger good talent here… our goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s first and foremost.
“I don’t see any real change, because we’re not making big changes to anything… it might change the style of play a little bit but the actual brand on the ice should be really similar.”
The reasons for Ward’s resignation were outlined in a letter to club president Al Miller. Miller told The Valley Echo that “basically (Ward) did not like the executive interfering with his coaching.” When asked, Miller acknowledged that Ward was referring to the positions of president, vice-president and director of hockey operations, the post that Bidinger used to fill. Bidinger was given final say over roster decisions following a Rockies board meeting earlier this year, something that both Ward and Kascak vigorously protested at the time. Ward was in the final year of his two-year contract.
“Because we’re here in the valley ongoing, and players and coaches come and go we need to align ourselves with people who clearly understand hockey and the overall involvement, so that we can carry on and move forward and work with our staff of the day,” Miller said. “Obviously (Ward) didn’t like that.”
When reached for comment, Ward declined to discuss the reasons surrounding his resignation, and said that he would look for “an organization that will appreciate and support my work ethic, my integrity and my vision,” in the future.
“Over the past 17 months I have worked extremely hard building a quality program that develops both skilled players and quality people,” Ward wrote via email. “I have spent the last year recruiting and scouting to find the best players and good character people for my team. I wish my new players, as well as the returning ones success in life and hockey. Thank you to the community of Invermere for the support over my tenure. A special thanks to Jan Kascak, Lexie McIntosh, Ray Brydon, and Pastor Trevor Hagan for their continued support of my program.”
Assistant coach Kascak, who also resigned from his position, acknowledged that there had been problems working with the executive.
“Unfortunately the program that (Ward) and I had in place wasn’t the same philosophy as the executive had in mind,” Kascak said. “We had to part ways because of that. I wish them all the best and I hope they can pull this out and have a good season.”
Ward had been with the team since March of 2011, and was hired to turn the team around after a number of disappointing seasons over the previous several years. A strong start to the 2012 season had put the Rockies at the top of the division standings through six games, and with the Rockies playing their first six games under their new coach on the road, Bidinger will be put to the test early and often.
“You just try and get as much as you can out of the group you have and develop the players, the rest of it will look after itself,” Bidinger said. “It’s not win now at all costs, it’s a balance for sure, and as it gets deeper in the year those goals might change, but at this point it’s setting our sights on making the playoffs and just competing every game.”