The ice may be out at Bear Mountain Arena but there is already reason to look forward to the Victoria Grizzlies 2013-14 season in the B.C. Hockey League.
Namely, the return of the Fitzgerald brothers.
BCHL fans should rejoice the Grizzlies’ are retaining the services of arguably the league’s most electric line of siblings Myles, Leo and Gerry.
Few lines bring highlight reel plays and competitive drive the likes of the Port Alberni trio.
Their play carried the Grizzlies to first in the league for a good stretch of the season and, when an injury ended Gerry’s season, the Grizz’ season seemed to hit the injury reserve too – though the team bounced back to play two full playoff rounds.
The fact the Fitzgeralds are returning to Colwood in September instead of entering Div. 1 of the NCAA to the Grizzlies is due to some missing pieces in their education to date.
After their breakout year in 2012-13 it’s clear the bros were ready for Div. 1 this September. The yhave a scholarship deal with the Bemidji State Beavers, but not until 2014-15.
“They’re Div. 1 calibre players, there’s no question about that, they just have to make themselves Div. 1 post-secondary eligible,” Bestwick said.
“Their focus hasn’t been academics. They’ve been given that opportunity now to focus on academics while they play their last year of Jr. A hockey. I’m certain that they comprehend the value of the opportunity they have and I’m sure they’ll be successful,” Bestwick added.
Many Div. 1 hockey programs showed interest in the brothers, but the best offer so far is from the Bemidji State Beavers, who are willing to give all three a chance together. Bemidji is also willing to wait while the brothers upgrade their marks at Camosun College in the fall and winter semesters.
As for the Grizzlies, it will be hard for Bestwick to repeat the magic of this season. The esteemed coach, with help from Craig Didmon, overhauled the Grizzlies’ depleted roster last summer and created a league contender.
The club never recovered from a series of game-ending incidents against the Chilliwack Chiefs on Jan. 17.
“Unfortunately for us (that) debacle with Chilliwack significantly impacted our uniform in relation to suspensions,” Bestwick said.
From Jan. 17 onward the Grizzlies players were suspended a total of 33 games, including one to Bestwick.
“We’re very proud of what we accomplished, we also know we came up short getting the league title. We came up short of getting to the Coastal final and beyond. And when you don’t win your last game I think you’re always disappointed,” Bestwick said.
“We’ll make some changes, yes, but I don’t foresee ever making as many as last summer.”