Well played move, Mr. Bill Bestwick.
The newly hired general manager and head coach of the Victoria Grizzlies is behind the B.C. Hockey League team’s new Alumni Advisory Board, made up of former player Ryan O’Byrne of the 2001-02 Salsa and former coach Geoff Courtnall of the 2008-09 Grizz.
Along with hiring Craig Didmon and acquiring a handful of players, the Alumni Advisory Board is the first significant big picture in Bestwick’s tenure. The board’s creation signifies a change in culture around the Grizzlies under new majority owner Ron Walchuk, who recently took over that role from Len Barrie.
With the presence of O’Byrne and Courtnall, albeit intermittent and mostly for advisory purposes, the Grizzlies become a more attractive destination for talented hockey players wishing to play in the NCAA, Bestwick said in the team’s release.
“It is a wonderful to have people like Geoff and Ryan who want to give back to the sport that has given them so much,” added Bestwick. “The Grizzlies organization has helped so many local athletes move on to the NCAA and the WHL, and ultimately the NHL, and it will be great for the team and the community to have these players back involved in junior hockey here.”
O’Byrne, a top-six defenceman with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, also played in the BCHL with the Nanaimo Clippers under Bestwick in 2003, before playing three years at Cornell University. Courtnall, a veteran of 17 years in the NHL, oversaw the development of his son Justin (Boston University Terriers) and many other Grizzlies currently in the NCAA who were on the host team of the 2009 RBC Cup.
The board will advise the GM and ownership group with a focus on hockey operations and the development model for players to reach their educational and hockey career goals.