Like the great Lester Patrick before him, Cameron Hope comes from a vice president role with the NHL’s New York Rangers to act as general manager of Victoria’s Western Hockey League franchise.
To be fair to Hope, the similarities stop there, as Patrick was, well, Lester Patrick, and his return was at the helm of the minor league 1949 Cougars.
Hope, however, is highly regarded in his own right, and was sought after by Royal’s owner Graham Lee. The 48-year-old has never been a GM before but comes with a decorated resume.
He was introduced at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday morning (July 6).
“(Lee) contacted me, it came from left field and he was persistent,” Hope said. “I liked his vision, we shared the idea of what it takes to build a successful program here. And Lee’s vision is contagious.”
Hope’s tenure with the Rangers lasted seven years and ended in 2011, during which he had swapped from VP into an assistant GM role with the legendary GM Glen Sather. Hope was practising law, his original career, back in his hometown of Edmonton when Lee came calling.
With his wife’s parents living in Victoria, the idea found support at home.
The first order of business for Hope is hiring a head coach. Both the coach and GM positions came available last month when Marc Habscheid made the move from hockey exec to business exec with the Royals’ parent company, GSL Holdings Ltd.
“The process is underway,” Hope said. “Most of the names are in, but I haven’t (shortlisted) them yet, some may come in yet.”
The new coach is expected in a matter of weeks. “Once we finalize the list, it’ll be a fast process.”
Plenty of successful, experienced general managers from the WHL were available and in the running when Lee picked Hope, taking a chance on a rookie GM.
“For a new GM, it’s a positive thing having that NHL experience,” said Graham, who’s been highly visible around the rink since swapping the ECHL for his original love, the WHL.
“You always take a risk with whoever you hire, and Hope fits in well with the pieces we have.”
Hope’s name first came up when Graham was dining with some NHL suits. “I told them I was looking for a new GM and they were very impressed with Hope,” Lee said.
None of those at the dinner were named Sather, however, who was part of the Chilliwack Bruins ownership group that sold the team to Lee 16 months ago. Hope said he was not connected to the Royals in its previous incarnation, though he knew of the team, and had scouted the league as a member of the Rangers’ staff.
As a youngster growing up in Edmonton, Hope was a Western League fan, catching the Oil Kings at the old Edmonton Garden. He got a law degree from the University of Alberta in 1988, and later found his way into the Canadian Football League Players’ Association, representing its players in grievance matters, before moving on to the Big Apple in 2004.
Hope spoke often sharing a vision with Lee.
“For me, the key to long term success in the WHL, not just playing exciting hockey, but to be continually successful, is to fill the system with quality players. You need strong coaching and scouts to identify the players early.
“It’s an area that’s different from the NHL, where the emphasis is to retain talent, here you need a sustainable form of hockey (development).”