The past is helping the present and paving the way for the future for Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The junior hockey franchise was teetering on extinction when a group of Grizzly alumni put together a bid to buy the team and take over the reins.
“I would say a lot of the credit has to go to Mike Van Tetering. He really kind of put everybody together and got everybody on the same page and really found a way to get everybody in, get the funds allocated and then it was just a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” explained Brad Koopmans, a former Grizzly and part of the off-ice effort to bring the Grizzlys back to prominence.
He said from there it was a bit of a whirlwind as the group worked at building a new structure for the organization in a very short period.
Time was not on the side of the Grizzlys as it was almost a certainty the franchise would either move to another location or cease day to day operations due to the financial mess the organization found itself mired in.
“Money woes, and for whatever reason things weren’t getting done, things weren’t getting paid,” said Koopmans. “I think the big thing was the structure. It was the way things were organized and really the way a lot of the books were kept.”
A Junior A hockey franchise relies heavily on local support and so economic factors in the region tend to influence situations like this one.
So what’s to say the same thing won’t happen again in Olds?
“I can tell you from the leadership group and the ownership group that we’re a part of that it’s really what we’re trying stress again is getting back to the grassroots. This really is a joint venture between the Olds Grizzly and the community and Central Alberta for that matter.”
The franchise has a rich history since being founded in the early 1980’s and really came to the forefront as a powerhouse in the 90’s winning three league championships, the Doyle Cup and then the national Centennial Cup. It has been a dry spell as far as titles go for the franchise and so the magic needs to be rekindled somehow.
Koopmans says over the years it was the same people who would step up to assist in some way and there never seemed to be an effort to expand the reach of the team. He says the group previously in charge was trying to do so much with very little help.
The change in ownership will see more people on board to tackle the issues facing the team and Koopmans likes the makeup of the new group.
“The ownership is so diversified with not only alumni but just guys that are successful businessmen and so the opportunities and the networks they have, we’re really working hard to reach and tap into everything.”
Some of the heavy lifting for the group is to make people aware this is a different culture and while the on-ice product is one thing, the marketing of the Grizzlys to build that fan base is another.
Adam Redmond is the new Head Coach/ General Manager and he brings plenty of AJHL experience as a player and a coach. He will be joined by Joe Murphy who was born and raised in Didsbury and played in Olds in 1992.
“It’s kind of a feel-good story in that these guys kind of went away, made their mark in business and now they’re back to help bring up the franchise that got them to where they are so to speak.”
The building blocks are there and now the Grizzly’s on-ice product must match the intensity of the off-ice effort in order to get back to those glory days.
Time will tell.