Marc Habscheid is moving on up.
Habscheid, who has spent the last three seasons as general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Royals franchise, is moving into an executive position with GSL Holdings Ltd., the parent company of RG Properties Ltd., and the Royals.
Habscheid told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist that it was a mutual agreement between him and owner Graham Lee.
“He is the boss and I respect him . . . it’s the right time,” Habscheid said.
Asked if Habscheid had been pushed away from the Royals, Lee replied: “No, absolutely not. This was a mutually discussed decision.”
Later, Habscheid added:
“Graham and I talked about it and it’s a two-fold family and business decision. Now seemed like the perfect time. I can spend more time with the family. I will have weekends to myself. . . . I haven’t had them for awhile. And I can learn the business and tech side of the company.”
Habscheid, 49, played six games with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers in 1982-83 and later coached the Kamloops Blazers for two seasons (1997-99), guiding them to the WHL’s championship final in the spring of 1999. He went on to a stint as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets, taking them to the Memorial Cup championship on home ice in 2003.
After a brief time as the associate coach under head coach Dave Lewis with the NHL’s Boston Bruins, Habscheid joined the then-Chilliwack Bruins for 2009-10 and was there for two seasons. He made the move to Vancouver Island with the franchise a year ago, after it was sold to RG Properties and renamed the Royals.
The Royals went 24-41-7 last season, finishing seventh in the 10-team Western Conference, and then were swept by the Blazers from a first-round playoff series.
According to a news release issued Friday by GSL, Habscheid “will be taking on a new executive role within GSL to assist GSL in developing other hockey related businesses.”
GSL owns such things as Officepools.com, which bills itself as “the world’s largest on-line hockey pool site,” Planet Ice and Planet Youth Hockey, a charity program that helps inner city kids.
According to the GSL release, Habscheid “will be involved in advising these existing businesses as well as assisting in developing new hockey-related business opportunities.”
The released added: “In taking on this new role within GSL, Marc will be relinquishing his responsibilities with the hockey team.”
This move leaves three WHL teams without head coaches as the Royals join the Brandon Wheat Kings, who fired Cory Clouston after the season, and the Kootenay Ice, who dismissed Kris Knoblauch, as he was to interview for the head-coaching position with the U of Alberta Golden Bears while under contract to the WHL team.
Speculation on the Royals’ next general manager will, at least in the early going, focus on Doug Soetaert. The 56-year-old Soetaert was unexpectedly fired by the Everett Silvertips on Feb. 2 after working as their general manager for more than seven seasons. He later filed a lawsuit against the Silvertips, seeking what he claims are unpaid wages, along with damages and legal expenses.
Clouston, 42, who also coached the Ice, and Knoblauch, 33, both may be in the running.
According to Dheensaw, Lee isn’t sure whether he will split the GM and head-coaching duties.
“We’ll see what the candidates look like,” Lee said. “There’s quite a bit of interest among people out there in coming to Victoria. There are a lot of good candidates. We’re keeping an open mind.”
Dave Hunchak, the associate coach with the Blazers who has one year left on his contract, would seem to be a logical candidate, but Lee told Dheensaw: “All the people we are looking at are currently not with jobs.”
JUST NOTES: While meeting with media in Victoria, Habscheid said his son Zach, a 20-year-old defenceman, won’t be back with the Royals. He has played three years in the WHL, the first two with the Bruins, but injuries, including concussions, limited him to 53, 45 and, last season, 41 games. He has career totals of 13 points, including two goals, and 195 penalty minutes.
Brad Schmidt of The Oregonian reports that “Portland’s plan to renovate and greenify the aging Veterans Memorial Coliseum has met financial reality: There isn’t enough green to pay for everything.”
The Coliseum, of course, is home to the Portland Winterhawks.
It seems that costs have gone up by a third since November and negotiations with the Winterhawks, who have said they will be financially involved, perhaps for as much as $10 million, are four months behind schedule.
Schmidt’s story is right here.
With the NHL partying in Pittsburgh as it holds its two-day draft, Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail, as he only can do, writes today about “a fear of Fehr.” . . . NHL owners, MacGregor writes, “are determined to address the minimum salary-cap issue.” . . . The NHL and NHLPA are soon to begin negotiations on a new CBA. And, at the moment, all signs point to another work stoppage.
MacGregor’s thoughts are right here.
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