Sunday, January 12, 2014

The first day of the next chapter

Well, that was an interesting day.
I’m referring to Saturday, a day in which I experienced unemployment for the first time in my life.
I have always been employed, from my high schools days when I spent summers working for the Local Government District of Lynn Lake or Sherritt Gordon Mines. I started in the newspaper business with the Brandon Sun in the summer of 1971 and have been in one sports department or another since then.
Until the Kamloops Daily News ceased publication with Saturday’s paper.
The day began when I awoke and, as per usual, checked my email. Which is where I found a news release from the Kamloops Blazers informing me that head coach Dave Hunchak “has taken a leave of absence from the team effective immediately” and that Guy Charron, the head coach for more than three seasons (2009-13), was back.
I will admit to feeling a strange sensation skip through my system when I read the news release and then realized that it meant little to me, that I no longer was employed by a daily newspaper, so I didn’t have to start assembling a story for Monday’s edition.
The adrenaline rush that usually followed news like that just wasn’t there. It was a feeling that I hadn’t experienced in a long, long time and I’m not yet sure whether I enjoyed it. However, it’s one I realize that I am going to have to get used to.
Anyway . . .
Who knows what really happened with Hunchak and the coaching change; perhaps, in time, we will find out.
The news release ended with: “No further comment will be made at this time.”
General manager Craig Bonner later said just that in a conversation with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week.
On Saturday night, following a 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Prince George Cougars, Charron, as quoted by Hastings, at least hinted that Hunchak’s disappearance was more than a leave of absence, or at least a voluntary leave of absence.
“Let’s face it — things weren’t going very well,” Hastings quotes Charron as saying. “(Bonner) doesn’t like to step in and let go of anyone unless it has to come to the point where it needs to be done and maybe it had reached that point and that’s when he asked me to come in and help the kids.”
After stepping aside as head coach after last season, Charron had been serving the Blazers as an advisor to hockey operations, a position that was created in order to keep him in the organization. One of the things that he mentioned when he left the head-coaching position was that he didn’t feel that his back could take too many more bus trips.
The Blazers, who have lost five straight and nine of 10, opened a seven-game homestand last night. Later, they have a six-game homestand that ends Feb. 15. After that, with the Tim Hortons Brier (the Canadian men’s curling championship) in the Interior Savings Centre, they will play 11 of their last 13 games on the road, including 10 in a row.
Yes, there are some bus miles left for Charron to travel.
Following last night’s loss to the Cougars, the Blazers are 10-29-5 and 19 points out of a playoff spot. This is a team that has been searching for its personality and it’s no wonder, because of the 24 players listed on its roster, 12 were acquired via trades. The Blazers also are carrying 11 players who were born in 1996 or 1997, with eight others born in 1995. Yes, this is a young team.
Hastings also reported that Hunchak actually left the Blazers on Thursday while the team was in Spokane. The head coach apparently flew home to Kamloops at that time, leaving associate coach Mark Ferner to run the bench in a 6-3 loss to the Chiefs on Friday night.
Interestingly, I don't think there was any mention of Hunchak’s absence during Friday night’s pre-game show, game broadcast or post-game show on Radio NL, the longtime radio voice of the Blazers. Ferner appeared on both the pre- and post-game shows.
I was at my then-desk through the entire game and listened from the start of the pre-game show to the end of Ferner's appearance on the post-game show. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall hearing anything about Hunchak's absence.
Hunchak, who worked as an assistant/associate coach alongside Charron for two seasons, was named head coach on May 15. He signed a two-year contract that includes a club option for a third season.

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