Not since the death of Ed Chynoweth on April 22, 2008 has the face of the WHL changed the way it has in the last few weeks.
After 26 seasons in Spokane, Tim Speltz is leaving the Chiefs. Speltz, the Chiefs’ general manager, is joining the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs as director of western area scouting. He will continue to live in Spokane, while scouting and overseeing a staff of four — two amateur and two pro scouts.
If you’re wondering, Speltz was a fan of the Maple Leafs when he was a youngster. “A little, yes,” he
told Taking Note via email. “More Leafs than Habs, but always a Bobby Orr fan.” Yes, even then he was scouting individual talent.
|Tim Speltz, the Spokane Chiefs' GM for 26 years, is leaving to|
join the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs. (Spokane Chiefs graphic)
Speltz’s departure follows the move of Kelly McCrimmon to the NHL’s expansion Las Vegas franchise. McCrimmon owns the reigning-champion Brandon Wheat Kings and also was the team’s general manager and head coach. McCrimmon has been with the Wheat Kings since 1988.
Not only are Speltz and McCrimmon the best of friends, they were three of the most powerful men in the WHL, the other being Bruce Hamilton, the chairman of the board of governors and the president/general manager of the Kelowna Rockets.
McCrimmon, as chairman, and Speltz both were on the WHL’s four-man competition committee.
Speltz, 57, is the only general manager the Chiefs have had since Bobby Brett, the organization’s managing partner, purchased the team in 1990 from Vic Fitzgerald for a price believed in the neighbourhood of Cdn$800,000.
Speltz had spent the previous two seasons as the GM of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
From a Chiefs’ news release:
“In the 26 years under his leadership, the organization has experienced success rivalled by very few in the Western Hockey League, winning two WHL championships and Memorial Cups in 1991 and 2008.
“With Speltz at the helm, the Chiefs won 961 regular-season games. They topped 40 wins 10 times, 50 wins twice and 100 points four times. They added 142 playoff wins, reaching the postseason in 23 of his 26 seasons, the Western Conference final seven times and the WHL final four times.”
Speltz twice was the WHL’s executive of the year (1995-96, 1999-2000); he was the CHL’s top executive in 1995-96. He also has been part of Hockey Canada’s program for the past three years, first with the U-18 team and, for the past two seasons, with the U-20 program.
Speltz will stay on with the Chiefs through training camp, which opens next week, and will help with the transition to a new GM.
“We don’t know how soon we will have a new guy on board,” Brett told a news conference.
Interestingly, Speltz hired only six head coaches during his 26 years with the Chiefs, and two of those now are NHL head coaches. When he took over, he inherited Bryan Maxwell, who stayed on for the next four seasons. Speltz hired Mike Babcock to replace Maxwell. Babcock was there through six seasons, with Perry Ganchar (2), Al Conroy (3), Bill Peters (3), Hardy Sauter (2) and Don Nachbaur, who is preparing for his seventh season in Spokane, following, in that order.
Babcock, of course, is heading into his second season as the Maple Leafs’ head coach, while Peters is preparing for his third season as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.
It can’t be easy trying to find a general manager at this late date. An obvious candidate would seem to be Matt Bardsley, who has been with the Portland Winterhawks for ages and is presently their assistant general manager. But one would have to think there might be some wheeling and dealing to make something like that happen.
There are a couple of names out there with experience in Lorne Molleken and Brent Parker, neither of whom is involved with the WHL at the moment.
And what about Bruno Campese, who didn’t get near enough credit for his stint as GM with the Prince Albert Raiders?
With McCrimmon and Speltz gone, it will be interesting to see how the WHL’s power base shifts.
Hamilton, of course, remains as the WHL’s most powerful individual; he likely is No. 2 in major junior hockey, behind only David Branch, who is the commissioner of the OHL and the president of the CHL.
It could be that long-time WHLers like Russ Farwell, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ governor and GM, Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels, move into that upper echelon, along with Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants.
General manager Peter Anholt of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has been around the WHL for a long time and could end up with a louder voice at the table, especially if his club continues his climb out of a financial sewer.
Relative newcomers like Greg Pocock, the governor, managing partner and president of the Prince George Cougars, and general managers Cam Hope (Victoria Royals), Garry Davidson (Everett Silvertips) and John Paddock (Regina Pats) all have lots to contribute given the opportunity.
Of course, Mike Johnston, vice-president, general manager and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks, has lots to contribute but it could be that some WHL people are unable to forgive or forget.
A name coming to me as possible next GM of the Brandon Wheat Kings is Victoria Royals AGM/Director of Player Personnel Grant Armstrong. #WHL— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) August 17, 2016
Guy Flaming, from The Pipeline Show, broke the Tim Speltz move on Tuesday afternoon, and followed up with the above tweet.
Grant Armstrong, from North Vancouver, joined the Victoria Royals as director of player personnel on Aug. 1, 2012, and has since added assistant GM to his job description. He had spent the previous
The Wheat Kings, of course, need a general manager now that Kelly McCrimmon, their owner, GM and head coach, has signed on with the NHL’s expansion team in Las Vegas. He has just returned from scouting the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Should Armstrong end up with Brandon, it would be an interesting hire for McCrimmon. Armstrong left Portland about four months before the Winterhawks were slammed by the WHL for “violations related to player benefits.”
As Portland’s head scout when many of those violations occurred, I don’t have any idea how much, if any, knowledge Armstrong had of what was happening. But I do know that McCrimmon was a big believer in the way the WHL dealt with the Winterhawks.
D Jared Hauf, who played out his junior eligibility with the Seattle Thunderbirds, will attend the U of Calgary and play for the Dinos. Hauf played in 343 regular-season games with the Thunderbirds, leaving him third on their all-time list, behind Glen Goodall (399) and Luke Lockhart (345). . . . Hauf had 11 goals and 47 assists with Seattle. He had two goals and four assists in 40 playoff games.
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Nate Bedford is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars. Bedford, a 36-year-old native of Peterborough, Ont., had been the head coach at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alta., for the previous two seasons. All told, he spent four years there. . . . He takes over from Kevin Hasselberg, the SJHL’s reigning coach of the year who now is the GM and head coach of the SPHL’s Pensacola Ice Flyers. Hasselberg had been with the North Stars for five seasons. . . . Lucas Punkari of the Battlefords News-Optimist has more right here.
The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings added two men to their front office on Tuesday, naming Tanner McCall general manager and head scout, with Wes Rudy coming on board as head coach. . . . They replace Bryce Thoma, who had been the GM and head coach before leaving to join the Saskatoon Blades as an assistant coach. . . . Rudy was an assistant coach with the Red Wings last season, after spending three seasons as their goaltending coach. . . . Last season, McCall was the Red Wings’ assistant GM and head scout. He also worked as an assistant coach alongside Thoma.
The AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints have added Eric Morrissette to their staff as an assistant coach and director of player development. He will work with Mike Ringrose, who is preparing for his first season as general manager and head coach. . . . Morrissette is a two-time midget AAA coach of the year in Alberta. . . . The Saints also added Chad Ziegler as an assistant coach and Geoff Wowk as head scout. . . . Ziegler, who is from Spruce Grove, played for the Saints before going on to spend four seasons as Yale. . . . Wowk has spent the past three seasons scouting for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.