Grizzlies bring Bestwick back to BCHL
New Victoria owners set to give former Clippers boss the helm
By Mario Annicchiarico, Times Colonist
June 20, 2012
The long, drawn-out sale that transfers the majority ownership of the Victoria Grizzlies to Vancouver Island Sports and Entertainment Ltd. - a locally owned company - is expected to be announced this morning at a news conference.
The VISE group - led by Ron Walchuk of National Bank Financial as president - is expected to introduce Bill Bestwick, formerly of the Nanaimo Clippers, as head coach and general manager of the B.C. Hockey League club.
Former Victoria Royals assistant Craig Didmon will likely end up as Bestwick's assistant in both positions.
And the club is said to be adding a second assistant coach from a local Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League club in the near future.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to become an owner of this great hockey franchise with its long history of success in the community," said Walchuk, who is also a former manager with the South Island Thunderbirds major midget team and vice-president of the Victoria Racquet Club Kings. "Our focus is all about being a strong partner in the community, building a winning team and pursuing championships.
"This is an investment in the future of the Grizzlies and Junior A hockey in Victoria. Together with our business partners and supporters, we are going to deliver a great hockey experience for young players and our fans," said Walchuk.
The roles minority owners Reza Binab, Mark Wagstaff and Jody Twa maintain is uncertain, although Twa is likely to remain with the Grizzlies.
Wagstaff represented the club at the recent league meetings in Richmond.
Bestwick's name had surfaced within the last week as the group continued to iron out the majority purchase from Len Barrie.
Bestwick - released by the Clippers in 2011 after serving 12 seasons and winning two league titles and the 2004 Doyle Cup - is a city councillor in Nanaimo, former owner of the Clippers and also sits as operations manager with the Vancouver Island Raiders football team and Nanaimo Timbermen lacrosse clubs.
In the successful 2003-04 BCHL season, Bestwick's Clippers ran up an impressive 37-15-2-6 record and improved that to a remarkable 44-12-0-4 log the next year.
Known on the Island as "Mr. Clipper" and a man who bled orange - Nanaimo's colours - Bestwick coached more than 1,100 games in the BCHL. He was also twice named Coastal Conference coach of the year and had short stints in Victoria.
The Victoria ownership change must still be officially presented to the BCHL board of governors, where it is expected to be approved.
"This is good news for the BCHL and for Junior A hockey in Victoria," said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. "I met with Ron Walchuk as things unfolded and the board of governors looks forward to dealing with the changeofownership request."
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