Grizzlies evolving into a pinnacle program in KIJHL

When talking about the Revelstoke Grizzlies program, Ryan Parent uses the word progressive and evolving.

That is what the Grizzlies have done under Parent’s watch. They have evolved and

become progressive in how they deal with players, the workload in their program and the type of coaching they have.

“We’re one of the pinnacle programs in the KI,” says Parent, whose team won the Cyclone Taylor Cup (B.C. provincial) championship last season. “I think it’s a place that players want to be for sure. Our philosophy and our view on the league is it’s a very good league. Players that aren’t able to play in Revelstoke, we steer them to other programs in the KI first. We think it is a great development option. We think there is a lot of great programs in our league that are out there.”

Read- Revelstoke Grizzlies win Cyclone Taylor Cup championship

The Grizzlies have done well in developing players. Last season’s squad has four advancing to the BCHL and Alberta Junior Hockey League.

An offseason move to keep the program evolving sees Lukas Lomicky replace Parent as head coach after two seasons as the associate head coach. Parent, the governor/president general manager of the Grizzlies, firmly believes it is good to have a new voice behind the bench, saying “it’s going to be really refreshing for our players and for me to make a small adjustment to what we’re doing.”

Lomicky brings tremendous experience having been an assistant coach for the Czech Republic’s under-17 program two years ago in Dawson Creek. Parent says those are the best players in the world for their age. Having access to what those coaches are doing at the junior B level is awesome.

“It’s an opportunity that players at our level don’t often get. He has been with the program a couple of years,” says Parent, adding that Lomicky will join the Czech national team in Medicine Hat and Swift Current for the 2019 World U17 Hockey Challenge.

Lomicky was a video and skills coach with Sparta Prague in the Czech Extraliga. He holds a masters degree in coaching from Charles University in Prague. Parent says he is a great resource for the players.

He is joined Matt Miller, who comes from the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Miller will quarterback the technology side of coaching, which Parent says is a big step for the franchise. A big step for their players – a good learning tool.

“He’s an up and coming bright young coach,” says Parent, of Miller, who has also been involved with the Penticton Vees. “A big resource for the staff and players.”

When it comes to program structure, Parent described it like an academy, which he is familiar with having coached at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence.

“It really bodes well for our players. We tell guys, it’s not maybe for everybody. The type of work that we put in, the long days that we put in. It’s challenging. What we tell players is the rewards can be big.”

Parent says the workload the Grizzlies coaching staff put players through is greater than the junior A level.

“Our players are not at the next level yet, they need to have the opportunity and tools to get there,” he says.

Parent has been part of the West Kelowna Warriors and Salmon Arm Silverbacks, holding the position of assistant coach. In Alberta, he was the coach and general manager of the Lloydminster Bobcats. He has also coached in Europe. The workload helps players advance to higher levels, though if a player is not a junior A player yet, he has got to put in more work.

“We can’t control exactly what happens with players in the offseason. How they train in the offseason is still on them,” he explains. “What we can control, and we do have access to control, is what we do in season. The volume and intensity of work, it’s the standard right now at our level.

“We want our players to have fun,” he continued. “If you talk to any player that plays in Revelstoke, Monday to Thursday is tough. It’s a grind. On the weekends, playing in front of a capacity barn, is a lot of fun. The rewards are there. It’s a great place to play hockey.”

While they may not win every year, they want to be a team that has a chance to.

On Sept.21 the Grizzlies begin pursuit of defending their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League championship when they host the Osoyoos Coyotes. Not starting on opening weekend has bought the defending Cyclone Taylor Cup champs time to clean things up and to dial in. The goal is to be among the top teams in the KIJHL, but the main goal is making the playoffs.

This season’s group went undefeated in exhibition action. The Grizzlies intend to play with speed and grit. This season’s Grizzlies are reloaded.

“We’re reloading the gun,” says Parent. “We have a large quantity of players moving up to junior A. That’s a good thing. That’s a good problem to have. Kids know they can advance.”