Derek Stuart, Mario DiBella, Geoff Grimwood and Carter Rigby were named Coach of the Year by Kootenay International Junior Hockey League for their respective divisions earlier in the week. Each of them shared what the recognition means to them and more.
Stuart – Eddie Mountain – “It’s always nice to get recognized by your other coaches,” said the Kimberley Dynamiters Head Coach and GM, a two-time Coach of the Year. “Our division was the best in the league again so when your peers do a really good job with their own teams it makes the recognition a bit more meaningful in my opinion.”
Stuart enjoyed watching the Dynamiters go from being an average hockey team (before Christmas) to becoming “an elite team with a real chance at winning the Teck Cup Championship.”
Stuart, who was named the KIJHL Coach of the Year in 2019-20, has grown as a coach, especially improving how he deals with officials accepting they are doing their best. That has helped him stay in control of his emotions.
“I’m most proud of the way this group of players has developed into a real team,” he said. “Each one of them has made the team goals their top priority and they play for each other instead of themselves.”
DiBella – Neil Murdoch – “It’s definitely an honour. There are a lot of good coaches in our division and to be thought of that highly, to be named Coach of the Year is both a pleasant surprise and a humbling experience,” said DiBella, the Nelson Leafs Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel, who is now a two-time Coach of the Year winner who will retire from the Leafs at the end of the season.
What impresses DiBella about his team is that they had no players in the top-15 in points, yet they scored the second highest goal total in the league.
“That says a lot to the kind of team that we have assembled,” he said. “For me, there is personal gratification in seeing that kind of a selfless team and the kind of players that we have playing for us.
“Definitely coaching with my son Adam has been a dream come true,” he continued. “Trying to mentor him along to take over the role of Head Coach and General Manager is something that I’ve worked towards. Seeing that come to fruition is a very rewarding conclusion for me.”
Rigby – Bill Ohlhausen – “It’s pretty cool to receive any awards you get, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty thankful for the group that we have to get the record we do have,” said Rigby, Osoyoos Coyotes Head Coach, who guided the Coyotes to 33 wins in 42 games in his first full season. “I’m thankful to Randy Bedard for giving me the opportunity to bring the players that we have in and our record shows it. A lot of our team has thankfully helped me out in getting this and I’m pretty happy with it.”
After taking over the program two years ago, Rigby has enjoyed the transformation that has happened.
“The freedom to build a team that I wanted, sometimes you get a GM or an owner that doesn’t give you the financial backing or the freedom to do what you want, especially as a younger guy,” said Rigby. “Randy had full confidence in me from Day 1.”
Grimwood- Doug Birks – “Every coach in our division this year did a great job,” said Grimwood, the Kamloops Storm Head Coach. “The results from the first few games in the playoffs show how tight it is and how well prepared all the teams are.
“I feel this is definitely a team award,” he continued. “I feel really fortunate to be with the group we have with great leadership from our owner Tracy Mero and our GM Matt Kolle. Matt has built a really good team and surrounded me with a great coaching staff with Scott Norman, Andrew Fisher and our trainer Pete Friedl. Former Head Coach Steve Gainey has also been a really big mentor for me and is very supportive.”
Grimwood has enjoyed the players, who have been incredibly receptive and coachable and have worked really hard.
“It’s such a fun age to be around and they really make it enjoyable to be at the rink,” he said.
One thing that stands out about the season for Grimwood was when the floods in Merritt took place and McArthur Park Arena became an emergency centre with shelter for displaced families.
“When you open your office door and see a family and their dog sleeping on cots, who may have just lost their home, it makes you realize how fortunate we are to get to do what we do,” he said. “As COVID-19 hopefully recedes from our day-to-day lives, I know Kolle and I feel how important it will be to get the players back into the community and help all of our businesses and people on the North Shore of Kamloops and show our gratitude.”