Welcome to Quick Shift, which provides previews on each of the 20 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League teams leading up to the start of the 2023-24 regular season. Next we shift over to the Grand Forks Border Bruins, who are coming off a highly successful season in which they won the Neil Murdoch regular season division title for the first time in 49 years with a record of 25-16-1-2 in 44 games. They lost in the opening round of the KIJHL Teck Cup playoffs to the Creston Valley Thunder Cats. Border Bruins Head Coach & GM Dave Hnatiuk answered questions to provide insight into his team.
What are the important characteristics/skills you look for in players to shape your roster?
We want solid characters who fit our culture and understand accountability and compete. Players need to have hockey intelligence and the required skill to play in the KIJHL.
Did you have a good off-season of recruiting?
I am happy with the incoming recruits. We have had a large turnover so being able to sign some pretty high-end U18AA players, as well as U18AAA players and from academies was great.
What do you like about the group of players returning who will play a big part on your team?
This is my third season here, so it’s nice to have a few 20-year-olds that have been here with me since the start. They have embraced the culture and are coming back from a pretty successful year. There is a burning desire to keep raising the bar within the core group and I am excited to see the standards they hold themselves and the first-year players to.
Note: Ray Warrack is returning for his third year. He produced 15 points in 31 regular season games last season and had five assists in five Teck Cup playoff games. In 73 career regular season games, the Strathmore, Alberta product has 43 points.
What were some key areas of success achieved last season that the organization wants to build on?
The turnaround in Grand Forks has been pretty remarkable over the past few years and we look to continue with forward momentum. We strive to get better in all aspects of the program and have set a new bar on expectations on and off-the-ice. Grand Forks has become a very attractive place to play for what we offer as we keep being a leading driver in program enhancement throughout the league. We have a few surprises in store this year and are excited about the season ahead.
What is the important vision you have that leads to building the team you want?
It starts in the dressing room with creating a culture where players find success in a positive and supportive environment. We want players who are dedicated to development, the team, and community are essential here. Showing up prepared to work, compete and be a great teammate are the building blocks of the foundation. We provide structure, skill development, team tactics, various avenues of support (mental and physical), education, community involvement and top-notch facilities for our players to succeed in all aspects. Combine these things with highly dedicated, skilled players and we should be on the road to another successful season.