Ryan Pinder and Brian Wiebe have the word that Joey Bouchard has resigned from his job with Merritt before he coached even a single game for the team. Wiebe sites personal reasons (differences with the executive) and says there's a new Coach and GM locked up. I'm on vacation (missing training camp for my friend's wedding) so I don't have a lot of time to discuss this further. However, if I were a betting man I would think this has something to do with budget. Bouchard came into town under the assumption that his friends and Junior B bosses from Alberta were going to buy the team. Brent Stark was apparently going to pump some serious money into the team and their budget to try and jump start the Merritt operation and put a successful product on the ice. When Stark's purchase of the team fell through at the last minute I'm sure that budget changed. Private owners can take risks that community owned teams can't. Especially community owned teams coming off massive losses.
Bouchard at the time didn't know the deal was going to fall apart and said he was sticking with the team. Only a couple of weeks later he's gone. What does this mean for players he recruited or players he was trying to recruit? Guys who came to Merritt expecting a certain coach and new ownership who will now get there and find a completely different story... how will they react?
Do I know for a fact this was about budget? Absolutely not. Let us not forget that Bouchard was expecting to work with Stark and suddenly the whole picture changed. Whatever his reasons for leaving you would have to think that ultimately it comes down to the sale falling through. So what now? Keep an eye on Brian's blog for the latest.
Is this another black eye for a Merritt franchise that has been taking blow after blow the last two seasons? Perhaps, but if Bouchard and more importantly Stark can break commitments so quickly and at such dramatic times... then maybe it's better it happened now. Imagine it were instead five months from now with no community ownership to pick up the pieces. Merritt is left with questions now instead of answers, but at least the franchise is in the hands of people who care about the team and the city. Whatever they do will be with an eye to saving hockey in Merritt. I certainly wish them luck.
We'll get a look at the Cents in Merritt for the first Smoke Eaters regular season game on September 11th. If there was ever a time and a reason for the community to rally around there team it would be now. Hopefully the fans will pack that old barn and we can open the season with a bang. Either way you'll be hearing it all live on Mountain FM!
I'll have an interview with Jim Ingram on training camp within the next couple of days. After that I'll have a very special guest on the blog for training camp and the exhibition tournament. I won't be there but he blog will go on! Can't wait to get home and get started on another season.