New Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach and general manager Brian Passmore stands outside the Island Savings Centre arena as he prepares to embark on his first season leading a junior A hockey team. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

New Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach and general manager Brian Passmore stands outside the Island Savings Centre arena as he prepares to embark on his first season leading a junior A hockey team. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Caps hand the reins to Brian Passmore

New coach wants to send more players to college ranks

As a former student-athlete himself, and having spent the last two years coaching at Shawnigan Lake School, Brian Passmore is going to make academics a priority for his new team.

Passmore was named head coach and general manager of the junior A Cowichan Valley Capitals late last week, replacing Bob Beatty, who resigned after four years at the helm. The new bench boss has the specific goal of helping more players move from the Caps to the collegiate ranks, beginning with the recruiting process.

“One thing is that I want to look at all the players’ grades,” Passmore said. “I want kids who want to move on to NCAA and CIS [recently renamed USports], and I want to help them move on to the next level. My goal is to get as many guys into scholarships as I can. I want to work closely with the players and find out their interests. That’s going to be a priority for us as a coaching staff.”

Getting college representatives in the stands with their eyes on the Cowichan players is another key part of that process.

“We’ll get scouts out to watch them,” Passmore said. “And make sure the scouts have all the right information when they’re coming out to watch.”

Passmore, 37, spent four years in the major junior Ontario Hockey League, getting picked by the Minnesota Wild in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL draft. He followed that up with two seasons at the University of Prince Edward Island before embarking on a pro career that took him throughout the U.S., then to Norway, Switzerland and England before ending in Oklahoma in 2009.

He served as head coach and GM of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Peninsula Panthers from 2012-14, then as head coach of the Westshore Wolves for 2014-15 before joining the staff at Shawnigan for the next two seasons. He has also owned Passmore Hockey for the last four years, and has been an associate player representative with Norton Sports Management for three years. All those things have helped prepare him to run a junior A team.

“I’ve been coaching bantam at Shawnigan, so those kids are 14 years old and in their [Western Hockey League] draft year,” Passmore related. “I’ve been getting those players prepared for the draft and helping them deal with school, finding a good balance of school and hockey, and promoting the NCAA route.”

Passmore said he has been in touch with some of the Capitals players already, some of whom are very excited for the opportunity.

Caleb Franklin, a Cowichan Valley product who spent the last two seasons with the junior B Kerry Park Islanders and has committed to the Caps for 2017-18, has done ice sessions with Passmore in the past, and is optimistic about the coaching change.

“Since Brian became coach, I haven’t talked to him, but I do know him,” Franklin said. “I have enjoyed his coaching in the past and am looking forward to having him as my coach this season.”

Among the 2017-18 recruits that Passmore knows best is defenceman Boo Grist, who comes to the Caps out of the Shawnigan midget program.

“Boo is a hard-nosed defenceman,” Passmore said. “He’s very smart and he can move the puck. I watched him closely at Shawnigan. He’s a good student athlete and a model player. He’s a guy who can have success in this league.”

At this point in the process, Passmore is finalizing a roster and schedule for training camp and the preseason, and he likes how the team is shaping up so far.

“I think we’ll be a defensive team,” he said. “We’re looking to add some goal scorers. I want to have a fast team that is relentless on the puck. If we don’t have the puck, I want to be a team that gets it back as fast as possible.”

Passmore will be joined on the bench by assistant coach Dan Whiteford, who returns for a second season. The other assistant from last season, Rob DeClark, will not be returning to the team after six seasons. Assistant general manager Darren Rodney’s role has also expanded for the upcoming campaign as he has been promoted to director of hockey operations.

Passmore’s predecessor, Beatty, compiled a record of 94 wins, 126 losses, 10 ties and 12 overtime losses in his four seasons with the Caps. Beatty came to Cowichan with 17 years of experience in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, including a national junior A championship in 2003. He guided the Caps to back-to-back playoff appearances the last two seasons, ending a three-year postseason drought.

Passmore is eager to get his first season as a junior A head coach underway.

“It’s a step up,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, a great league. A lot of good hockey players come out of this league. I’m thrilled for the opportunity. I want to put together a team that will make the community proud.”