With a new owner and a new head coach, the Kerry Park Islanders are ready for a new beginning.
Although the Isles were successful on the ice last season, finishing second in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s South Division in the regular season, things were more tumultuous off the ice, and the team ended up in receivership.
That’s when Carl Ollech stepped in to buy the club.
“It’s a labour of love for our community,” Ollech explained. “I walked away from the table three times, but I came back because it’s about the kids and the community. If it was just about business, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Ollech is the sales manager and part-owner of Duncan Ironworks, and has been involved in the Cowichan Valley community for more than 20 years. The company is a sponsor of organizations like the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the Chemainus Theatre and the Duncan Curling Club, and Ollech feels it is important to be involved in the community.
Ollech and his wife, Marnie, are both “Island kids,” he said, and his grandfather was born in Chemainus.
“Without the community, we wouldn’t have good workers,” he said. “We wouldn’t have good citizens.”
Ollech has hired Nanaimo’s Mitch Heslop as his head coach. Heslop has several years of coaching experience at different levels, including with the Snipers spring hockey program. He is also a distinguished alumnus of the VIJHL, having led the league in points in 1998-99 while playing for the Port Alberni Bandits.
“I’ve coached with him for a few years going back a lot of years now,” Ollech said. “He’s a super-good guy, he’s got experience, and he likes to develop players.”
Ollech’s son Ryan will serve as general manager and might help out behind the bench, although he does have a year of junior eligibility remaining and could decide to play. Ryan spent the last two seasons playing junior A hockey in the US. Carl’s other son, Tyler, a defenceman, is trying out for midget AAA, could find a job with the Islanders as a regular or AP.
Some key members of the 2018-19 Kerry Park team aged out of junior, and several have committed to or are trying out for junior A teams, including VIJHL scoring leader Evan Easton and his linemate Brandon McClintick and offensive defenceman Dawson Blanchette, who have all signed on with the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
A handful of players are expected to return from last year’s team, including forwards Riley Windsor, Logan Furkalo and Cole Amado, and defencemen Arsh Dhillon, Matt Baird and Lyndon Drummond. Dylan Wilson, who was outstanding in a playoff appearance as an AP from juvenile last year, is expected to be one of the goalies.
“We want a competitive team, but this is a rebuilding year; we lost a lot of kids,” Ollech said. “With some good leadership, by Christmas we should be a tough team to beat.”
Braydon Nelson, who started 2018-19 as the team’s captain, has decided to come back this year, and the Isles may get Isaac Leik back from junior A tryouts.
“We’re gonna have some depth,” Ollech assured. “There’s some kids I’ve been watching for a couple of years, there’s just some development needed for them.”
The team is still looking for assistant coaches and volunteers for the coming season. Anyone interested in helping out should call Ollech at 250-701-1116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Without volunteers and community backing this team, we’re not going to be successful,” the new owner emphasized.
The Isles will play their lone preseason exhibition game in Comox on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and their home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 7 against the Peninsula Panthers.