On the eve of kicking of the AJHL’s 50th Anniversary Season, The Grande Prairie Storm are very excited to announce some changes to their Hockey Operations Department.
After joining the Storm as an Assistant Coach in 2007, and after two successful campaigns as GM and Head Coach, Blaine Bablitz has been promoted to the role of full time General Manager with the team, effective immediately.
"Over the summer I have been able to create a strong dynamic for Hockey Operations. There will be many positive impacts in the changes that have been made not only for the Storm organization but also for the local hockey community.” said Bablitz. “Stepping away from coaching was a very tough decision. I love the game of hockey, and my passion is to coach, but I strongly believed that I could not let this opportunity to pass by.”
Taking over as Head Coach is Matt Hughes, who is entering his second season with the team. After a playing career that saw him play 3 years with the Penticton Panthers of the BCHL, and a couple of seasons playing pro in Europe, Matt returned to the BC interior and began his coaching career in 2002 as the Head Coach of Penticton’s Bantam AA program, leading the team to a provincial championship and seeing four members of his squad being drafted into the WHL. Since then Matt has honed his craft and found himself in a variety of roles, Assistant Coach, Associate Coach, Video Coach, Assistant General Manager, and General Manager, all throughout BC, working his way up the ladder in locations like Summerland, Columbia Valley, Quesnel, Salmon Arm, and Dawson Creek.
Bablitz speaks highly of Hughes, “Matt is a very highly qualified and experienced coach. He did a great job for us last season as an Assistant. He has the skills and knowledge necessary and I strongly believe he will do a great job in leading our on ice-product”
Joining Matt on the bench this year as Assistant Coaches are Jim Lawrence and Adam Manah.
“Being former teammates with Jim, I know he has a great hockey mind. His passion is to Coach. Jim currently owns and operates a Hockey Specific Training Center in Sylvan Lake. The possibility of this center moving to Grande Prairie will be huge not only for the Storm but for all young local hockey players in the city and Peace Country. He and his family will be a great addition to the City.
Adam Manah will be joining the Coaching Staff in addition to his role as Head Coach of the local Midget AAA team. Adam is young enthusiastic coach. He has great coaching skills and will help in bridging the gap between the Storm and GPAC. Bridging this gap played a large part in me making these moves. It will allow me to work more closely with the GPAC program and as well have the time necessary to scout and recruit local players from here in Grande Prairie and area. It is the goal of the organization to get back to having more local talent on the hockey team and again I strongly believe making this change will help to ensure of this goal in the near future.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)