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Capitals Update: The return of Mike Vandekamp

On Nov. 16, there was a change behind the bench in Cowichan Valley. Brian Passmore was relieved as head coach and general manager. Replacing him is Mike Vandekamp.

Vandekamp is familiar to Capitals fans as he coached the team from 2018 to 2020. After the 2020 playoffs were canceled, Vandekamp left Cowichan to join the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Vandekamp’s return marks another BC Hockey League team bringing back a former head coach. Before the season, the Victoria Grizzlies hired Rylan Ferster to replace outgoing coach Craig Didmon.

Vandekamp inherits a rebuilding Capitals team that recruited several new players before the 2022-23 season and has also been busy on the trade front. Passmore made several trades before being let go.

This article isn’t about profiling Vandekamp’s coaching history. There is already two BCHLNetwork articles that talk about his coaching history. Instead, I want to talk about the Capitals before Vandekamp’s return and his time in Grande Prairie.

The Capitals under Passmore

After Vandekamp left for Grande Prairie two-and-a-half years ago, the Capitals hired Geoff Grimwood as head coach and GM. Grimwood voluntarily resigned several weeks after taking the job.

Grimwood cited philosophical differences between him and ownership as reasons for leaving the Caps. As for Passmore, I covered part of his tenure in a past article. He came on after Grimwood stepped down.

To keep things brief, Passmore led the team through the Port Alberni Pod in 2021 where the Capitals finished fourth out of the four Vancouver Island-based teams.

During the 2021-22 season, the Capitals finished eighth in the Coastal Conference and were eliminated in the first round by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

During that 2021-22 season, the Capitals had a difficult start. Through a series of moves, Cowichan Valley turned its season around and key among those was recruiting starting goaltender McCoy Bidewell.

Before the 2022-23 season, Passmore added many new players and before being let go, led the Capitals to a record of 5-11-1.

Vandekamp in Grande Prairie

After leaving Cowichan Valley, Vandekamp signed a three-year contract with Grande Prairie. It was the second time Vandekamp served as the Storm’s head coach.

From 2007 to 2010, Vandekamp was Grande Prairie’s coach, general manager, and director of hockey operations.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Storm played a shortened regular season in 2020-21 and after 18 games, the remainder of the games were canceled.

For the 2021-22 season, most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and the Storm completed the season with a record of 22-30-8. It didn’t qualify for the AJHL playoffs. After the season, Vandekamp and Grande Prairie mutually parted ways.

What’s next?

For Cowichan Valley, it wanted to improve upon last season’s record. While the Caps made the playoffs, they’ve had a lackluster start in 2022-23.

Vandekamp has a record of success during his career. In 2008-09, Vandekamp’s Storm won the AJHL league championship against Spruce Grove and in 2014-15, his Nanaimo Clippers made it to the BCHL league finals against Penticton.

If it wasn’t for COVID-19 canceling the 2020 playoffs after the first round, Vandekamp’s Capitals could have made the Fred Page Cup finals. Bringing him back to Duncan is meant to help turn the team around. With just over half of the season remaining, there’s lots of time for the Capitals to climb the standings in the Coastal Conference.