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Catching up with Wenatchee Wild general manager Bliss Littler

Recently, I caught up with Wenatchee Wild general manager Bliss Littler. He touched on various items from the past season to their development teams and more. While the team didn’t make it as far as everyone in the organization hoped, Littler thought that head coach Chris Clark did a nice job after taking¬†over with three months left in the season.

He thought Clark dealt with quite a few challenges including the injury bug that hit the team. Littler attributed the first round loss against the Vernon Vipers to injuries and the Wild being a young,¬†inexperienced team. However, he thought the team came a long way. “I think a lot of kids got better and a lot of kids overachieved,” Littler said.

The Wild’s recruiting for the upcoming season is complete but without a spring camp, the roster might be a slightly larger come pre-season. Once the pre-season wraps up, they’ll make final cuts and begin the regular season.

The Wild had a handful of young players who got to play significantly more quality minutes due to so many injuries affecting the team. The Wild also had six affiliate players from its developmental teams who played with the big club throughout the 2019-20 season. Littler said the Wild’s record this past season was the weakest since joining the BCHL in 2015. “Hopefully we can get back to that position where we’re challenging to win the Fred Page Cup.”

Exit interviews and player expectations

After the last game of the first round series against Vernon, Clark conducted exit interviews with players before they headed home for the summer. Littler explained that he usually joins Clark in talking to each player. They go over the player’s strengths and weaknesses and what they want to see him work on through the off-season.

They also touch on how the host family was for the player. “The families are always great,” Littler said. They’ll ask the player everything about playing for the Wild, including how he likes the hotels when they travel, meals, practices, video sessions, constructive staff criticism, and even the bus.

When it comes to expectations of players, the word rookie is considered off-limits for the Wild organization. “We don’t even use the word rookie, we don’t even use the ‘R’ word,” said Littler. Expectations are a lot different for a kid just coming in knowing they’re going off to college after one season compared to a 16 or 17-year-old just walking in the door for the first time. “Kids that are here for two years, the college tells us you can have him for two years versus a college telling you, ‘Hey we want this kid out with you this year, but he’s only staying for a year’. It’s just putting together that puzzle and trying to make it work,” expressed Littler.

A new Interior Conference rival for the Wild

On the addition of the Cranbrook Bucks, Littler thought it was a great move for the upcoming season by the BCHL. “They’ve got a great building to play in, (it) looks like they have a very good organization,” he said. “I expect them to come in and be a real good program right off the bat.”

During this off-season, the BCHL provided teams with the ability to opt out of the upcoming 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Littler said every team is planning to play in the upcoming season. The Wild joined the BCHL for 2015-16 playing as part of the Mainland Division for two years before switching over to the Interior Division, which Littler stated they much prefer saying it was a good move for them.

As for recruiting and players coming to Wenatchee, Littler explained that six players must come from the Wolves or Wilderness, two of the Wild’s development teams. He said they can use four players from their territories as affiliate players.¬† Littler mentioned that they used that more during the 2019-20 season than they have in the past.

Meanwhile, the team must have a minimum of fifteen regular players from their territories including Washington, California, Colorado, and Arizona. In addition to those requirements, they’re allowed to have four Canadians and four Americans who are considered imports from outside their territories as long as they’re 18 or older.

With the calibre of returning players and incoming recruits, the Wild once again look to field a strong team to contend for the Fred Page Cup in 2020-21, whenever the season gets started.