Maintaining the den: A look at the Grizzlies hockey operations staff


(This article was originally published on Nov. 9, 2020.)

In my past three articles, I’ve talked about the players on the ice for the Grizzlies. But any junior hockey team like the Grizzlies has a ton of people working behind the scenes. Everyone from the support staff to game day volunteers help the Grizzlies run smoothly.

These are the people who help the players prepare for life after junior hockey. They are the people who help make life easier for them while they’re away from their families. They are also the people who help game day operations.

Things have changed in the era of COVID-19. Pandemic restrictions have prevented fans from entering to see the games. Despite this, the support staff is still there. They will help these players during an unprecedented season. They deserve recognition for their roles.

In the first group, I want to recognize the game day volunteers. They help the arena run smoothly during games. Their role is especially vital with COVID-19 restrictions limiting how many people are allowed inside the building.

The second group I want to recognize is the businesses that sponsor the Grizzlies. With the loss of ticket revenue, their financial support is more vital than ever.  They help the team run games without fans and give the players a chance to play.

The final group I want to recognize is the billet families. These are ordinary families who agree to take in kids they don’t know. They provide a home away from home for the players while they’re pursuing their hockey dreams.

As for the people behind the bench, let’s begin with the head coach and general manager Craig Didmon. Didmon played in the BCHL for Victoria Warriors and was one of their leading scorers over three seasons from 1989-92.

Behind the bench and more

Didmon started coaching with the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League during the 2002-03 season. He joined the Grizzlies before the 2007-08 season. After one season as an assistant coach with the Victoria Royals in 2011-12, he rejoined the Grizzlies and became their head coach and GM midway through the 2014-15 season.

The first of the assistant coaches is Kevin Fitzpatrick. Another assistant coach is Jason Reimer, who also serves as the Grizzlies’ goaltending coach. Reimer has been with the Grizzlies since the 2017-18 season.

Another assistant coach is Kevin Craig.  He joined the Grizzlies during the 2017-18 season like Reimer did. Joining him as the video coach is Ron Lindsay, who joined the Grizzlies last season.

Rounding out the coaching staff is skating coach Mena Westhaver. She joined the Grizzlies during the 2019-20 season and is the mother of former Grizzlies forward and current Long Island University freshman Marty Westhaver, along with current Grizzlies reserve player Andy Westhaver.

Moving on from the coaching staff, we have Dave Warbeck as the director of training and injury management.

Earlier I mentioned how important the billet families are. The person that helps coordinate with those families for the Grizzlies is billet coordinator Sheryl Williamson.

Helping take care of the players’ spiritual needs is team Pastor Eric Guthrie. The team’s mental performance consultant is Dr. Bruce Pinel. He helps the Grizzlies players set short and long-term goals, improve confidence, and reduce performance anxiety.

Finally, there us Butch Boucher and Paul Jaswal, they are the Grizzlies education advisors.

Preparing for the next step

Boucher and Jaswal help the Grizzlies players with their school work. They also help the players prepare for college entrance exams. Boucher specializes in helping players get university scholarships. He and Jaswal also aid the players in math.

Jaswal helps the players shore up their math when preparing for the SAT or ACT. He is also there once the players return from long road trips. Of course, with COVID-19 restrictions this season, there won’t be any visits to the Okanagan or the Kootenays.

Finally, two other important people work behind the scenes. Scott Didmon handles corporate business development. He’s also the Grizzlies play-by-play announcer for games broadcast on HockeyTV and Mixlr. He is the voice people hear when they watch or listen to Grizzlies games online.

Then there’s Roy Anthonisen. He is the team’s videographer and video editor and does the camera work for Grizzlies home games.

Anthonisen also runs a YouTube channel called BlackBearMedia1 that has clips from past Grizzlies seasons. It also has a few unexpected surprises and is worth checking out.

There is one last person that needs mentioning. The bus driver who gets the team from game-to-game all over the province. COVID-19 will limit the Grizzlies to playing on Vancouver Island but the driver is still important.

If you ever wonder about the people who work behind the bench and behind the scenes, I hope this helps clarify their roles on the team. They all play an integral role in the success of the franchise and its players.