The Major Midget Kootenay Ice hosts their spring camp this weekend at the Beaver Valley Arena. Jim Bailey photo.

Major Midget Kootenay Ice open spring camp with new GM

Kootenay Ice announces that Les Cleverly will take over GM duties just in time for Spring Camp

The BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice will hold its spring camp this weekend with a new General Manager at the helm.

Grand Forks resident and Kootenay Ice trainer, Les Cleverley, will take over from last year’s GM Garrett Ferguson.

Related read: New GM, new season for Major Midget Kootenay Ice

Cleverly brings a solid resume to the High Performance program. He has worked with BC Hockey in an organizational and training capacity, and was equipment manager for Team BC U18 female hockey team at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer in February.

“I’ve been working with BC Hockey, with their high performance program for the past four years with Team BC,” said Cleverly. “So because I live locally and I’ve been working with the Kootenay Ice the past two years as a trainer, they encouraged me to throw my name in the ring.”

The Kootenay Ice struggled this season finishing in 11th place in the BC Major Midget League with a 4-32-3-1 record, so changes were expected. Head coach Kris Boyce and his coaching staff did a remarkable job, leading the Ice to their first ever playoff appearance in 2017 – Kootenay’s first year in Trail as part of the High Performance Academy at J. L. Crowe. The Ice just missed a playoff spot last year going 13-23-0-4, but fell off dramatically in 2019.

“We’ve seen a lack of progress over the last two years, so we’re going to go with a full rebuild, and right now I’m actively engaged with BC Hockey on interviewing the best (coaching) applicants to turn the bench around,” said Cleverly. “I’m pleasantly optimistic that we’re going to have some different flavour on the bench and that’s going to also improve the hockey experience.”

Related read: BCMML Kootenay Ice opens season against league champs

Cleverly recognizes the challenges faced by the Ice coaching staff when it comes to recruiting players and competing with the larger centres like Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops. However, he’s not using it as an excuse, and is focused on building a team that will compete.

“I do have some fairly deep reach within the hockey community, and I’ve got some connectivity in the different parts of the East Kootenay, so I’m really just leveraging the relationships I’ve built over the years and trying to recruit that way.

“The big thing for me in wanting to turn the team around is really enhancing the player experience, and bringing value to the parents who are investing into the program.”

That rebuild starts Saturday and the Ice GM expects about 40 players at the spring camp in Beaver Valley, mainly sourced from East and West Kootenay players, with a strong selection of goalies.

“As I’ve explained to the parents, my goal in this, especially with the coaching change, my goal is to get the right person and not necessarily the quickest person. I’ve got all the key pieces to make this camp a success so we can build our team.”

The High Performance Academy’s Dara Waterstreet and Dave Pasin, Ice assistant coach Kyle Hope, and Trail Smoke Eaters assistant coach Kyle Chernenkoff, among others, will put the up-and-coming Ice through two days of practices and scrimmages at the Beaver Valley Arena.

Cleverly is optimistic and says the Ice have a solid compliment of players returning next year with a good mix of new recruits including last year’s affiliate players Brady Ross, Dallas Maximick, Jacob Smith, and Ethan Smyth.

“We’re going to do a heck of a lot better than we did last year and the season before, but it’s going to be a long road to get to a top-three spot in the league. Working with the secondary school in town and on the Academy side, we really have the ability to improve the overall experience, which is my job.”

The players will be split into two teams with Game 1 going at 11:15 a.m., a practice at 4 p.m. and Game 2 at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday at the B.V. Arena. The camp wraps up on Sunday with Game 3 at 8 a.m., followed by exit interviews.

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