Barry Petrachenko is no longer CEO of BC Hockey, dismissed this past Monday after 20 years on the job.
Bill Greene, BC Hockey’s board chair, and Petrachenko spoke to KTW this week.
“We felt we would make that change, get a new CEO, bring in somebody that has some newness to them and some fresh ideas and, hopefully, we can make this a really positive move for our members and improve hockey all around B.C. and in the Yukon territory,” Greene said.
Petrachenko, who learned of his imminent termination just prior to the Easter long weekend, was reached on Friday at his home in Victoria.
“It certainly is a shock to the system,” Petrachenko said. “I wasn’t thinking two weeks ago about anything but trying to find ways to make the game better coming out of this pandemic. I’ve spoken to people and have had great conversations, but it’s not the same. All of a sudden, you’re not part of the club any more. That’s always challenging.”
Greene was asked if rumblings of discontent from some member associations led to the decision, which was relayed to members in an April 21 memorandum.
“I think those rumblings are always there,” Greene said. “One of the things we’ve certainly learned over the years is, from time to time, we have to agree to disagree. Sometimes that happens. There was always a little bit of that friction there. I wouldn’t say that’s the only factor, but it’s certainly a contributing factor to us making the change. These aren’t the type of decisions that are made in a short order of time.”
Petrachenko said more has been accomplished within the last three or four years of his term than in the previous 15 or 16 years combined.
Changes are never easy and are usually met with resistance, Petrachenko said.
“If you take the overall province, over the last three years, we were in the normal state of associations that either had friction or were happy,” he said. “For every association that had a tough issue, we had another association that was very excited about the decisions being made.”
Petrachenko cited the Okanagan Zone as an example.
“OMAHA [Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association] wanted AA Zone Hockey. We supported that,” Petrachenko said. “But it was a constant source of friction, even though they came to us asking for it. Maybe things like that make it seem like there are issues, but I can say across the province, with the support and feedback I’ve gotten in the last week or so, I think I was pretty accurate in my assessment that I would not call our membership disgruntled by any means.”
Greene noted the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in the decision.
“He’s done a lot of great things for our organization and the board of directors felt that with the change in landscape of hockey and what’s ahead of us, that we’re not really sure of, that we’d like to go at it with a different feel to it,” Greene said.
“We are sensitive to the needs of our members and the opinions of our members. At the same time, we can never be satisfied with where we’re at. We’ve always got to try to be better and work hard to do that. The decision was a tough decision. He’s been with us a long time.”
Greene said Petrachenko leaves a legacy that includes work with World Junior Hockey Championships and the improvement of the BC Hockey governance model, perhaps most notably the shrinking of its board size.
“He’s done a lot of great things for us over the years and we appreciate everything he’s done, but it really is a time for us to move forward and bring in some young, fresh new ideas,” Greene said. “Not that Barry’s old, but the world is a changing place and the landscape is changing constantly and it’s important we stay in step.”
Petrachenko said the organization has come a long way during his tenure.
“When I arrived, I didn’t have a computer in my office,” he said. “Going from no computer to where we’re at today, there are a lot of things BC Hockey does very well.”
The creation of minor and major midget leagues, the introduction of the zone program and major bantam league and playing pivotal roles in two World Junior Hockey Championships are among highlights, Petrachenko said.
“If you talk to provincial sports organizations, it’s pretty incredible to have a run of 20 years because everything you do has the potential to make someone happy and someone not like it or upset,” he said.
The change in governance structure, which began in 2015, allowed for major growth, the ousted CEO said.
“The programming in B.C. went from great to terrific,” Petrachenko said. “We were able to get things done and accomplish a lot since that change. It was almost like sunshine after rain and the grass starts to grow. Above all that, I think in the last three or four years, the ability to really start to work with our member minor hockey associations and junior leagues toward a new future, to really get them thinking about the future and their buy-in to it, their excitement about it, that was probably the most exciting thing.”
Chief program officer Jeremy Ainsworth and chief financial officer Jen Cheeseman will carry out leadership until a new CEO is introduced.
Greene said the plan is to find Petrachenko’s successor in the next two to three months, prior to the 2020-2021 season, with prerequisites including great business sense, forward-thinking ideas and a love for sports.
“We’re looking for an all-around person that can work well with the public and help us bring our members together and stay in step with the times,” Greene said. “We’re excited for the future.”
Petrachenko spent the last two weeks decompressing, with little thought put into his hockey future.
“There are so many great people in B.C. and on our staff that made every day for me seem like life, not like a job,” Petrachenko said. “To spend last week disconnected from that, I’ve found that challenging. That’s a bit of a difficult void to overcome, for sure.”