Tracy Mero has purchased 100 per cent ownership of Parallel Storm Hockey Group Limited, which owns the Kamloops Storm.
Barry Dewar, who until July 2 was 51 per cent owner of Parallel Storm, is no longer involved with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League club in an ownership capacity.
“He paid the rest of the money and we’re done,” Dewar said, noting the ownership transfer to Mero was set in motion three seasons ago. “This is what I wanted. It’s been 18 years. The suspension was the final kicker. The league is moving in a direction that I’m not happy with.”
Dewar referenced the one-year ban he was slapped with last season after a pair of tampering charges were upheld by B.C. Hockey, the infractions part of a series of club blunders that had KIJHL president Larry Martel calling the Storm “just a bit of a mess right now.”
Matt Kolle is tasked with leading the franchise into a new era, named the club’s governor, business manager, hockey operations manager and general manager in a press release on Monday.
“How we run the business is going to change,” Kolle said.
“We’re creating the recipe — hometown players on our team, more of a family feel to the way we run our operations, maybe the location. All those things are going to be hand in hand in this team turning it around and becoming successful.”
Kolle seemed to be teasing the idea of moving the team’s headquarters back to McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre from Memorial Arena, but he said the squad is 100 per cent committed to playing in the venerable Victoria Street barn in 2019-2020.
Dewar moved the team to Memorial from Mac Isle prior to the 2016-2017 season and attendance woes followed.
“Sometimes, a new voice can turn things around,” Dewar said. “That was part of my frustration. Nobody was listening. What do you do? You either move the team, sell the team or fold.
“I think the team has a market in Kamloops, but, unfortunately, it hasn’t been well attended and I was beating my head against the wall.”
Mero owns Quesnel-based Parallel Welding and in the past has been a proponent of bringing a KIJHL franchise to the Gold Pan City, as has Kolle.
Is the plan to keep the Storm in Kamloops?
“Absolutely,” Kolle said. “Kamloops, geographically, is the perfect place for a hockey team.
“If we run the hockey team the way it needs to be run, the fans will come. Whether it be a move back to McArthur Island or whatever it takes, the fans are coming.”
Kolle said the coaching staff for next season is likely to include Steve Gainey, Andrew Fisher, Jassi Sangha and Cody Lockwood, along with trainer Peter Friedel.
Sangha ran the bench last season, but family and work commitments will keep him from undertaking head coaching duties for 2019-2020 and he does not expect to have much spare time.
“The roles will change a little bit and we’re working on that right now,” Kolle said.
“The one thing about our status right now is we’re not a high-rolling team with a big budget. People who get involved with our team right now have to love hockey.”
The Storm’s main camp is scheduled to get underway on Aug. 26. Eight players have been signed, including a pair of Kamloopsians — Harrison Ewert and Ty Stokes.
“My theory is Kamloops is one of the best development communities in North America for hockey players,” Kolle said. “Acceleration fitness, the major midget team, the Kamloops Storm, Kamloops Junior Blazers — all the groups kind of work together in developing Kamloops kids.
“If you really look out there, there is more Kamloops kids achieving per capita than anywhere in Canada. That’s my belief. I do want the Kamloops Storm to be a stepping stone for our local kids.”
Dewar hopes his legacy with the Storm is work done to move players to higher levels of hockey and raise money for charitable causes in the community.
“Johnny Ludvig got drafted. That’s a big achievement for any KIJHL team,” Dewar said, noting the club has raised funds for St. John Ambulance, the SPCA and cancer research. “Last year, we had four or five guys playing for the Prince George Cougars, one in Seattle.
“We’ve moved a lot of players to the WHL and I’m proud of that.”
Kolle said the Storm are already a top-quality development club and hockey operations will remain mostly the same, but branding and community engagement will be improved.
“We have full decision-making power and full influence,” Kolle said. “I think we’re going to bring more of a family brand to the community, more like a community feel to our team, something that more fans and people can embrace.
“We want to be better to our volunteers, better to our billets. We want to involve these people so they feel some ownership, as well.”
Kathy Grant of Hub Impact has been hired to handle Storm marketing duties and help with office operations.
Dewar plans to help Kolle settle into his roles.
“I’ll stay on and help Matt [Kolle] transition and volunteer and do what I can to help,” Dewar said.
“I’m going to be 66 next month. Matt thinks he’s got some ideas. I’m going to have some fun. It’ll be a tough transition, but it’ll be good.”