Bestwick back behind BCHL bench

The city councillor and former coach of the Nanaimo Clippers is the new coach and general manager of the Victoria Grizzlies.

New Victoria Grizzlies co-owner Ron Walchuk introduces Bill Bestwick as the BCHL team's new coach and general manager at a press conference Wednesday.

New Victoria Grizzlies co-owner Ron Walchuk introduces Bill Bestwick as the BCHL team's new coach and general manager at a press conference Wednesday.

The B.C. Hockey League’s Island Division just got a whole lot more interesting.

Bill Bestwick, the former coach of the Nanaimo Clippers and Nanaimo city councillor, was introduced Wednesday as the new coach and general manager of the Victoria Grizzlies.

“One of the worst kept secrets in the last 24 hours is who’s going to come up and help us to do this,” said Ron Walchuk, incoming owner of the team. “Bill’s a great hockey strategist, he’s got passion in developing young players, he’s proven in the business side of running an organization, so I’m really excited to bring him to the Victoria Grizzlies.”

Bestwick said coaching in the BCHL is a privilege, so he was delighted when he received the job offer about three weeks ago.

He coached the Clippers for two separate stretches, most recently from 2001-11. He won BCHL championships in 2004 and 2007 but was fired after the 2010-11 season when the Clippers lost to the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

In recent months Bestwick has been director of operations with the Nanaimo Timbermen senior A and junior A lacrosse clubs. He resigned that position effective at the end of June.

He doesn’t believe his new job in Victoria will affect his responsibilities as a city councillor in Nanaimo. He said the Grizzlies organization will be set up so he can focus on hockey operations, while other staff members handle business operations.

“The role that I play with the city, I take it very seriously,” Bestwick said. “I don’t expect to be missing any events or activities or meetings with the City of Nanaimo and my duties will be fulfilled … It’s an hour and 15 minutes down the road. If I was a travelling salesman and I worked out of town, nobody would care.”

He knows he has plenty of work ahead of him in Victoria. The Grizzlies blew up their team to an almost unprecedented extent at last January’s trade deadline and finished last in the Coastal Conference.

“If this was real estate you’d call this a fixer-upper…” Bestwick said. “We have some huge obstacles to overcome with the timing. If this occurred in the spring, certainly there would be more time to do planning and preparing and strategizing and recruiting and trading. All those things are going to be compressed with the amount of time that’s available to us.”

He hopes that his Grizzlies will be an improving team by the time they make their first road trip to Nanaimo. Bestwick said stepping behind the visitors’ bench at Frank Crane Arena will be interesting, considering what the Clippers meant to his coaching career and to his family.

“It will definitely be odd and then once we get over that, 30 seconds after the game has started, it’s simply game on,” he said. “It would be one of those games that you’d love to win.”

ICE CHIPS … To read more on this story, please click here and here.

-with files from Kyle Wells

Nanaimo News Bulletin