For SilverBacks owner Randy Williams, this is a time for the organization to reload.
Following a forgettable season that left Salmon Arm’s Jr. A franchise in seventh place in the eight-team Interior Conference, Williams said the current ’Backs players will be reevaluated, at the same time as new prospects will be considered.
“We’re going to reload with the recruits we recruited throughout the year, we’re going to have some acquisitions coming,” he said, referring to assets still to come from the Cowichan Valley Capitals. “That’s basically the plan. We need to fill the holes we are missing, the missing links… My plans are to reload.”
The SilverBacks Spring Camp is coming up May 4-6, while the team has three 20 year olds, Myles McCauley, Kurt Williams and James Friedel, moving on.
Williams describes the season this way: “We underachieved as an organization on the ice. Off the ice, we did thousands of hours of community service that goes unrecognized in the community. We’ve done countless hours with school work with kids, the list goes on and on…,” he said, noting that he appreciates all the fans, volunteers, corporate sponsors and paid employees.
“I greatly appreciate everything that’s been done.”
Regarding trades made that led to criticism from fans, Williams said, “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but in the day-to-day hockey operations at a Junior A level, you have to make acquisitions and trades; that unfortunately has to be done sometimes.”
He notes that when the SilverBacks traded their leading scorer Bryce Gervais to Penticton, they received four players in return.
“In the hockey world that is unheard of… We needed to change our depth on our roster, there was no choice but to do it. These are some of the reasons why trades are made.
“Unfortunately it’s a business for me – sometimes trades work out and sometimes they don’t.”
Williams adds that the receipt of Salmon Arm’s Shane Hanna was very good value from the trade.
“He’s going to be a fantastic player for our organization,” Williams says, noting that people often ask why the team doesn’t have more local players.
As for the trade of then-SilverBacks captain Brett Knowles to Cowichan, Williams said that as a 20-year-old player, Knowles wasn’t going to be making it into the playoffs with the Salmon Arm squad – something he wanted him to have the opportunity to do.
“I thought it was the best opportunity and fairest thing to do for the players. Keep in mind, I’m always for the player. I sacrifice a lot of things that people don’t see or recognize.”
This season, for the first time in franchise history, the SilverBacks didn’t make it into the playoffs. Had the league format not changed, the SilverBacks would still be playing, Williams points out. This season, playoffs were limited to just four Interior clubs.
Still, he adds an apology.
“Yes, we underachieved. Yes, I apologize to the community and fans for that, for that underachievement.”
But he doesn’t think the negatives should be the focus.
“In the end, this isn’t about Randy Williams and the SilverBacks… In the end, it’s about the players. You don’t have to like the player, but if you’re a real fan of Junior A Hockey, you’ll support the players that are on the organization.”
Asked about criticisms that he gets too involved in coaching aspects of the team, he says that’s a misconception.
“I don’t control the lineups, I don’t interfere with the daily routine, the workout routine of the coaching staff. That’s not my role as owner. My role is to support the staff, and my role is to pay the bills. At the end of the day, that’s how I operate the organization.”
Williams says that in the five years he’s owned the SilverBacks, despite turnovers in staff, he’s accumulated more scholarships for players than was done in the previous six years.
“I feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve supplied opportunities for coaches and players,” he said, adding that he appreciates the support the community has given under his ownership.
“Would I like to see more fans in the building? Of course. They say the way to get fans in the building is to win, win, win. We’ve had winning teams in the past four of five years and that hasn’t worked. I would like to see what it’s going to take.”
But he knows the organization looks different from the inside out.
“When you run an organization in junior hockey, day-to-day things come up – it’s like a revolving door, things change constantly. It’s difficult for fans to understand that. I don’t expect them too and I’d love to have their support.”
He said Salmon Arm is a great community.
“I love being involved, getting to know the personalities of the players, coaching staff and administration staff. I’d like to thank them all for what we’ve gone through. It’s been a tough season.”
“Other than the fact, we’ve underachieved, I look forward to next season, spring camp is coming up and we’ve recruited well this year with the acquisitions we’ve acquired; I look forward to accomplishing our previous goals.”