Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
New Vets' GM takes over with clean slate
Jeff Morrison might want to pitch a new angle on the Extreme Makeover television series. Only instead of tearing down and rebuilding homes, Morrison's specialty is junior hockey teams.
The newest Woodstock Navy Vets general manager is getting used to tackling reclamation projects. First it was Aylmer. Then St. Thomas. Now it's Woodstock.
"I'm coming from two organizations that were essentially bankrupt," Morrison said. "I've seen two different models on how to put a junior team back together and put a good foundation together and run it properly. I don't know any junior team that makes money other than the London Knights."
The Junior C franchise has struggled financially since it went private four years ago. Bills went unpaid and the team plunged into debt. The low point was in 2006 when the City of Woodstock changed the dressing room locks before a practice.
Bill McLeod attempted to stop the bleeding, but that proved to be a Band-Aid solution for a larger wound.
Now, with the help of sponsors, the bills are paid but the trough is empty. Players will not be paid and the team is in the process of being turned back over to the public. The process is going through the courts and is expected to be finished by early October.
"The game itself is changing somewhat," Morrison said. "St. Thomas two years ago sat everyone down and said they are in debt and they can't pay players. (We) told them there is no money to pay them. If you don't like it, leave."
As an assistant GM in St. Thomas last season, Morrison watched the Stars struggle early in the regular season. The team improved late in the year and made a surprise playoff run to the Western Junior B championship, where it lost to LaSalle in six games.
"A lot of organizations opened their eyes at that point," Morrison
said. "Here is a team that doesn't pay anybody and they went to the league finals."
Morrison is hoping for the same magic when the Navy Vets hit the ice this season. Players have already been told what to expect.
"With rumours flying the last six weeks we wanted to clear them beforehand," Morrison said. "The bills are paid and we've taken care of outstanding issues. There are no bells and whistles. Players aren't going to get fistfuls of cash to play in Woodstock. There's been no fallout. Everything is positive."
Morrison will wear three hats in Woodstock, also serving as the director of hockey operations and the head coach. Bob Langdon and Keli Corpse, who finished the season behind the bench last year, both were unable to commit to this season. John Calic and Ed Cook have joined the team as assistants.
Morrison becomes the ninth head coach since 2003-04.
"We're going to see how this goes," he said. "We need to bring stability at all levels to the team. We'd like to get one group together and run with that group for the foreseeable future. If someone becomes available that's good for the organization we'll bring that person aboard."
This will be a season of transition for the Navy Vets on the ice. Several veterans have moved on, and goalie Alex Gegeny and forward Craig Thomson were both sold to Simcoe this summer.
Returnees Devon Young, Travis Horvath, Andy Fallowfield and Calvin Thomson will be counted on to lead a young squad.
"Our confidence is going to come under scrutiny at different times," Morrison said. "We're going to have to play through some tough times as they don't have the experience of an older club. Hopefully when we get some experience we'll go on a run. When they don't hopefully the older guys will step up."
Morrison has already begun mending fences within the community. On Monday he formally asked for and received permission from the Navy Club to use the name and logo.
The Niagara League schedule was recently released and the Navy Vets open the 2010-11 season at Southwood Arena Friday, Sept. 17 against the Paris Mounties at 7:45 p.m.
Part of the proceeds will go to the Hawkins Family Memorial Fund.
It was also announced that a new flex pass will be available this season. Fans can purchase 18 single game tickets that can be used in one night or spread throughout the season. They will be sold for $70, which is $3.89 per game, and will be available at the home opener. For more information, contact Jeff Morrison at 519- 200-7445 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org