West Kelowna Warriors owner Kin Dobranski (left) and reinstated head coach and general manager Geoff Grimwood address the media Thursday morning outside Royal LePage Place. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

West Kelowna Warriors owner reinstates fired head coach

Kim Dobranski says he made a mistake firing Geoff Grimwood; BCHL says it ‘suggested’ reinstatement

Three days after firing interim head coach Geoff Grimwood, West Kelowna Warriors owner and president Kim Dobranski said he made a mistake.

Grimwood was hired back as the team’s full-time head coach and general manager

Dobranski, reading a prepared statement outside the team’s home rink at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna Thursday morning, said he failed to consider what was best for the players in firing Grimwood after just 17 days on the job.

“I failed as a partner in (the B.C. Hockey League) and as a leader of this organization, to consider the emotional turmoil this could cause for these young men,” he said.

The players protested the firing Tuesday by leaving practice early and refused show up for practice on Wednesday. Then they launched a social media protest titled #Grimmergate.

Dobranski, who with a number of silent partners bought the team from former owner Mark Cheyne earlier this year, read his statement and refused to take questions, including any about whether the league had ordered him to reinstate Grimwood.

Following the news conference BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb said the league office heard from many people, including the players, about the firing. He said as a result the league discussed it with Dobranski and “suggested” he reverse the decision.

Hebb also said the league will be “overseeing” the operation of the team as the new ownership group gets on its feet.

“We won’t be running it, but it’s fair to say we will be overseeing operations,” said Hebb.

He praised Dobranski for admitting he made a mistake in firing Grimwood.

Related: West Kelowna Warriors fire coach after just 17 days

In his statement, Dobranski said in it was apparent Grimwood, in his short time with the team, had a “profound” impact on the players.

“In my search to fill the big shoes of (former head coach Rylan) Ferster, I neglected to realize Mr. Ferster, in his final act before leaving, not only …assembled an incredible group of young men, he placed the best person for the job right in front of me,” said Dobranski.

Grimwood was originally hired by the team as an assistant to Ferster, who led the team to the national junior A hockey championship in 2016.

Dobranski praised the players for standing up for their coach when Grimwood was let go Monday.

The team opens the BCHL season Friday in Trail and plays its home opener at Royal LePage Place Saturday in a return game with the Smoke Eaters.

Grimwood also spoke at the new conference Thursday and said the team has been in a period of transition from an ownership and coaching perspective and, as the new head coach and general manager, he wants to move on from the events of the last few days.

“Sometimes when that happens it’s really important on get on the same page. I think what we’ve done here with Kim, myself and the B.C. Hockey League, we just made sure everyone is on the same page going forward,” he said.

“What I want for the players and the team is the same as what Mr. Dobranski wants for the players and the team. So we’re going to really work hard for the players.”

Following Grimwood’s firing Monday, Jason Beckett of the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna was tapped to be the next head coach of the Warriors but no formal announcement of his appointment was made.

Dobranski said Beckett recognized what was the right thing to do for the players and “willingly and without hesitation stepped aside to allow me to do the right thing.”

He said he just wants to move on from the turmoil that has engulfed the team, which has seen several high-profile staff members leave in recent days, including an assistant coach and the team’s long-time physical therapist.

In addition to Grimwood returning, assistant coach Matt Miller, goalie coach Chad Carder and head scout Lance Morey will also return to the team said the BCHL in a news release.

The team has also hired a new director of entertainment and game day operations, Mike Schell and a new director of marketing and public relations Kristi Hennesy.

The BCHL issued the following statement on the West Kelonwa Warriors situation:

In light of recent staffing changes in the West Kelowna Warriors organization, the BCHL is taking steps to stabilize the club leading into the 2018-19 season.

BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb is personally monitoring the remaining part of the Warriors preparations for the start of the season. Warriors owner Kim Dobranski, who assumed majority control of the club in August from previous owner Mark Cheyne, is cooperating with the BCHL to ensure the Warriors players have a supportive environment for the start of the season.

“I first off want to apologize to the players and their families for any uncertainty caused by the coaching changes that occurred,” said Dobranski. “In the early going here as owner, I made some decisions that, upon reflection, were not in the best interest of the players. With support from the BCHL, I’ve reconsidered those decisions and am confident now that we’ve made a place for our players to develop in a competitive setting.”

Warriors head coach Geoff Grimwood, who stepped in Aug. 21 to replace former coach Rylan Ferster, has been brought back to run the Warriors’ bench after it was announced on Sept. 3 that Grimwood had been relieved of duty by the team. Also rejoining the staff effective immediately are assistant coach Matt Miller, goalie coach Chad Carder and head scout Lance Morey.

The BCHL will work alongside Dobranski and his management staff, directing them in the near term and the league will remain in a supporting role as the season progresses.

“There has been a steep learning curve with a new owner here but we are putting our efforts behind the West Kelowna Warriors and will support and advise them as they request this season,” said Hebb. “This club won a national championship in 2016 and have another outstanding recruiting class this season. I fully expect them to again be a strong team in the Interior Division.”

West Kelowna had eight players on their roster committed to NCAA Div. I programs last season. It is expected two of those players will be back with the team this year as well as three other college-committed players so far.

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