Longtime coach Stone parts ways with Storm
Lee Stone, one of the most successful head coaches and general managers in Vancouver Island Hockey League history, has abruptly left those positions with the defending league-champion Campbell River Storm.
The Storm tweeted the announcement this week, saying the club and Stone have “mutually agreed to part ways.”
The tweet, however, added he would remain with the Storm in another capacity: “Stone, while pursuing other opportunities, will stay on board as a senior adviser to the owner and staff, shifting his focus to running a successful Cyclone Taylor Cup. There will be no further comment from the club.”
The Storm are hosting the 2019 Fred Cyclone Taylor Cup tournament, to determine the B.C. Junior B champion, from April 11-14 at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
The Storm said assistant coach Cam Basarab will step up to become head coach and assistant coach Bill Brett will assume the GM duties.
Neither Stone nor Storm owner Linda Lahtinen addressed the reasons for the move.
“My time in Campbell River was absolutely amazing and I can’t thank everyone there enough for the years I had,” Stone said in an email Friday to the Times Colonist.
“If you told a 23-year-old Lee Stone that he’d get five years of incredible relationships and memories like I have had, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I am very proud to say we brought that team back to the top. Campbell River deserved that.”
Lahtinen also reached the Times Colonist by email.
“I would like to thank Lee Stone for his hard work, dedication and unwavering support not just for myself, but the entire Storm program,” she wrote.
“I will always be grateful for his efforts to help save the Storm program over the past four years and return it to the top where it belongs. I am looking forward to continue working with Lee . . . to bring Campbell River an exceptional Cyclone Taylor Cup in April. I am excited to see what the future hold for Lee as he is an exceptional coach and person.”
Heading into Friday night’s league games, the Storm led the North Division at 14-6-1 and were second overall in the VIJHL behind the Victoria Cougars.
The Storm are in Parksville tonight to play the Oceanside Generals.
Stone guided Campbell River to the 2015, 2017 and 2018 VIJHL titles and the Storm has made four consecutive trips to the VIJHL playoff final under Stone. He led Campbell River to both the Cyclone Taylor Cup B.C. championship and Keystone Cup Western Canadian title in 2015 while his Storm lost in the 2017 Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship game to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
Stone arrived in Campbell River saying it was his goal to revive the echoes from a previous era in which the Storm won seven consecutive VIJHL championships from 1998 to 2005, with a bronze medal in the 1999 Keystone Cup and silver medal in 2006. Among the fans of that halcyon era who flocked to what has since been renamed Rod Brind’Amour Arena, in honour of the hometown Stanley Cup champion, were Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Their son, Wyatt Russell, played goal for the Storm before moving to the Richmond Sockeyes and Coquitlam Express of the B.C. Hockey League.
“We wanted to get back to the era where players from not only all over the Island, but from across B.C. and Canada, wanted to play in Campbell River and where people in the town wanted to come to the rink to watch,” Stone told the Times Colonist in 2015.
“We brought the glory back to Campbell River Storm hockey, but we one-upped it [becoming the first VIJHL team to win the Keystone Cup gold medal in 2015].”