Matvichuk head­ing to Burn­aby

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff

Richard Matvichuk spent nearly three years in the city as head coach of the Prince Ge­orge Cougars and now he’s mov­ing to Burn­aby, but he won’t be for­get­ting the friend­ships he and his fam­ily have made in the lo­cal sporting com­mu­nity.

That’s espe­cially good news for the Prince Ge­orge Spruce Kings.

Matvichuk has re­placed Maco Balkovec as the hockey di­rec­tor of the Burn­aby Win­ter Club. Balkovec was hired this sum­mer as an as­sis­tant coach for Bowl­ing Green Uni­ver­sity in Wis­con­sin. He and former Prince Ge­orge Spruce Kings head coach Adam Maglio had a close re­la­tion­ship which helped open up a pipe­line of ju­nior player tal­ent cru­cial in the Spruce Kings’ de­vel­op­ment as a B.C. Hockey League pow­er­house.

Matvichuk got to know Kings gen­eral man­ager Mike Hawes dur­ing his time be­hind the Cougars’ bench and he in­tends to keep those Win­ter Club hockey academy ties with Spruce Kings in­tact.

“Mike and I worked to­gether a lot and I have a good rap­port with Mike and I hope to send as many play­ers as I can to him,” said Matvichuk.

“That’s our ul­ti­mate goal is to de­velop these young ath­letes, not just into hockey play­ers, but into peo­ple in the com­mu­nity and the cul­ture, and school­ing is ob­vi­ously a big part of what we do. The chance for them to be able to go to the B.C. league and ob­vi­ously our re­la­tion­ship with the Spruce Kings has been fan­tas­tic. Some of our play­ers have moved on (to col­lege hockey) from there. That team, with what it’s done the last two years, kind of speaks for it­self.”

Former Kings stars Ethan de Jong, Kyle John­son, Liam Wat­sonBrawn, Ben Brar and Ben Pois­son, as well as cur­rent team mem­bers Nick Pois­son, Nick Bochen, Fin Wil­liams and Nolan Welsh all played ban­tam and midget hockey at BWC be­fore they came to the Spruce Kings.

The BWC alumni wall of fame in­cludes NHL play­ers Dante Fab­bro (Nashville Preda­tors), Matthew Barzal (New York Is­lan­ders), Ryan Nu­gent Hopkins (Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers), Karl Alzner (Mon­treal Cana­di­ens) and re­tired pros Glenn An­der­son, Cur­tis Joseph, Paul Kariya and Cliff Ron­ning.

“We’ve had some great suc­cess in the past, which helps us re­cruit fam­i­lies and the name recog­ni­tion kind of sells it­self,” said Matvichuk. “When you say Burn­aby Win­ter Club, peo­ple know what you’re talk­ing about.”

Matvichuk’s teams will play in the Cana­dian School Sports Hockey League against St. Ge­orge’s School, a Van­cou­ver-based hockey academy. The head of the hockey pro­gram at St. Georges is now Todd Harkins, who served four years as gen­eral man­ager of the Prince Ge­orge Cougars and was there for two of the sea­sons Mavichuk coached the WHL team. Harkins, whose con­tract with the Cougars ended in 2018, served last sea­son as hockey di­rec­tor at West Van Academy in North Van­cou­ver.

“Todd is do­ing a sim­i­lar role and he’s hav­ing fun do­ing it, he’s back where his house is (in North Van­cou­ver) and where his fam­ily’s been,” said Matvichuk.

BWC is host­ing the an­nual Pat Quinn Tour­na­ment in De­cem­ber, which will bring teams from Canada and the United States. Sev­eral teams from Dal­las, where Matvichuk won the Stan­ley Cup with the Stars in 1999, are on the en­try list.

Matvichuk was fired as Cougars coach Feb,. 6, af­ter the team lost its 11th straight game, a streak that went on for a club-record 17 games. He com­piled an 85-89-1210 record in nearly three sea­sons and was at the helm when the Cats suf­fered a first-round play­off loss to Port­land af­ter win­ning the B.C. Di­vi­sion, the first reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle in the team’s 25-year Prince Ge­orge his­tory. The Cougars have since missed the play­offs in each of the last two sea­sons.

“You can only coach with the cards that were handed to you and look­ing back now af­ter sev­eral months we feel as a coach­ing staff we did ex­actly what we could have done,” Matvichuk said. “We made the de­ci­sion three years ago to go all in (mak­ing trades for older play­ers) and the Cougars are kind of pay­ing the price for it. It’s prob­a­bly go­ing to take a cou­ple years with draft picks and trades and re­build­ing to get them back to where they were a cou­ple years ago.

“My time in Prince Ge­orge was fan­tas­tic and that first year we had we were suc­cess­ful in more ways than just on the ice. We got kids drafted and signed and moved kids on to (U Sports Cana­dian uni­ver­sity hockey) and I felt we did a great job and I’m proud to be part of it. It’s ob­vi­ously eas­ier to re­place one guy than 20 and as coaches we know we’re kind of hired to be fired and you turn a page and move on to an­other chap­ter.”

Matvichuk was born in Ed­mon­ton and grew up in Fort Saskatchew­an, Alta., play­ing base­ball as well as hockey and he’s been uti­liz­ing his coach­ing tal­ents on the ball di­a­mond work­ing with head coach Brad Fe­niuk this sum­mer on the LTN Con­tract­ing Knights midget sin­gle-A team which played its provin­cial tour­na­ment over the week­end in Mis­sion. Matvichuk’s 15-year-old son, Dy­lan, was part of that team which went 3-2 in the tour­na­ment but did not ad­vance to the play­off round.

“We worked all sum­mer to get to this point and we have a great bunch of kids and the good thing, just like hockey, is we’ve got­ten bet­ter ev­ery day,” he said.

Matvichuk and his wife Tracy have a 12-year-old son, Dal­ton, who took the year off play­ing all-star base­ball. Both are hockey play­ers and they’ll be try­ing out for the Win­ter Club’s academy teams.


Richard Matvichuk coaches the Prince Ge­orge Cougars dur­ing train­ing camp in Septem­ber 2016. The team fired Matvichuk in Fe­bru­ary but now the re­tired NHL de­fence­man has a new post as the hockey di­rec­tor of the Burn­aby Win­ter Club.

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