Craig Didmon is back with the Victoria Grizzlies after three seasons away.
The former Grizzlies assistant coach to Geoff Courtnall in 2009 will resume that position and more as the assistant coach and assistant general manager to recently appointed head coach and GM Bill Bestwick.
Didmon left after the Grizzlies hosted the 2009 RBC Cup, having lost out on getting Courtnall’s head coaching job to Victor Gervais.
Three years later, a change of ownership and a few good spins on the merry-go-round that is coaching in junior hockey, and Didmon returns to the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Gervais is not far, as he will guide the rebooted junior B Westshore Wolves, who will also play out of Bear Mountain Arena.
Didmon is giving up his part-time assistant coaching gig with Victoria Royals, but will continue running the West Shore Hockey Academy for students of Spencer middle and Belmont secondary schools.
“This creates an opportunity for a great partnership with the West Shore academy and the Grizz,” Didmon said.
“With where the Grizzlies are at, we have a lot of work to do, and the academy has to get ready to go. But the B.C. Hockey league schedule, which is mostly weekends now, works well with the academy’s schedule.”
A promotion with the Royals, if and when that ever becomes an option, would mean giving up the academy, which Didmon is happy to run.
“The Royals were great, I’d love to go back down the road, probably in a higher position.”
Didmon’s relationship with Bestwick goes back to Didmon’s playing days with the BCHL’s short lived Victoria Warriors.
“He came to the Warriors part way through the 1990-91 season. He was the best junior coach I had.”
Bestwick was the Warriors third coach that season and snuck them into playoffs and past the country’s top-seeded New Westminster Royals, before losing to Powell River in the semifinals.
Didmon continued to lean on Bestwick when he coached the Victoria Cougars to a provincial junior B championship in 2007, prior to joining the Grizzlies.
“Bill taught me a lot, he is a great motivator, he stands behind his players and pushes them to improve. My Cougars teams were a reflection of what the Nanaimo Clippers team was like 10 years ago.”
Bestwick is busy populating the team’s roster for the upcoming season.
This week he signed 18-year-old Eben Norman of Vancouver, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenceman who played junior B with North Delta.
The Grizz also brought in 20-year-old forward Bret Hartskamp from the Swan Valley Stampeders from Manitoba, a player that started his junior A career under Bestwick with the Clippers.
And perhaps the biggest move so far is the multi-player trade that sent defenceman Braxton Bilous and goalie Garrett Rockafellow to the Westside Warriors for goalie Brady Rouleau, 19, and forward Garrett Skrbich, 19.
Grizzlies training camp starts on Aug. 20.