The ice is in the Omniplex and hockey is coming back. When the season begins, the Drayton Valley Thunder will be led by a new coach this year.
Geoff Walker, the new head coach and general manager of the team, comes with several years of experience in the game. Through his career he has played in the Quebec major junior league with the Gatineau Olympiques and the PEI Rocket, had three different National Hockey League contracts, as well as some time in Europe playing the sport.
Now, Walker enjoys coaching the sport. Since 2018, Walker has coached in the Western States Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
“My first coaching gig after I stopped playing hockey was in the WSHL in Hinton Alberta. I enjoyed that,” says Walker. “I like Alberta. The level of the league is really, really good.”
While tryouts for the Thunder still haven’t been completed, Walker says he’s had a chance to talk to some of the returning players. “They seem to be really good kids,” he says.
Walker says his plan this year is to get the team out in the community more. He wants to show the fans how much the team appreciates their support. Another area he wants to see improve is the culture in the changing room.
“I understand it’s going to take a lot of work both on and off the ice. But I think if we do things the right way, I think we’ll be able to get there sooner than some may think,” says Walker.
He says this year will be a rebuilding year for the team. There will be some players returning for the 2023/24 season, but Walker also wants to bring in more young players so they can build the team up the right way. “It’ll set us up for success in the future,” he says.
Despite the rebuild, fans will still recognize some of the players from last year. Jonathon Ballos, Nolan Roberts, Sam Mosherchak, Hayden Fechner, Brody Spencer-Ha, and Zach Burns are amongst the returning players.
Walker says they have signed a few new players, including forward Anton Yatsyshin from Kyiv, Ukraine. However, he is still waiting to see many players in the Main Camp this weekend on August 19.
“We’ll be able to see where we’re at and what we need,” he says.
As far as billeting the players, Walker says the billet coordinator for the team, Tania Bouchard, has done a great job of organizing everything for the players. “She’s very good at what she does,” says Walker. “We’re very thankful to have her.”
Fans can see the Drayton Valley Thunder on August 29 at the Omniplex, where they will play their first exhibition game against the Whitecourt Wolverines. The regular season begins in mid-September.
By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Aug 17, 2023