After getting into the playoffs by the width of a puck and being dispatched quickly in the first round the past two years, the Ponoka Stampeders are seeing a wholesale change.
Tyler Fiveland, along with the entire coaching staff and the general manager, were let go shortly after the season ended although the top two jobs weren’t open long.
Matt Williams from Lacombe is taking over the club’s head coach and general manager duties after being contacted about the opportunity back in March.
Williams, 29, spent the last two seasons as the bench boss for the bantam AA Central Alberta Selects after concluding his playing career. That career included three seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League — two with Fort McMurray and one in Brooks — and three seasons at Marian University in Wisconsin.
Initially, after the season for his minor hockey club ended, he had planned to make some changes and was even looking into taking some time away from the game. That idea quickly went by the wayside once he found out about what he called a great opportunity.
“It’s quite funny how it all came about. It started with my cousin, Shea Reynolds (who played 16 games for the Stamps), speaking to me about how frustrating last season was and that got my attention,” Williams said.
He would later be approached by a board member and, after the next board meeting where a number of people felt change was needed, Williams was handed both the support of the board and full responsibility for the new direction of the club.
He also didn’t want to get into the topic of what holes the Stamps need to fill, other than saying the process of hiring coaches and other staff and looking at players is underway.
“The biggest part for the players is if they want to compete and how they play the systems,” he stated.
“My hope is to provide an open door and have the players bring their issues and questions forward. This is about coaching men and not boys now, and that respect that has to be earned goes both ways. The game starts with me, but ends with the players.”
The Stampeders personnel and roster are not the only things getting a makeover.
Williams and a few others began last week working on significant changes to the Stamps dressing room including improved storage and coaches office spaces as well as a brighter and fresher look for the player’s locker room area. There will also be some new inspirational messages put into place in the room, according to Williams.
No date has yet been set for training camp and Williams hopes to have his staff in place sometime this summer.
Hoof Prints, Golf shoes
For fans and others that love the Stampeders, here’s a chance to saddle up and go for a ride — in a golf cart that is.
The club is holding its inaugural golf fundraiser tournament at the Ponoka Community Golf Club on June 9.
The cost for a team is $600 and includes the 18-hole event complete with two carts plus lunch and supper for the team, while singles can register for $150. Organizers are also still looking for more businesses to be hole sponsors for the tournament. The $1,000 sponsorship comes with 18 holes of golf for four, with carts and meals, along with advertisement opportunities.
For more information or to participate, contact either Debbie Lamey at 403-704-6561 or Rob MacPherson 403-783-4626.