Josh Hepditch is the new head coach and general manger of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, and the recent arrival couldn’t be happier with his new home.
“I’m blown away. It’s an extremely friendly, supportive town from what I’ve seen so far,” he said, adding that he and his wife, Kathryn, were invited to spend their first night in town at her employers’ home, even though the Creston PhysioWorks and More owners hadn’t met the couple.
The 27-year-old New Brunswick native recently arrived in Creston, although he’s been researching and recruiting since the team hired him in mid-June, even helping out at a Merritt training camp with 2007-2011 Thunder Cats coach Joe Martin.
He started playing hockey as a child, following in his older brother’s footsteps.
“I just did the same thing every other kid did,” he said. “As the years went on, the dream got bigger, and I tried to take it as far as it would go.”
Hepditch played minor hockey in Fredericton, N.B., until he was 17, when he joined the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After that, he spent five years on the University of New Brunswick team before joining the Central Hockey League’s Allen Americans in Texas.
Through it all, he proved himself to be versatile, playing both forward and defence.
“That was something that helped me get through my career,” he said.
As early as age 20, Hepditch knew he wanted to be a coach but still had a passion for playing. He spent the following years learning what he could from the excellent coaches on the Moncton and UNB teams — the UNB coaches led the team to the finals four times during Hepditch’s time on it, and Moncton coaches Ted Nolan, Danny Flynn and Daniel Lacroix went on to coach the New York Islanders.
The first test of Hepditch’s skills comes this weekend, when the Thunder Cats training camp is held at the John Bucyk Arena from today to Sunday, with about 30 hopefuls slated to attend. That will be followed by an exhibition game against the Glacier Nationals — a Montana team in the Northern Pacific Hockey League holding its training camp in Fernie — on Sept. 4 in Creston, and away exhibition games against the Kimberley Dynamiters (Sept. 7), the Columbia Valley Rockies (Sept. 8) and the Fernie Ghostriders (Sept. 9). The Thunder Cats will host the Beaver Valley Nitehawks for an exhibition game on Sept. 11.
Having just finished playing hockey, Hepditch is sure his unique point of view will be an asset to the local team.
“I’m just out of the game, so I see a lot of it from a player’s perspective,” he said. “A lot of players don’t agree with what the coach is doing, and now that I’m in the coach’s seat, I can see why.”