Creston Valley Thunder Cats lose coach to BCHL

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The departure of former head coach and general manager Joe Martin of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats is now part of local hockey history and the hiring of Brent Heaven as the new head coach and general manager starts a new era.

“It is sad to see Joe go, but Brent will be an awesome addition to continue where Joe left off and take our club in a new direction,” said president Joanne Endicott. “We are looking forward to the team that Brent will build and develop.”

This season was one of the most exciting in Thunder Cats’ recent history, with the team pushing Kootenay International Junior Hockey League rival Fernie Ghostriders to a seventh game in round 2, losing the final by one goal.

“It was the best team that I can ever remember,” said Endicott.

Martin is the second Creston Valley Thunder Cats coach to get a coaching job in the British Columbia Hockey Leauge coaching junior A, accepting the position of assistant coach and assistant general manager with the Merritt Centennials. (The other was Shane Luckinchuk going on to coach in the BCHL with the Powell River Kings.) His contract expired at the end this season, and after lengthy negotiations, he signed on for another two years, but it only lasted for a few days.

“It was totally unexpected, but I got a call offering this position and it is a terrific opportunity for me,” said Martin.

Over the past four years, the Cats under Martin have won a regular season division title, the first round of two playoff series, travelled to the Yukon and moved 10 players on to college hockey and 10 players on to junior A hockey, while boasting a regular season record of 112-68-24.

“There are so many good memories for me in Creston — just being able to go to the rink everyday is a huge highlight — taking part in community events, bus trips with the best staff in the KIJHL, and the knowledge that every day we are trying to develop young men into great citizens of life,”  said Martin. “Leaving Creston was a difficult decision that we did not prepare for. Katelyn and I are proud to have lived in the community for four years.”

“It speaks volumes about Joe when players at the end of last season only want to come back if Joe was signed,” said Endicott. “He had such deep respect from the boys that it is very sad to see him leave us, but we are so happy that he gets this opportunity. Joe not only was a great coach, but a great mentor to the players on a personal level.”

One of Martin’s last official acts as general manager was to be part of finding his replacement, and he brought Heaven to the forefront for the club.

“From day one, Joe said that Brent was our guy,” Endicott said. “It’s rare that when you leave a job that your employer requests you help find your replacement, but that is how much respect our executive committee has for Joe, as we knew he would find us the best person he could.”

Martin starts his new job later this summer in Merritt.

“I would like to thank all the Thunder Cat supporters and volunteers who helped put the Thunder Cats on the map,” he said. “I hope a championship is in the near future.”