There have been some big changes at the top of the Rimbey Rock hockey team with both the general manager and head coach from last season being replaced.
Due to work commitments, last season’s GM Tim Rondeel will not be returning and has been replaced by longtime Rimbey resident Greg Conway. As well, former head coach Derek Sweet-Coulter has also left the team and will be replaced by Lloyd Cox of Blackfalds.
“It was something I wanted to do last year. Tim was already involved and he finished for the year, so I took over for this year,” Conway said. “I just like the game and want Rimbey to have a good Junior B team. We’ve got a bunch of new kids coming out and a dozen returnees from last season – I was on the phone all summer with the veterans and most are coming back.”
Conway brings some junior hockey experience to the Rock having played for a number of seasons in Dryden, Ontario where he was a defense partner with Edmonton’s Public Enemy Number 1 – Chris Pronger.
Originally, Conway said he was a football player but was encouraged by one of his coaches to play hockey in the winter to stay in shape for football season.
On the plus side, Conway said this year’s team should be better with the coaching experience of Cox, but on the other hand, the loss of goaltender Zach Cross who was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, hurts a bit but he feels he may have found a solid replacement.
“We took a hit when we lost Zach (Cross). He was the Rock’s goalie for years but we’ve got a newcomer – Garret Beechinor from Sylvan Lake and we’ve got a new coach taking over this year – Lloyd Cox from Blackfalds,” Conway said. “Lloyd’s played some high-calibre hockey including some semi-pro and he’s bringing out some quality coaches with him too.”
And while Conway is very impressed with his new coach so far, he said the players are taking a bit of a shine to him as well.
“I’ve been talking to the boys for the last couple of days and they love him out there,” he said. “Lloyd knows what he’s doing and he’s skating them hard right now and told them he’d have them conditioned before our first league game on Oct. 3 down in Airdrie against the Thunder.”
One other big benefit this year’s squad will have over last year’s is that they hit the ice three weeks earlier as delays in installing a new ice plant at the Community Centre set the 2006-07 version of the Rock back several steps.
As for promotions, Conway said fans can look forward to a Casino night in October featuring some great prizes including a fishing trip to British Columbia, a stay at a timeshare condominium in either Canmore or Banff and a mini-dirt bike, to name a few. He also announced that ticket prices would remain the same as last year.
Conway also announced that with the blessings of the league, the Rock will be playing two regular-season games at a neutral site and are working on playing in Eckville as almost half of the team is from there. Failing that, Conway said he may explore playing in Bentley.
“I’m looking forward to a great season this year and the boys are really excited. It is a little bit of a change in losing our head coach from last year but Lloyd’s stepping in. It took me all summer to find him but he’s the fit we’re looking for. He’s got the experience behind him to coach this team,” Conway said. “We’ve got a lot of players on this team that, with the right guidance, they can be really good and I think we can be really competitive this year.”
The Rock will kick off the home portion of their schedule on Friday, Oct. 10 when they will host the Stettler Lightning.