When Cam Basarab signed up as an assistant coach with the Campbell River Storm, little did he know he’d be running the show so soon.
In early November, it was announced previous coach Lee Stone was moving upstairs. He has since taken a job as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles.
While it all appears to be a bit of a whirlwind, Basarab says the transition has moved more smoothly than one would expect.
“It looks, from the outside, to be a much more stressful transition than it really has been,” he says. “A lot of the credit for that goes to the players.”
As far as his role on the bench, he says it means keeping his eye more on the game as a whole than some specific aspect, like managing the lines, as he was doing as an assistant coach.
“I just try to get a feel for the game as a whole a little bit more,” he says.
“You go from paying attention to a certain group of players to paying attention to all of them.”
Certainly, on the ice, the team has kept to its winning ways.
By late December, they remained out front of the rest of the VIJHL’s North Division and basically neck in neck with the South’s Victoria Cougars.
Basarab credits the main leaders of the team for helping make the transition relatively easy.
This has not only helped the team stay focused but also be able to cope with the occasional loss.
“They’ve taken a lot of the stress away with how they’ve stepped up,” he says.
“The real test is after a loss. Everything’s easy and fun when you’re winning.”
While the year might be changing, the hockey season still has a long way to go, so Basarab wants to make sure the team does not lose its focus.
“I’m fairly confident in this group in the way they’ve shown they can handle things,” he adds.
“I’ve just been trying to keep it fairly loose and let these guys play…. A lot of it has been just showing them that they’re capable of doing things they were capable of doing all along. Maybe they just didn’t realize it.”
A trait of the team which helps is that there are so many players on any given night who are capable of stepping up and giving the Storm a much-needed goal.
It makes it hard for opponents to match up against Campbell River because the scoring attack has been balanced all season.
“There has been contributions from up and down the lineup,” he says.
“Not only does that take the pressure off some of our guys to score every single night, it makes it really hard for other teams to match up against us…. There’s only so many shut-down lines and shut-down D-pairs that other teams can put out when we’re scoring like that.”
One thing that should help is the return of some key players like Reid Wheeldon, Darren Hards and Cole Slaney.
The coach is hopeful the players will be back in the new year after the break.
There are other big things on the horizon, such as the upcoming VIJHL all-star game and the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which Campbell River is hosting.
Even as the host team, Basarab is taking nothing for granted, so if the team has the occasional bad loss this time of year, he wants to make sure they are in top form once the playoffs begin.
“The message, for me, has never changed,” he says. “Have fun, go out and play, do what you’re capable of doing.”
The first game back is Jan. 4 when the Storm take on Comox Valley at home.