The Coquitlam Express has its man — for at least the next three years.
The BC Hockey League (BCHL) team has announced it’s extended the contract of general manager and vice-president Tali Campbell for three years.
The 26-year-old is one of the youngest executives in the BCHL. He took the reins of the Express front office last October, moving over from a similar position he held with the Nanaimo Clippers.
In a press release, Campbell said he’s looking forward to building the team for a post-pandemic world, with fans once again allowed to attend at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex.
A key component of that building program was Campbell’s recent hiring of a new head coach, Brandon Shaw, a 26-year-old former assistant coach in Port Alberni and Merritt.
In addition to hiring Shaw, Campbell’s also brought in Jeff Wagner from the Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as an associate coach, as well as a new athletic trainer, a new video coach along with a director of player assistance, Danny Shepard, to guide players physical and mental development.
Express owner Fayaz Manji said extending Campbell’s contract provides stability, as well as reaffirms the commitment he made to the team and the community when he acquired the Express in Oct., 2019.
Campbell said his first season hasn’t been easy, as he’s had to navigate the team through a season of uncertainty and tumult brought on by shifting public health restrictions to battle the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that uncertainty was the sudden resignation of head coach Dan Cioffi just before the start of the BCHL’s pod season in March. He was succeeded by interim bench boss Adam Nugent-Hopkins, who already worked with the team as a fitness coach.
The Express won last year’s regular-season points championship under former coach and general manager Jason Fortier. But the team was denied its run at the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup or the national Centennial Cup championship when the playoffs were shut down by the pandemic after it had swept the Langley Rivermen in the first round.
Coquitlam won eight games and lost three in a five-week exhibition season that started last Oct. 2 but was subsequently shut down in November by widening public health restrictions that limited teams to conducting only socially-distanced practices for several months. In March the league was given the green light for a 20-game season to be played in five regional pods of local rivals around the province. The Express won six of its games against the Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings, lost 11 in regulation time and another three in overtime.
Campbell said it was a challenging time as the initial public health orders kept some players off the ice while others could continue to practice.
He also agreed to let several players pursue other opportunities to see game action in other provinces or in the United States Hockey League as restrictions eased there, leaving gaps in the team’s roster that had to be filled with players borrowed from other organizations or brought up from affiliate teams in the Pacific Junior Hockey League or Major Midget.
The Express celebrates its 20th anniversary next season.