Wolverines fire Head Coach Marek Babic
The NWJHL is a Junior B league. I know I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. But I bring that up only because I am sure there have been a lot of strange incidents in the history of the league. By its nature this is a league that has probably seen some strange things. Has the league seen anything stranger than a coach getting fired after starting the season 14-0? Probably. But not since I have been following the league. That’s why the Whitecourt Wolverines have left a lot of people scratching their heads with the canning of Head Coach Marek Babic.
Let’s start with the end of last season. The Wolverines went to provincials as the Champion of the NWJHL and had what Huskies Coach Bob Kalb called the best Junior B team he had ever seen. Joey Bouchard was the man behind the bench in Whitecourt and the man responsible from bringing in former AJHL and even some future WHL players. They carried roughly 45 guys on the roster. Well maybe not that many but 30 at least. Bouchard seemingly didn’t care about how many guys he had to scratch but only about having the best team possible. Theoretically there is nothing wrong with that. So the Wolverines head to Provincials on a mission to be the first team from the NWJHL to win that tournament. They came up just short, losing in the final. So Bouchard heads off to Merritt to take over the struggling Centennials in the BCHL, one of if not the top Junior A league in Canada, and Marek Babic is hired to take over in Whitecourt.
Now, Joey Bouchard didn’t last especially long in Merritt where he resigned citing personal reasons before the season had even started. Brian Wiebe is a big time Hockey and Junior A supporter in the Merritt area. His blog provides interesting insight into the hiring and then resigning of Bouchard.
So Bouchard is out of the picture in Whitecourt and Marek Babic is brought in to replace him. And despite losing a hat full of VERY good hockey players the Wolverines don’t miss a beat thanks to former role players like Tyler Stubbs, Jordan Stead and Kjell Ried taking on bigger roles and really stepping up. They come out of the gates quick and move to 14-0 including 2 wins over their closest competition, the Huskies, who are currently the league’s best team other than Whitecourt.
Anyone who was at the NPA when the Wolverines were in town will know that this is a very good team. They are solid at both ends of the rink, good on special teams and have lights out goaltending. So what more could you want? I guess if you are the owner of the Whitecourt Wolverines there is an answer to that question. What more do you want?
Well you can’t be better than 14-0 so for the life of me I can’t figure out why Marek Babic lost his job as coach. The most goals scored in the league, the fewest conceded, the best PP and the third best PK. Only the Huskies, at a n incredible 85.9% and Grande Prairie have better penalty kills. So is that it? The PK wasn’t good enough? And that cost Babic his job? I certainly have no idea why this happened but maybe the man himself does. Here is what Babic had to say when Wolverines play-by-play voice Dave Dawson from XM105 in Whitecourt asked why he was fired. [asset|aid=2122|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=8ab5373afdbcb54140a63c6cb6f1d879-Babick 1_1_Pub.mp3]
Now if it seems like I am angry about this I can assure you I am not. Surprised? VERY. Confused? Almost always. Angry? Not really. Although I do feel an awful lot of sympathy for Marek Babic. How can you not feel sympathy after listening to Babic in this next clip. Not fair? That seems like a pretty “fair” assessment at this point. Again from XM105’s Dave Dawson. [asset|aid=2123|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=8ab5373afdbcb54140a63c6cb6f1d879-Babick 3_1_Pub.mp3]
So Babic is out and his former assistan 30 year old Richard Kazda is the new head coach. Murray Summers will also head behind the bench to assist Kazda after stepping down as GM. Who will be the new GM? Well if you head to the NWJHL Fan Forum you can read some rumours about Joey Bouchard although at this time those appear to be only rumours. They make sense, since Bouchard does not appear to have a hockey job right now, and he of course has connections to the Wolverines. But again nothing has been confirmed and the Bouchard rumours are most likely the result of people trying to put 2 and 2 together but not necessarily getting to 4. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in the long run.
Now, I should close by saying this. If you own a hockey team you can hire and fire whomever you wish. Maybe something happened during a practice, on ice, off ice, behind the scenes, heck maybe Babic looked at the owner funny one day in the hallway. If it’s your team then you can fire the coach at any time. You sign the cheques, you pay the bills, and you own the team so you also own the right to can people at any time, that’s your prerogative. I mean George Steinbrenner used to fire Billy Martin every week. And maybe facts will come out later on about why this firing took place that will make it make sense. But until those facts emerge or until I hear a good reason why you would fire a coach whose team is 14-0 then I am going to file this whole thing under ‘S’ for strange.