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WHL  

Rockets get their man

UPDATED: 12:05 P.M.

Bruce Hamilton finally has his man. After nearly a month and 100 applications Hamilton announced 34-year-old Brad Ralph is the ninth coach in franchise history.

It happened quick. Hamilton met face-to-face with Ralph Monday and made the hiring official today.

Ralph replaces Dan Lambert who left after one season behind the bench to join the coaching staff of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

Hamilton sifted through about a hundred resumes before landing on Ralph, who has spent five years coaching professional hockey, the last three with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.

Ralph has no ties to the Western Hockey League having played junior hockey with the OHL's Oshawa Generals.

"There were a lot of former coaches and people who had experience in our league who were interested in the job but I decided early on I wanted to bring someone in who hadn't been in our league," said Hamilton.

"He's the guy I got to and I'm excited about what kind of coach he's going to be. He's young and I think that brings some real energy."

At 34, Ralph is just two years older than Ryan Huska who began his seven year run as Rockets coach at the tender age of 32.

"I was intrigued by his age. I think it's great to give guys like this an opportunity. He's had five years of coaching in the pros. He's going to be a positive guy for us in the dressing room," said Hamilton.

For Ralph, the decision to come to the Okanagan wasn't that difficult.

"Obviously a winning franchise number one, the Canadian Hockey League number two and the team, the players. I've heard nothing but high praises about their character and their ability to win now," said Ralph who admits despite coming off back-to-back-to-back 50 win seasons there isn't any more pressure here to win than anywhere else.

"There is pressure everywhere you go. Bruce said early we expect you to win here. My expectations are as high as anyone's. Our goal is to win the division and win a championship and we'll go from there. We'll take one step at a time."

Obviously he handled the pressure in the ECHL, guiding Idaho to a 132-64-0-20 record over three seasons.

"One of the things he stated in his resume was he wants to play an upbeat game that's offence, offence, offence. We've developed that over the past few years and I want to keep it that way. It keeps your players fully involved and they have fun playing that way," said Hamilton.

The Rockets have been a model franchise since Marc Habscheid was brought in to turn the team around. That continuity is something Hamilton said he demanded out of his new coach.

"If you go back many years when we brought Marc Habscheid in here we needed a dramatic culture change and Marc did that. Then Ryan Huska came in and continued with it," said Hamilton.

"I didn't want somebody coming in thinking we needed a shock treatment because we don't need that t all. Keep going and doing the things we've been doing."

Ralph won't have long get familiar with his new surroundings. Training camp begins in less than three weeks.

Their first pre-season game is Sept. 5 against Prince George. The first regular season game is Sept. 25 against Kamloops.


ORIGINAL: 9:13 P.M.

The Kelowna Rockets have scheduled a noon news conference where it is believed they will unveil their new head coach.

The Rockets have been searching for a new coach for nearly a month after rookie head coach Dan Lambert left the team in early July to take an assistant coaching job with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

In his lone year behind the Rockets bench, Lambert guided the club to the Memorial Cup final, where they fell 2-1 in overtime to Oshawa.

Last week, Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton told Castanet he had interviews set up for the long weekend and hoped to have an announcement this week.

Former University of Alberta head coach Ian Herbers was at the top of Hamilton's list ,but Herbers chose to take an assistant coaching job with the Edmonton Oilers.

Herbers played one season with the WHL's Kelowna Wings back in 1984.



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