Josh MacNiven has been added to the Kelowna Rockets coaching staff

Rockets hire new assistant

The Kelowna Rockets didn't have to go far to find a replacement for assistant coach Vern Fiddler.

The Rockets announced Tuesday they have hired 44-year-old Josh MacNiven as the club's new assistant coach.

The native of Calgary has spent the past six seasons as an assistant with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

"We are excited to add Josh to our coaching staff," said Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton.

"He will bring a new perspective to our existing staff, I believe change and new ideas are very valuable for our team. We look forward to Josh and his family getting settled in Kelowna."

MacNiven is familiar with the Okanagan, having spent two seasons playing with Vernon in the BCHL in the mid 90s.

He spent four years in college before playing professionally in the American and East Coast hockey leagues and in Europe.

He spent a year coaching at the University of Lethbridge before joining the Hurricanes.

"I want to thank Bruce, Kris Mallette and the Hamilton family for this opportunity," said MacNevin.

"I'm extremely excited to be a part of the Rockets organization with everything that they've accomplished, they're one of the most storied franchises in the Western Hockey League. I'm over the moon about getting the chance to become a part of that history with Kris.

"I'm excited to bring with me what I've learned while in Lethbridge and apply it to the Rockets.

Mallette says he believes MacNiven's international experience allows him to see the game differently.

"He was an offensive-minded defenceman, and I think that will complement the vision that I'm trying to instill into our group, regardless of position," said Mallette.

"I know in speaking with him that he has a bright mind, he's very eager to learn and has a lot to offer. Everyone that we have spoken to, who has worked with him has had nothing but positive reviews and great things to say about Josh."

MacNiven was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1996, but never played a game in the NHL.

Kamloops Blazers hand GM duties to head coach Shaun Clouston

Clouston new Blazers GM

The Kamloops Blazers didn't have to look very far to find their new general manager.

Shaun Clouston was promoted Tuesday to head coach/general manager of the Western Hockey League club, while longtime staffer Tim O’Donovan was named assistant GM.

“After a thorough process of interviewing both external and internal candidates for the vacant general manager position, we concluded that the solutions were already within the organization,” Blazers majority owner Tom Gaglardi said in a news release announcing the promotions.

“As such, we have asked Shaun Clouston to assume GM duties for the hockey club. He will be well supported by others as he takes on greater responsibility. Given Shaun’s past accomplishments and resume, we have no doubt he will be successful.”

Clouston has led the Blazers to a 59-22-3-1 record over the last two seasons in 85 games. Prior to joining the Blue and Orange, he spent seven seasons as head coach and GM of the Medicine Hat Tigers.

“I want to thank Tom Gaglardi and the Blazers organization,” Clouston said.

“I am very honoured and grateful for the opportunity to lead this team.”

Clouston, who is from Viking, Alta., will replace Matt Bardsley, who announced he was leaving the club following the 2020-2021 WHL season.

Kelowna Rockets have again reached out to the Czech Republic in the CHL import draft

Rockets nab Czech in draft

The Kelowna Rockets hope to have two Czech natives in the lineup when they open up the 2021-2022 season in October.

The Rockets, who will have forward Pavel Novak back in the fold, added countryman Garbiel Szturc during Wednesday's CHL import draft.

Szturc, 17, was taken with the 44th selection in the opening round.

He spent much of last season on loan to HC Slovan Usti and Labem. He had a goal and five assists in 16 games.

He added another two goals and four assists in 11 games in the Czech under-20 league.

The 5'10", 172 pound centre also represented the Czech Republic at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championships, picking up four points in five games.

The Rockets passed in the second round.

Szturc is expected to be on the ice when the Rockets open training camp in September.

Kelowna Rockets have 26 back-to-back games as part of 2021-2022 WHL schedule

Rockets schedule released

The Kelowna Rockets will play a lot more weekend games at Prospera Place during the upcoming Western Hockey League season.

The schedule, released Wednesday, includes 26 of 34 home dates on either a Friday, or Saturday night. There are no Sunday home dates this season.

The schedule will include six Wednesday night games, one of a Tuesday and a Family Day matinee Monday, Feb. 21 against the Tri-City Americans.

The league is also starting Oct. 1, about two weeks later than normal, and finishing the first weekend in April, about two weeks later than usual.

The Rockets will kick off the 68-game regular season at home Saturday, Oct. 2 against the reigning US Division champion Everett Silvertips, and close it out Saturday, April 2 at home against Victoria.

The schedule will be a little more bunched up that usual, with the Rockets playing 26 back-to-back games, mostly on consecutive Friday and Saturday nights. They will also have one three-in-three weekend in early March.

The schedule also includes four occasions where they play three games in four nights and four others where they play four in five nights.

One quirk in the schedule won't see the Rockets and arch rival Kamloops meet until Dec. 4. Typically, the teams meet each other very early in the season.

However, they will meet eight times in a span of just four weeks from Feb. 25 to March 26.

The league has eliminated out of conference play this season, meaning BC Division teams will only play within their division and the US Division.

Teams play division rivals 12 times each and US Division team four times each.

With the anticipated lifting of health restrictions across all jurisdictions, the WHL expects to return to the ice at full capacity in a fan-friendly and safe environment

Rockets season ticket holders will receive their renewal packages in the coming weeks.

Season seats for new season seat holders will go on sale in July through the Rockets office.

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