The DUBNetwork recently caught up with Victoria Royals President and General Manager Cameron Hope to discuss his club’s start to the season, the progression of his players and the look ahead.
In a season that many have deemed a rebuild, Victoria raced out to a 7-0 start, all against rival B.C. division foes. Since that start the pace has slowed, however the team currently sits in second place with an overall record of 12-6-0-0.
When asked about the first part of the season, Hope gave credit to his coaching staff and veteran players. “We have a couple of things going for us that gave us the feeling that we’d have a pretty good start. The team was well prepared, Dan (Head Coach Dan Price) and the coaching staff does an unbelievably good job of having the guys ready to go from the start of the season. And when you come out of the gate 7-0, that’s probably the biggest reason. But as well, in key positions we have veteran guys and they’ve been there before. Ralph Jarratt, Dante Hannoun and Griffin Outhouse were all sensational through the first stretch. If you get those guys humming and everybody’s prepared, good things can happen while teams that you meet are just sorting themselves out.”
Along with Victoria’s surprise start came the sudden emergence of forwards the likes of Kaid Oliver and D-Jay Jerome. Both players are enjoying breakout years, with Oliver leading the team with 21 points and Jerome second with 19 points. When asked what he felt lead to the players fast start, Hope said “You see it all the time, where you have guys that have that offensive ability in their game, but they’ve been waiting their turn. But it’s nice to see that a couple of the players are really getting it, so kudos to them for having the patience to wait it out.” Hope added that it’s not uncommon for a player to have a breakout season as they age in the league. “In this league a lot of time gets taken up on special teams, on forward your top six guys and on defense your top four guys. If you’re a 17-year-old in this league, unless you’re an elite player that’s found his way into that top group, you’re generally not playing a lot of minutes, and you’re not playing key situations. You see that all around the league, on every single team you can point to one or two guys who have that breakthrough year. Either it’s at 18 or sometimes at 19, they finally get the chance to show what they can do.”
“If I’m told by any of these players that they want to finish their junior careers with Victoria Royals, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that happens.” – Cam Hope on his veteran players
The Royals trio of 20-year-old players are all original Victoria prospects, with Jarratt, Hannoun and Outhouse all developing within the franchise. When asked if it was important for the team to try and show loyalty to its long-term players, Hope said, “I think it’s important and it’s something that every team takes seriously. When you have someone who’s here from the age of 16 or was drafted with the franchise, that must enter into your calculation of how you treat them. We’re not a professional hockey team, our bigger mandate is to make sure that we’re developing these young athletes to be the best they can be and a part of that is being stable. If I’m told by any of these players that they want to finish their junior careers with the Victoria Royals, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that happens. That stability is important, and it’s important for a franchise to get a reputation for being that way.”
“It’s not out of the question that one or both of those guys might come back to the Western Hockey League. Selfishly, it would be great. But on the other hand, you wish that they have all the success there.” -Hope on a possible return of Phillips and Kaspick
Victoria also has two other 20-year-old players in Matthew Phillips and Tanner Kaspick, who are looking to make the jump to the professional leagues. While the window appears to be closing on either of them returning, Hope was asked if there was a plan in the event either or both were sent back to the Royals. “You can’t make a plan until it happens. The way the league regulations are, you do get a little bit of time to sort it out if a player gets sent back. But it’s always on your mind, if either Matthew Phillips or Tanner Kaspick comes back, we’ll have a decision to make in some way. We have been in contact with them and have talked to both professional clubs in the last 10 days, just keeping tabs on where they are. It doesn’t look like there is any change imminent, but these things tend to come to a head sometime around Christmas when the pro teams decide where they want their guys to develop for the rest of the year. It’s not out of the question that one or both of those guys might come back to the Western Hockey League. Selfishly, it would be great. But on the other hand, you wish that they have all the success there. And right now, they’re both doing really well.”
Watch for part 2 of our interview with Cameron Hope as he discusses the road ahead for this year’s team, as well as the upcoming trade deadline.
Cameron Hope is in his seventh season as the General Manager of the Victoria Royals. The Edmonton, AB native is the second general manager in the team’s history and fourth in the franchise’s history. Hope is a graduate of the University of Alberta, with degrees in Arts (Sociology) and Law. Hope was presented the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy for WHL Executive of the Year in 2013-14 and was the Western Conference nominee for the award in 2015-16