Bruce Hamilton is best known these days as the owner and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
Perennially a top team in the WHL, the Rockets have struggled this season to a 12-15-2 record through early December.
What many current WHL followers may not know about is the path Hamilton has traveled to arrive at this juncture in what will be a storied junior hockey career once he steps aside.
When the Hamilton family moved the franchise from Tacoma to Kelowna, they did so before the building known today as Prospera Place was even built. Operating out of the antiquated Memorial Arena, Hamilton suggests they were in “survival mode”.
Once the new facility was operational, ownership began to realize new revenue streams that they could devote in part to assembling a solid hockey operations team.
Lorne Frey had already been a key part of the organization, but would now have more broad opportunities to search for talent. To this day, Frey is an enthusiastic talent recruiter, highly respected across the entire WHL.
Another key hire was Marc Habscheid, who replaced Garth Malarchuk as head coach during the 1999-2000 season. (Incidentally, that coaching change, along with the move made this past October replacing Jason Smith with Adam Foote, are the only to mid-season coaching change ever made by the organization.)
Habscheid played in the WHL and his best years were as a member of the Saskatoon Blades. At the time, Hamilton was part of the management team in Saskatoon that ultimately traded Habscheid to the Kamloops Junior Blazers.
Another important influencer for Hamilton was the late Ed Chynoweth, a key proponent during the process the Hamilton family underwent to acquire the franchise in Tacoma, Washington.
As the Rockets began to achieve success in Kelowna, Hamilton became more involved with the WHL in an executive capacity as Chairman of the Board. It’s a role he enjoys, despite its time consuming nature and some of the public perceptions. Indeed, trying to keep 21 other franchise owners happy and content can come with many distinct challenges.
Hamilton shared some interesting insights with DUBNetwork regarding a host of his WHL colleagues and the great pride he has in the efforts the league has undertaken to maintain franchise stability over the years.
(Ed. Note: Please pardon a few of our personal recollections in this section of the interview, some wonderful memories about the Saskatoon Arena and some very special people from junior hockey days gone by in Saskatoon.)