Ridge Meadows Flames head coach and general manager Tavis Eaton resigned from the local junior B team Saturday after the team lost 8-1 to the Delta Ice Hawks Friday at home.
Former assistant coach Jamie Fiset is taking over Eaton’s duties.
While Eaton had previously stated he planned to leave the team at the end of this season, he said it was clear to him he no longer had support from the team’s management.
“I decided it was best if I walked away,” said Eaton. “Things haven’t been good for a while. The management and volunteers wanted me gone, so I’m going.”
The Flames are on course for their worst season in close to 15 years, and with seven games to go, have a record of eight wins, 28 losses, and one overtime loss.
“Some people just see the record, but I see the progress we’ve made from the beginning of the year until now,” Eaton said. “We had such a bad start … but I think the team is starting to gel.”
Eaton was named the PIJHL’s coach of the year for the 2009/10 season, his first behind the Flames’ bench as head coach, after the team went 28-16-4 and finished first in the Harold Brittain Conference.
However, the team has failed to live up to management’s and fans’ expectations since.
Flames co-owner Andrew Ilaender said he’s looking forward to the new direction the team will be taking under Fiset’s leadership.
“Tavis and his whole family have been a huge part of this organization for the past seven years,” said Ilaender. “His mom sold the 50/50 tickets and did the sewing for the team. If something ever needed to be fixed, his dad was always there. I really appreciate everything they’ve done for the team.
“But change is good, and it was time for a change with the record we have.”
Fiset has been involved with the club for five years and has worked with B.C. Hockey’s male and female high performance programs.
Ilaender said he hopes to see a change in the culture of the team to make it more competitive.
“I think the team needs more structure, and it needs to be more serious,” he said. “The Richmond Sockeyes and the Delta Ice Hawks are good every year, and the kids want to play for them. That’s the kind of program we want to develop, but somewhere along the way we lost that.”
Fiset said the coaching change took the team by surprise, but the players are adjusting, and had a strong practice Monday night.
“I think it shook them up,” he said. “But I put the emphasis on a clean slate.”
Fiset said he is looking forward to charting a course for the team that would see them become competitive year in and year out.
His goal for this season is simple: finish strong.
“We have seven games left, I’d like to finish above .500 in those games and get on a roll going into the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve seen the improvement in this team from the start of the year. If we continue to get solid goaltending, and we can get on a roll, I think we’re surprise some teams.”
Fiset and the Flames will have an opportunity strengthen their hold on the fourth and final playoff berth this Thursday as they face the Mission Icebreakers on the road.
• The Flames next home game is this Friday against the Port Moody Black Panthers at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.