Good choice, by there’s still work to be done |

Good choice, by there’s still work to be done

Uh, Dorothy, I think we’ve been here before.

Before everyone chimes in with “Wait a minute,” yes, Jade Kersey, who was hired this week as Battle Mountain’s new hockey coach as well as the director of the Vail Junior Hockey Association, is different from Ken Bielski, his predecessor in Eagle-Vail.

And that’s fine. But the eagerness that some members of the local hockey community have shown to bury the experience of the last year and forget the word “Bielski” ever existed is disturbing.

If anything, Battle Mountain and Vail Junior Hockey must remember what happened in 2001-02 to ensure the future of their respective programs.

Whatever you thought of him personally, Bielski was a great coach in his one year here and the manner of his departure was a disgrace. And given the nature of his departure, it’s a credit to Battle Mountain and the VJHA that they’ve been able to bring in such a qualified coach in Kersey.

Kersey’s resume includes time in Canadian juniors, an ECAC career at Brown, a year of pro hockey and two years as an assistant coach at Division I Sacred Heart in Connecticut. Props are definitely in order to VJHA president Glen Davis and the board, as well as Battle Mountain AD Fred Koetteritz and principal Mark Bullock.

But there’s still work to be done. First off, there needs to be a values-clarification moment for everybody associated with the hockey scene. Repeat after me, Kersey is the coach … Kersey is the director.

One, it’s a good sign that the same person holds the two positions. That should have been the case last year and should be the case from now on.

No. 2, these titles should not be in name only. Kersey is the coach at Battle Mountain and he should be given full reign there to establish his system and play the players who should play.

All the politics over why little Matty or little Johnny isn’t playing needs to stop. Life will go on if a player doesn’t turn into a hockey prodigy and, more often than not, it’s not the coach’s fault, despite beliefs to the contrary by some hockey parents in this community.

Davis has suggested the possibility of naming a membership-advocate or forming a grievance/disciplinary committee to deal with such issues within the VJHA, while Koetteritz has wisely acknowledged “that it would be foolish not to learn form last year’s experience.” That’s a promising start, but it will require follow-through. Kersey needs and deserves the support of the VJHA board and the Battle Mountain administration.

As for the players, remember them? That’s sort of why we’re all here, right? They’re big winners in this deal from Mites all the way up to the likes of Jason Chase, Austin Chow and P.J. Bevan. And, speaking of the Huskies, there was a lot of talk about boarding schools and the like after Bielski’s departure. That’s understandable. Bielski did a great job with them and the team developed a tight bond.

But the current Huskies owe it to Kersey to give him a chance. I did an informal survey of the returnees from last year’s squad and it’s quite possible everyone could be back next year, another promising sign for the Huskies and the Mountaineers.

And, parents, please remember that a coach is a role model, but not a baby-sitter. Battle Mountain hockey and the Vail Midget AA’s were no different than other sports locally at the high school level when it came to issues involving tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. But it did leave a pall over the team.

Doubtless, Kersey will advocate responsible behavior for his players. That is his job. But when it comes to issues of this sort, it’s best to start the process at home.

The bottom line is that Battle Mountain and the VJHA have made a good decision here with the hiring of Kersey. His hiring is going to allow Huskies hockey to build upon last year’s foundation, as well as to unite the VJHA and the high school program. Now, as last year shows us, all he needs is the help and support of the Vail Valley.

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