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GP Storm Head Coach speaks on loss of five AJHL teams to BCHL

Following a tough loss to the Calgary Canucks in the 2024 AJHL Playoffs, Grande Prairie Storm Head Coach Eric Thurston has shed some light on the “unprecedented” loss of five former AJHL teams to the BCHL that occurred this season.

“I don’t recall ever hearing or ever been a part of where you have five teams in the middle of your season jump to another league, that’s really in all of hockey, I think truly unprecedented,” Thurston says.

Thurston expressed a sense of pride for his team, saying the guys acted in an extremely professional manner despite the struggles that the exodus caused for the entire league.

“That part certainly was a challenge and I really admire our guys, they’re obviously not being paid, but they were true pros, they were very professional, they kept the focus, I know we worked hard,” he says.

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The Head Coach takes a relatively indifferent stance on the matter, saying when league decisions are out of the team’s control, it is far more beneficial to focus on the task at hand, rather than the politics going on within the league.

“There’s so many things that are just out of our control, and it’s one thing, yes you’re extremely disappointed but I know and I told the players that I’m sorry but we have no control over this,” he says. “I use the phrase- this is all above our pay grade, so it’s on how we react to it, [so] at the end of the day we talked about what we have here in a great city, truly the best fans in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and focusing on that process.”

Additionally, Thurston says it was important for him as a coach to remind his players what truly matters as a junior hockey player. He says ultimately, junior hockey is about development, and it is important for his players to continue down their path to success.

“I didn’t want to say to them selfishly, but you also have to look after yourself, in the sense that you guys have goals, you guys have dreams that you want to get to in hockey, you have to keep that front and center with yourself, think of the team, and you’ve gotta move forward.”

Thurston says eyes are now on the offseason, and recruitment of new players and the continued development of those who return is top of mind ahead of the 2024-25 season.

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