After getting some sandbags set up at his lake house yesterday, former Blazers head coach Don Hay returned to Kamloops to speak on his sudden retirement that sparked wholesale changes for the team.
"I think it was time for me to step away," Hay read from a prepared statement. "I've been very fortunate to work with so many great people. I'm disappointed we didn't win more hockey games. We all want to see the team succeed here. Good people lost their jobs; it's very hard to be a part of. I have the utmost respect for Stu (MacGregor), Mike (Needham) and Matt (Recchi). Our record has not been good enough and our organization has to improve. I will help the new staff if they want my help. For now, I'm happy to be a part of the community and part of the Blazers and helping this team improve."
For now, Hay will stay on with the team as a senior advisor. But he also said he would consider other opportunities if they present themselves, leading to questions of whether the decision to leave the head coaching job position was entirely his own.
"It was my decision. I thought it was for the best interest of the hockey club," he says. "It's something you think about for a while. I didn't know what would be the results of me stepping down, obviously, that's out of my hands, it's not my decision. For me, having talked to Don (Moores) about it, we thought that maybe this was the direction to go."
Hay also noted he hoped his former assistant Needham would get a shot at the head coaching job. Governor and co-owner Tom Gaglardi said that Needham could interview for the position if he wanted, but it won't be filled until the team hires a new general manager.
Hay started his coaching career with the Blazers in 1986, becoming head coach in 1992 and leading the team to two Memorial Cups. After coaching stints in the NHL, AHL and around the WHL, he returned to the Blazers in 2014. Hay set the record for most coaching wins in the WHL on Jan. 28 of this year, and retires with 750 victories in the league.
Kamloops born, the Blazers will always hold a special place for him.
"I've had a great career. It's a lot of memories, a lot of good times, a lot of good people. You want to remember those types of things. I got a lot of texts yesterday from ex-players and when they use that word 'retiring' in the text, it really stands out."
It's still unclear how involved he'll be in his senior advisor role. The parameters will be better defined once he meets with the new front office.
For now, he says he's happy to spend more time with his family but jokes that they might not like seeing him that much.