Change is the order of the day in the nest of the Valley West Hawks as the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League heads into the summer months.
The biggest change comes at the top where head coach Tom Spencer has left the club to take an assistant coaching position with the B.C. Hockey Leagueâ€™s Surrey Eagles.
Under Spencerâ€™s guidance, the Hawks enjoyed their most successful seasons the past two years, highlighted by a run to the semifinals this spring. The Hawks stretched the eventual champion Okanagan Rockets to the full three games in the best-of-three semifinal before being eliminated.
Spencer hands his whistle off to Jessie Leung, who spent the last three years as an assistant with the Hawks.
â€œHeâ€™s a big guy and he definitely has some big shoes to fill,â€ Leung said of Spencer. â€œIâ€™m ready for this. I definitely learned a lot working with Tom and Iâ€™m excited for him and his new opportunity. His move comes at an opportune time for me because I feel ready to step in and build on the success weâ€™ve had the last couple of seasons.â€
The 28-year-old Leung said his two seasons at Spencerâ€™s side was a great experience in his development as a coach, most importantly about preparation and team maturity.
Perennial BCMML powers such as the Rockets and the Vancouver Northwest Giants find their strength in their consistency. Those teams are ready to go at the start of the season and get a jump on their rivals by piling up points early in the campaign when other teams are still finding their footing.
â€œFor us to get to the level where we are winning one-goal games instead of losing or tying them, it takes consistency right from the start of the year,â€ Leung said. â€œThe last two years weâ€™ve had a lot of returning players and that helped the maturation process of the team. We were ready to go at the start of the season instead of hemorrhaging points early in the year until we got going.â€
Leung and the Hawks are facing another challenge this season after the teamâ€™s feeder system was altered. In the first 10 years of the league, the Hawks drew players from the Semiahmoo, Cloverdale, Surrey and Langley minor hockey associations. Langley has now been shifted in the catchment of the Fraser Valley Chiefs and will be replaced by with North Delta Minor Hockey.