The president of the Amherst Ramblers is disappointed with criticism the club's new coach is receiving.
AMHERST – Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers’ coach and general manager Josh Hepditch has the complete support of the club’s board of directors as he works to reshape the hockey team.
“We’re behind him 100 per cent. People are hanging him out to dry on social media and he hasn’t even coached a game yet,” team president Jim Henwood said. “We need to give this guy a chance. He has a plan, he spoke to us about, we supported it and we continue to support it.”
Hepditch raised a few eyebrows at the Maritime Junior Hockey League draft last Saturday when he dealt 20-year-old forward Daniel Walsh and defenceman Willie MacDonald to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers in return for draft picks and defenceman Tanner McCabe.
Since then, the coach has been facing a lot of criticism on social media and Henwood doesn’t think it’s fair.
“We traded two good hockey players. Willie MacDonald thanked the coach for giving him a chance to go for a title and I think it’s a good opportunity for Daniel Walsh to win a title. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be going for a title this year, but at the same time we stand a really good chance of hosting the Fred Page Cup next year. We want to ice the most competitive team we can and Josh is working on that and he has our support.”
Henwood said Amherst has Stu Rath’s support and he’s been approached by the owner of the Bridgewater franchise offering his support for Amherst’s bid. The Ramblers lost out to Truro several seasons ago to host the 2013 Fred Page Cup. While he was upset at the time, Henwood understands Truro had an edge because of the new Rath Eastlink Arena.
The team president said he and Hepditch had a good talk before the draft. He said the coach asked him if he wanted him to clean house and he replied that he wants to ice a competitive team.
“Do we expect to have a championship team every year? No, that’s not possible on our budget, but we want to be competitive. That’s the route he’s taking,” Henwood said. “He has three top prospects in British Columbia and he expects two of them to be coming to Amherst. He’s also going to the Hit the Ice Camp in Montreal and he’s hoping to bring players back from there.
“This guy has a plan and he’s a winner. It peaves me off when I see what’s being said in social media by people hiding behind fictitious names. I’m getting tired of it. We brought someone in here who’s very professional and he doesn’t deserve to be treated like this,” Henwood said. “This fellow is going to be coach of the year in this league in the future.”
Henwood said the team is prepared to spend resources at Christmas and/or at the trading deadline to add players to make a playoff run.
“Don’t think for one minute that we’re just going to frig around this season and not worry about making the playoffs. We’re going to build for the Fred Page Cup, but we’re also going to make the playoffs this season,” Henwood said. “We’re going to have a winner in this town and that’s all this fellow has done in his career. He won in Moncton, he won at UNB and he’s been successful in British Columbia. He’s proved to me that we hired the right guy by making the moves he’s made.”
Henwood said he’s disappointed with fans going around the community criticizing the team and jeopardizing sponsorships and advertising the club depends.
“If they’re really Amherst fans they wouldn’t be doing that, they’d give us a chance,” Henwood added. “They’re jeopardizing the future of the hockey club by saying what they’re saying. We’re at the time of year that we’re meeting with our advertisers and sponsors and we need people to be behind us. We’re going to ice a competitive team this year.”