By RYAN MCCRACKEN on August 21, 2020.
The Medicine Hat Cubs board of directors has voted to release general manager Dave Kowalchuk from his position.
Kowalchuk spent eight years with the Cubs between 2006 and 2020, including the past two seasons as general manager. Cubs president Troy Sandau says the decision was strictly financially-based, as the team will look to combine the now-vacant roles of head coach and GM.
“Right now we’re in a position where we have to cut costs and save money in any position we can. Amalgamating the head coach and GM role will save us a fair amount of money,” said Sandau, whose Cubs are in the process of hiring for the position. “If we were in a good position it might have been different, but right now with COVID and coming into the league and the season strapped financially, we had to make some unfortunate cuts and that was one of them.”
Kowalchuk – who chose not to comment on this story – also served as head coach for four years, from 2006-08 and 2010-12, and spent a season as assistant coach. He stepped in as the team’s director of scouting and recruitment in 2017, then took on GM duties the following year and oversaw the Cubs through one of their most successful stretches in recent memory. After dwelling in the basement of the Heritage Junior Hockey League for a string of consecutive seasons, the Cubs rose above .500 before falling in Game 7 of the second round in each of the past two seasons. The Cubs were slated to host the Hockey Alberta Provincial Championships before COVID-19 prompted the cancellation of the season.
“What Dave has done, where the team was and where it is on account of Dave’s efforts and all his personal time he’s put into it, it’s grown tremendously,” said Sandau, who did not disclose the results of the vote. “We thank Dave for his time with the club and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
As for a new hire, Sandau says the team has a few strong candidates for the head coach and general manager role, and has set a deadline of Aug. 28 for applications.
“Expect an announcement very shortly after,” said Sandau.
Sandau added plenty is still up in the air in terms of a potential HJHL season. Back in June, the Cubs requested to step away from the league for the 2020-21 campaign due to diminished sponsorship revenues, but that decision was reversed following the election of a new board of directors at the team’s Aug. 6 annual general meeting.
“We’re still pushing on,” said Sandau. “We’re still handcuffed with COVID and there are still some things to iron out with the league – and for the league itself with Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta – but we’re pretty much taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. This thing can change in a day, and it could change for the better or it could change for the worse, but right now it’s one day at a time and what comes, we’ll deal with it.”