Since the Generals joined the Northern Pacific Hockey League in 2000, the team has only missed the playoffs once, which was last season. Well, during the last weekend of January, the Generals were able to clinch their playoff birth after splitting a two-game series with the West Sound Warriors. This playoff birth put the Generals back on the team’s familiar path of postseason play.
Turning a franchise around can be hard. It’s not always as simple as making a coaching or front office change. Everyone needs to be on the same page with the same goals in mind to truly turn a franchise around. At the halfway point of the season, the Generals decided to begin their rebuilding process when the team promoted Justin Kern from assistant coach to head coach.
As previously stated, turning around a franchise can be difficult. After a bad season, no matter the team or the league, it impacts everything from fan attendance to recruiting players for the coming seasons. Kern said, “turning around a franchise is hard, and it takes a lot of work. But when you’re working with such great people, like everyone in the Generals’ office, it’s not bad. All it takes is a little bit of teamwork and dedication to ensure we plan on doing everything the right way.”
Generally speaking, some of the hardest things to overcome while turning a franchise around is, “dealing with the reputation you may have gained over the last couple of years. Whether that’s not making the playoffs, or not always being a top team in contention, that always makes it hard for recruiting,” said Kern.
Kern continued, “the organization has to be true to themselves when they sit down and assess how everything is going. Then ultimately deciding to make a change can be difficult. Doing something the right way isn’t always the easiest way.”
But with the bad, there is always some good. Kern said, “when you have such great people around you, and supporting you, it is easy to make the dedicated move to doing things right.”
Being in his first full season as the head coach of the Generals, Kern was asked if this was an obstacle he had to overcome when it came to putting the team back on the right path. Kern said, “this being my first full season as the head coach, and turning the team around with everyone’s help, has made it more enjoyable. Being able to do things the way I want to do them, and with open communication with the rest of the staff and team, it has made things a lot easier.”
Now, one can’t expect to make significant changes and go straight to the playoffs right away. There are many complex steps that a team must take in order to get back on the right path. Kern said, “we took a big step forward on recruiting this year. We did really well, and it feels great to have a full team. But there are some other things we have been doing differently this year too; such as social media, advertising, and trying to make sure we get our faces in front of the fans while putting the players in front of the scouts.”
Once a team begins to take the right step towards success, it can be a domino effect. As one aspect falls into place, other great things will follow. Kern stated, “the upside of a successful season, which isn’t over just yet, is that it makes it easier to recruit. When players love playing here, they tell their friends, then all of a sudden their friends want to come and play here too. Tie that in with a winning record and you become a more desirable location for other players.”
Overall, “it feels good to be getting back on track to the playoffs. The organization as a whole has worked extremely hard to get back on the path of success. It’s not over for us just yet though, but so far this year, it has been a fun one. We won some games, the players are doing well, and of course clinching the playoff spot feels really good,” stated Kern.
Making it back to the playoffs doesn’t mean that the Generals are fulfilled with everything they have accomplished this season. After all, someone does have to be crowned the NPHL champion and hoist the Cascade Cup.
This weekend, the Generals will square off against the Bellingham Blazers in a two-game series at The Rink Exchange in Eugene, Oregon. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:35 pm (PST) for both games.
Tune in to the NPHL’s website for a full weekend recap on Wednesday, February 10th.
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