Hawes is BCHL's executive choice

Prince George Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes is the B.C. Hockey League's executive of the year.

In a season of firsts that included a league championship, Doyle Cup series win and berth in the national junior A hockey championship final for the Spruce Kings, the 49-year-old Hawes was selected for the award by his league peers, presented Thursday at the BCHL's annual general meeting in Penticton.

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"It's a little feather in the cap for myself and the organization, you don't win an award like this without being surrounded by good people and certainly the year we had kind of lends itself to this," said Hawes.

"I've been in the league for a long time and put a lot of work not only to our team but into the league as a governor for a lot of years. We have 17 members in our league and we're all rivals on the ice but we're all partners off the ice and we all have to work together. A lot of work goes into running a successful league and we have one of the best ones around."

In his ninth season as GM, Hawes built a Kings team that won its way to the national championship. After finishing second-overall in the BCHL regular season standings they took off on a spectacular playoff run. They went 16-1 in the playoffs, then beat the Alberta-champion Brooks Bandits in a six-game Doyle Cup series to emerge as Pacific champions at the national tournament in Brooks.

The dream of a winning a national crown came up one win short May 19 when the Kings lost 4-3 in the final to the host Bandits.

Last season with Hawes at the helm the Spruce Kings made it to the BCHL final for the first time in their 22 years in the league and ended up losing a five-game series to Wenatchee. That Kings team put up its first BCHL banners as Coastal regular season and playoff champions, as well as winning the Coastal Conference playoff title.

Discussions at the BCHL table Thursday with league commissioner Chris Hebb and chairman of the board Graham Fraser centred around a newly-developed five-year strategic plan and how that will be implemented. Some minor changes were made to how the league administers suspensions and serious penalties. In the case of major penalty for a blow to the head being handed out, which used to carry an automatic four-game suspension, that has been reduced to a two-game suspension, which is reviewable by the league's players' safety department.

"Those sorts of penalties within our league are on the decrease and they have been again this year," said Hawes. "We only had four suspensions through the playoff season all the way through the junior A national championship, the lowest we've ever had, and that's a good sign. Our league is a leader as far as players' safety goes."

Hawes serves on the league's competitions committee and the coaches were brought in discuss some of the hockey operations issues they're facing. The league has developed a tentative schedule which will be finalized this week.

In the wake of the WHL's Kootenay Ice leaving Cranbrook for Winnipeg, there is interest in Cranbrook acquiring a BCHL franchise and while that won't happen for next season Hawes says there has been serious discussion about a group from there joining the league, which would likely lead to a realignment of the divisions likely to affect the Spruce Kings.

Spruce Kings defenceman Layton Ahac, listed by NHL Central Scouting as the 66th-ranked North American skater eligible for the draft in June, is in Buffalo, N.Y., this week to participate in the NHL scouting combine - a series of physical teats and interviews to help the 31 NHL teams make their draft choices. Prince George Cougars goalie Taylor Gauthier, ranked seventh among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting, is also attending the combine.

The NHL draft will be in Vancouver, June 21-22.

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