Colin Minardi is the new associate coach of the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The 28-year-old Minardi replaces Jessie Leung, who has left the B.C. Hockey League team for personal reasons and has returned to his home in the Lower Mainland.
“Jessie and I talked on Sunday, when he came back from the Showcase weekend and he’s leaving for some personal reasons, there’s some family stuff going on there, and we mutually agreed to part ways,” said Kings general manager Mike Hawes. “It’s not the ideal situation when you have to make a coaching change part way through the season but that being said there are things in life much more important than the game of hockey. We wish him nothing but luck moving forward.”
Minardi played for Kings head coach Alex Evin for parts of two seasons at Selkirk College (2012-14) when Evin was an assistant coach with the team.
“Alex was really influential on Colin and helped push him in the directions he went in life and there was a good relationship and that was a huge selling feature for me,” said Hawes. “I think Colin will transition quickly into what we’re doing here and I’m excited to see him working with our coaches to make our players better.”
Minardi, a native of Summerland, went on to play three seasons in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference at Concordia University in Edmonton from 2014-17, where he earned a degree in business management. He also had a brief stint playing NCAA hockey for Finlandia University in Hancock, Mich. Since he retired as a player, he’s been coaching midget hockey in the Okanagan and this season was head coach of the South Okanagan double-A midget team in Summerland. He’ll make his debut behind the Kings bench Friday at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, where they host the Nanaimo Clippers.
Leung was hired over the summer when Evin was promoted from to head coach of the Kings to replace Adam Maglio, who moved on to the WHL as an associate with the Spokane Chiefs.
The Kings will have a new player in the lineup Friday when 19-year-old forward Jaxon Steele makes his BCHL debut against the Nanaimo Clippers (7 p.m., Rolling Mix Concrete Arena). Steele was acquired earlier this week in a deal with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL which sent 18-year-old forward Henry Wagner and future considerations to the Thunder.
Steele, a six-foot-two, 170-pound native of Calgary, played the past two seasons in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He had two goals and five points in 48 games last season. Steele played part of the 2017-18 season in the AJHL with the Calgary Canucks and had nine goals and 18 points in 20 games.
“His name came across my desk and Alex had done some good research on him as well and someone we know in Calgary thought Jaxon would be a great fit for us if he came out of Medicine Hat,” said Hawes. “This trade was something I’ve been working on for a long time. Jaxon’s numbers aren’t overwhelming from the Western League but he is actually a pretty good offensive player. That was a pretty good team he was on and he’s going to come here and add some size and scoring.”
Wagner, a five-foot-seven, 143-pound native of St. Louis, Mo., played eight games for the Kings and was held without a point. Wagner has signed an NCAA commitment with Yale University.
“Henry kind of underachieved a little but with us but he’s still a young guy with a couple years in him before he goes to college and he wasn’t going to get the opportunity here that he needs to develop for college,” said Hawes. “He was kind of buried behind some other forwards and this opportunity for icetime will be better for him.”
The Spruce Kings (4-5-2-0, fourth in Mainland Division) are coming off a 7-4 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday at the BCHL Showcase in Penticton.
The Clippers (6-3-0-1, third in Island Division) are on a four-game winning streak since losing 4-3 to the league-leading Penticton Vees on Sept. 22. Former Spruce King forward Sean Donaldson, 19, who helped the Kings win the BCHL championship last season, has a goal and three assists in 10 games with the Clippers.
The Kings host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.