Chad van Diemen has had quite the summer.
In early April, van Diemen, 33, was hired as the new bench boss for the Prince George Spruce Kings. He had spent the previous six years as the associate head coach and general manager for the Powell River Kings.
The new job as head coach for the B.C. Hockey League's Spruce Kings meant pulling up stakes on the Sunshine Coast this summer and moving to Prince George.
Van Diemen arrived in Prince George in early August to run the Spruce Kings minor hockey kids camp. His wife and two young sons will arrive in town shortly.
The long-distance phone calls between van Diemen and general manager Mike Hawes that occurred between April and July are now a distant memory.
"It's nice to have a staff to meet in person," said van Diemen at the Coliseum after a day on the ice at the kids camp. "There's been a lot of communication back and forth on the roster moves. (As a team), we have a lot of experience on the back end and up front there is some team speed and some very skilled guys. We have a lot of young guys with a ton of energy who will push the older guys. And we have guys from winning teams because we want to create a winning environment."
Van Diemen took over the Kings' reins when Dave Dupas resigned after the 2015 playoffs to be closer to his family, who live full-time in Kelowna. (Dupas was recently hired as an assistant coach with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.)
Like every season, half of the Kings lineup has been turned over due to trades and players moving on to U.S. college scholarships. The 2015-16 version has 10 returning veterans, including 19-year-old defencemen Stephen Penner, Ryan Fritz and Alex Stoley and forwards Jake LeBrun (19), Braiden Epp (18), Nick Guerra (18), Rider Stoglin (19) and Cole Todd (20).
Returning in net is 20-year-old goaltender Alex Brooks-Potts.
Through trades, Hawes added defenceman Rylan Bechtel, Adam Brubacher, Adam Burnett and Cooper Prechel. Forwards Corey Hoffman, Connor Logan and Luc Soares round out the lineup up front.
Hawes also dipped into the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League ranks to sign
four players who attended the team's spring prospects camp.
They are Parker Colley, 18, from the league champion Vancouver Northeast Chiefs and his 17-year-old teammates Kyle Johnson and goaltender Liam McCloskey. Their major-midget hockey rival, 18-year-old forward Nic Ponak, who spent last season with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, rounds out the group.
"We had some ideas (about the roster)," said Hawes. "We wanted to address some size on our D and add speed up front. We have done that. We expect to be a hard-working team. Alex proved (last season) he can be capable of being a shutdown goalie. With Liam, it's nice to have a youngster there."
Van Diemen spent time in the off-season talking to his players over the phone and getting to know them. He met them face to face last week during pre-training camp ice times and will get to know them even better when the main camp officially begins Monday at 7 p.m.
"We'll be a fast team who can frustrate opponents and we have guys who enjoy the physical side of the game," said van Diemen. "Prince George is a blue collar town and we have to be a blue collar team. We'll have to work harder than all the other teams and out-prepare them."
In addition to longtime assistant coach Jason Garneau, joining van Diemen on the bench this season is new associate coach Adam Maglio, a 28-year-old who spent last season as an assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds.
Maglio fills a position left vacant in January when Colton Buffie resigned from the Kings to take a recreation management position in his hometown of Port Alberni.
Van Diemen knew Maglio from his time at UBC and received a lot of positive feedback about him from Thunderbirds head coach Tyler Kunz.
Maglio is originally from Nelson and played two seasons of NCAA hockey at Morrisville State College in New York (2007 to 2009) before transferring to UBC where he spent three seasons competing for the Thunderbirds.
Prior to the varsity ranks, he spent four seasons in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the Nelson Leafs and Castlegar Rebels.
"It's a good opportunity to coach at a different level and different age group," said Maglio, who arrived in Prince George on Aug. 17. "It gives me more opportunity to develop as a coach."
Forty players will be in the Kings main camp as intrasquad games continue from Tuesday to Thursday at 7 p.m. They are open to the public and are free to attend.
The first exhibition game is slated for Friday, Aug. 28 when the Kings host the Merritt Centennials. They're in Merritt the following night.
Exhibition games follow on Sept. 1 in Grande Prairie, Sept. 4 against Vernon at the Coliseum and Sept. 5 in Vernon.
The regular season begins Sept. 11 when the Kings host the expansion Wenatchee Wild in a two-game set.
"This is an exciting time of year, the beginning of the year," said van Diemen. "I'm looking forward to getting the guys on the ice and putting the game plans in place. The start of the season can be a lot of fun."