Playing through an unforeseen coaching change has not slowed the flow of the surging Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
Kam River takes a league-best record of 19-5-1 and 39 points into a pair of weekend road games against the Fort Frances Lakers while having undergone the head coach conversion.
All in all, the Fighting Walleye has a record of 8-1-0 since parting ways with reigning SIJHL coach of the year Matt Valley. Kam River began the 2022-2023 season with a record of 11-4-1 under Valley, who is also a full time school teacher in the Thunder Bay area. Deciding that it wanted a full time head coach, the Fighting Walleye moved on from Valley and hired Geoff Walker to replace him.
The 34-year old Walker, who expertly piloted the Red Lake Miners to the 2021-2022 SIJHL championship, had taken a pro coaching job in Sweden to begin the ’22-23 season. But he jumped at the chance to return to Canada and take the helm in Kam River. Meanwhile, as they waited for Walker to arrive in Kam River, assistant coach Vern Ray and general manager Kevin McCallum ran the Fighting Walleye bench and went undefeated in five games. Kam River has since won three of four games with Walker settled in as the head coach.
At any rate, with all that has transpired and with five of the SIJHL’s seven teams above the .500 mark, aforementioned GM Kevin McCallum is more than happy with the current state of the Fighting Walleye.
“We are excited to be in the position we are. The league is in a great place this season with any team able to win on any given night,” McCallum relayed to Hockey News North. “And for us, the coaching transition has gone smoothly and we are happy to have Geoff in place.
“We have really turned a corner after going through the change especially since we weren’t in a bad place by any means and Matt was doing a good job. We just needed a full time coach in that chair. We have always wanted to be a full time program,” McCallum stressed.
“We were in great hands having Vern step in during the transition with his experience and leadership and he really kept the waters calm with all the uncertainty. Having Geoff settled in now has been very good,” McCallum added.
To be sure, McCallum likes what Kam River has in Walker as an accomplished head coach and leader — and how he has reacted to the way the Fighting Walleye does business as a first rate organization that is only in its second full season of existence as an SIJHL franchise.
“He brings a level of professionalism and calmness to the room and the guys have really responded,” McCallum noted. “Geoff knew a bit of what we are about here and now that he is with us, he has really been overwhelmed with the quality of people in our organization, from owners, hockey staff, volunteers etc. He is seeing for himself that everyone here is involved for the right reasons and we genuinely care about what we are trying to do here.”