In our second installment of Q&A this season, we speak to a Port Moody Panthers general manager Brian Wiebe who’s been involved in Junior hockey most of his working life and brings a unique viewpoint to his role of building a team and helping players move on to new opportunities. A former play-by-play voice, Brian articulates his experiences for the PJHL this week.
PJHL: Why did you want to get involved with the Panthers franchise?
Brian Wiebe: I originally got involved with the Panthers because I relocated from Merritt to Port Moody for work. I went two seasons without working directly with a junior hockey team and didn’t want to conflict with my role as a media member covering the BC Hockey League, so I decided to reach out to the Panthers’ ownership at the time. I recognized they needed help with the digital side of their organization, namely their website and social media, so that’s where I started.
PJHL: You have a background in hockey play-by-play and broadcasting – do you miss doing that and how does that view of the game shape the way you approach your GM role?
BW: I definitely miss being on a hockey broadcast every week. My full-time job (instructing) at BCIT is all about helping shape the careers of students looking to produce audio, video, and text content for a variety of platforms, so it helps scratch the itch of not being directly involved in a broadcast myself. Plus, I have other side hustles throughout the year that keep me involved in media on some level. I am also heavily involved in coordinating the Panthers broadcast on HockeyTV, so although I am not on the mic myself, I’m never that far from it.
Working in media and broadcast has shaped my view of the game in that I think I am able to put an objective view on things most of the time.
PJHL: What do you tell people who may not know much about the PJHL when they ask?
BW: I tell people that the PJHL is good hockey with a number of players from our league moving on to play Major Junior, Junior A, NCAA, U SPORTS, and at the pro level over the years. I am also always eager to mention there are a number of teams in the PJHL that actively try and promote players to teams at higher levels, the Panthers being one of them.
It’s a thrill to explain to people that former Panthers forward Carson Latimer was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the 2021 NHL Draft during the same year he played in the PJHL. He became the first player ever to receive that honour. People are usually impressed by the calibre of play in the PJHL when telling them about Latimer’s hockey path to this point coming through our league.
PJHL: Who is a Panthers player you’ve enjoyed seeing improve the last few seasons?
BW: Daniel Dallapace is a player who has really come into his own as a leader on the Panthers and as one of the best defenders in the league. It’s something that’s developed over the years since he first joined our team as an affiliate player and played nine games in 2018-19.
He was a captain during his minor hockey days, so the progression isn’t a surprise to us, but he was a top 10 scorer in the league among blueliners last season and is on pace to smash those totals this season.
Daniel is already among the top five all-time scoring defenders in Panthers history, so once his junior career wraps at the end of this season, he will have further cemented his legacy as one of the best players to ever wear a Panthers jersey.
PJHL: Who is a new face in the lineup that has a chance to make some noise this year?
BW: Dylan Emerson is a local Port Moody player who has been among our top scorers all season. At 17 years old, he has some experience in the BCHL as an affiliate player with Chilliwack last season and has already signed as an AP for Cowichan Valley this season.
That said, we have a number of veteran players who are on pace for career seasons and first-year players who are firmly establishing themselves as solid junior B players. Their play this season has drawn the attention of junior A scouts in search of affiliate or regular roster players for this season and beyond.
PJHL: What will a successful year look like for the Panthers this season?
BW: A successful season for the Panthers in 2022-23 is one where we make the Stonehouse Cup playoffs and have as many of our players move on to higher levels for 2023-24 as possible.
PJHL: Do you have a particular philosophy about recruiting players to your program?
BW: Recruiting is a team effort, with our owner, coaching staff, and myself all involved to varying degrees. Our coaching staff and ownership have a distinct idea in how they want the team to play and what type of players to bring in and I do my best to support those philosophies as much as possible.
PJHL: How has the recruiting landscape changed over the last five years?
BW: I think the recruiting landscape has changed a little bit, but overall, not too much. Like everything, I think the pandemic caused some people to take pause and as a result, it seems that some players and parents are looking at opportunities in their own backyard rather than those outside the Lower Mainland or out of province. It’s a minor shift that could end up greatly benefiting the PJHL.
PJHL: Is there a veteran PJHL governor or general manager that has been helpful to you in your time with Port Moody?
BW: Outside of the Panthers organization, the most helpful people to me during my time with Port Moody have been Ray and Sue Stonehouse. Ray’s passing in the summer of 2021 was a huge loss. He and Sue both showed great patience, understanding, and willingness to help me learn.
Their guidance was especially valuable as my responsibilities with the Panthers grew over the years and I started to work more closely with the league as well as hockey’s provincial and national governing bodies.