The Kamloops Storm of the Kootenay International Hockey League will have a new bench boss this season that lakecity hockey fans have grown to love over the past six years.
Jassi Sangha, a fan favourite among Williams Lake Stampeders faithful, and also a former player for the Storm, has taken on the head coaching role for the Kamloops-based junior B club and has decided to hang up his Stamps jersey for the time being.
The 31-year-old forward, who consistently sat among the top scorers in the Central Interior Hockey League during his time with the Stamps, said while he’s excited to move on to a new opportunity, the Stampeders, and particularly the community of Williams Lake, will always have a special place in his heart.
“The best part about playing for the Stampeders wasn’t necessarily the team,” Sangha said, who came to Williams Lake to manage a family-owned business at the Best Western Hotel when he initially suited up for the Stamps.
“I’d say it was the people in the community. People would ask me why I would move to Williams Lake. People don’t get it. People don’t understand why Williams Lake is a great city. It’s not the biggest city, but it’s not about that. It’s about the people. If I hadn’t moved back to Kamloops I would have stayed in Williams Lake and had absolutely no issue.”
In a letter penned to the community posted on the Williams Lake Stampeders Facebook page, Sangha goes into great detail about the time he first discovered Williams Lake had a senior men’s hockey team in October of 2012, and decided to give it a shot.
From hilarious beginnings with his new teammates and friends, to triumphs winning multiple Coy Cup senior men’s AA championships with the team, it’s definitely worth a read. He points to winning the Coy Cup during the 2012/13 season in Kitimat and then winning the Coy Cup at home in Williams Lake the following year in 2013/14, as some of the highlights of his career with the Stamps.
“I really want to say thank you to Williams Lake,” he said. “I had a great five, six years, and Williams Lake will always have a soft spot in my heart.”
In his letter, Sangha reflected on the wildfires of 2017 during the evacuation of Williams Lake.
“I was in shock, thinking this fire actually might hit us,” he said.
“The next day Satwant Salaria, our manager, stayed at our house in Kamloops and she somehow got a pass into Williams Lake to help accommodate the police officers and the firemen into our hotel. I decided I was going to go, as well.
“Williams Lake looked after me for years, so this was my chance to give back. Sharon [my wife] had a job starting the next day in Kamloops. She called her boss and extended her start to the following month. I knew she felt the same way as I did, she wanted to be there for Williams Lake.”
For the next few weeks, Sangha said Satwant, her husband, Raj, and their son, Ush, Sharon and himself ran the Best Western.
He thanks the Salarias, the Zuarks and Surinderpal Rathor and his wife, Sharon, for helping him adjust to Williams Lake.
“Surinderpal and Sharon, before I was playing for the Stamps, I would literally be at their house every day and they looked after me just like I was their son so I really want to thank them,” he said.
On his new adventure, Sangha said he hadn’t necessarily been looking to move into coaching, however, following some discussion with Storm owner Barry Dewar, he noted things just worked out. Also a former Williams Lake Stampeder, Sangha’s friend Andrew Fisher, will be taking on the assistant coaching duties for the Storm.
“When I first played for the Storm it was kind of the same thing,” he said. “They had just moved from Osooyos and I’d been playing hockey at university and read they were coming to Kamloops, so I tracked down Barry’s e-mail, we met, then I ended up playing for the team for two years.”
As coach, Sangha said he’s got a great group of players to lead heading into the 2018/19 season.
“My kids are awesome,” he said. “They’re all positive, and we have a really good team and working with Andrew is a lot of fun. We’re at the rink four, five hours a day. We’ve had so many coaches over the years that spent their spare time developing us and now it’s our time to give back to our youth.”
Sangha did say he’d still be making the occasional trip to Williams Lake to visit family and friends.
“I really want to thank Williams Lake,” he said.
“I had an amazing time. Everyone meant the world to me.”