Admirals to have new leadership heading into next season


admirals logoBy Ron Giofu


When the Amherstburg Admirals hit the ice for the 2014-15 Great Lakes Jr. C hockey season, they will have a new general manager and coach leading the team.

The Admirals announced last Thursday that Wes Ewer will be the club’s new general manager with Ewer revealing on Monday that Paul Bortignon will be the team’s new head coach. Greg Prymack, the coach and general manager of this past season’s team, is no longer with the organization.

“I was approached by the ownership group about a possible opportunity. We met earlier in the week and here we are,” said Ewer, last Thursday afternoon.

Ewer has a playing career that has included teams within the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association (AMHA), the Kingsville Comets, Tecumseh Chiefs, Aurora Tigers and University of Windsor Lancers hockey team. He has also coached bantam and midget level teams within AMHA along with being on the minor hockey board. He has also been a director with the Extra Mile Hockey Academy for the last three years. Moving up the ranks and being able to move into a management role is something Ewer is enthusiastic about.

“From a management perspective, the opportunity to jump in this role is something I’m very excited about,” said Ewer.

Ewer added he is also happy to be able to get the opportunity at a management role in his hometown. He aims to strengthen ties between the Admirals and AMHA with the hope players will want to play for the Admirals once they leave AMHA.

The Admirals also feature a lot of returning players, Ewer added, and that is something he is excited about as well.

“I think there’s a great foundation built,” he said. “There’s a great base returning.”

It will be key for everyone involved to buy into the same philosophy, he believed, and to get the right new players to fill the gaps.

The Admirals were eliminated in seven games by the Belle River Canadiens in the first round of this year’s playoffs, losing Game 7 by a final score of 1-0 at Lakeshore Arena. The Canadiens are now in the Great Lakes Jr. C finals against the Essex 73’s and that should prove as a source of inspiration for the Admirals.

“My expectations are really high for this group. Seeing where Belle River is should really encourage the players,” said Ewer. “There’s a lot to look forward to and a lot of positives.”

Admirals’ co-owner and president Gaspare Spada said he has spoken to many people about Ewer and “I’ve never heard anything bad about him.” Spada said the Admirals are looking to increase their connection with the Amherstburg community and he believes Ewer can help them do that.

“He’s a very energetic guy,” said Spada. “He’s got a lot of local ties. He’s got a good feel for kids that are up and coming. I think it will be a good addition.”

Spada said it was a management decision to make the change and Prymack was informed of the decision last Tuesday.

“We decided to make a change and go in a different direction, a little more town oriented,” he said.

Focusing on young up and coming players will be important, Spada continued.

“(Ewer) has got a lot of playing experience at a high level,” he said. “He seems to be well connected on hockey levels.”

Bortignon, whose playing career spanned from AMHA through the OHL and into university hockey, was enthused by the new opportunity.

“It kind of happened quickly,” said Bortignon. “It’s definitely exciting.”

Introducing himself to the players will be an early priority as meetings will be set up with returning players with Bortignon adding that he wants to get a feel for how last season went as well as the season before for players that were around during the franchise’s last season in Kingsville.

Coaching at the Jr. C level is a move up for Bortignon after coaching two seasons within AMHA in the bantam major and midget minor divisions. He views the new opportunity as “a chance to grow as a coach” and work with the junior age players.

“I want to move up and I wanted to see if I can meet the challenges of junior hockey,” said Bortignon.

Bortignon added he plans on being a coach the players can relate to.

“I really try and be a players coach,” he said. “I try and level with them.”

While he added he brings a lot of emotion to the bench, he also tries to keep a level head and not let the players get too excited when they score or get too deflated when they allow one. He added that he has played for great coaches in the past and may lean on them for advice as well.

As for who his assistants will be, Bortignon added “it’s early in the process” but he hopes some familiar faces will return. While assistant coach Mike Heikkinen has moved on to a position at Hockey Canada, assistants Chris Leeming and Laine Parent have been contacted about the possibility of returning to the Admirals.

“We’d love to have those guys back,” said Bortignon.

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