Amherst Ramblers coach Jim Bottomley at the MHL draft. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Darrell Cole
AMHERST – It was not something Jim Bottomley was expecting after taking his Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers to the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
“I’m very disappointed and a bit surprised. I wasn’t expecting it,” Bottomley said Thursday after learning his two-year contract with the Ramblers was being terminated after one season. “I was looking forward to next season and Tim (Ripley) and I had already started talking about where we were going this year.”
The move comes two weeks after the Ramblers were eliminated in the Eastlink Division semifinal series in seven games by the Weeks Crushers. The Crushers were swept in four games by the Truro Bearcats in the divisional final.
The Ramblers finished third in the division with a 31-18-1-2 record during the regular season.
Last year, after the Ramblers were eliminated in six games in the division final, the executive decided not to renew Bottomley’s contract, but after some last-minute negotiations came to an agreement on a new two-year deal.
Bottomley is hoping to stay in hockey and would like coach again in the MHL.
“I liked my experience in Amherst, the people there treated me so good. We had three good years and I was looking forward to a fourth. We came so close the last three years after being out of it for so long. The town deserves a winner and the sooner the better,” Bottomley said.
When he was first hired three years ago, Bottomley said he wanted to build a winning attitude in Amherst and he was starting to see that in how players wanted to come to the Ramblers’ organization.
“When I first got there it was hard to get players to come, now we get players from across Canada who want to come to Amherst,” Bottomley said.
Rambler president Jim Henwood confirmed early Thursday that the club has terminated its contract Bottomley.
“This is a business decision, it’s not based on his performance or the team’s performance,” Henwood said. “We can no longer afford to pay his travel expenses back and forth to Halifax. If Jim lived in Amherst we wouldn’t be having this conversation, he’d be coaching this team for many years to come.”
In making the announcement Henwood said ticket revenue was down $90,000 to $95,000 this year and it was costing approximately $17,000 a year to bring Bottomley back and forth from the city.
Henwood said the executive is considering a couple of candidates and will officially begin the search for a new coach and general manager. He would like to have someone in place for the draft in June, but if not will put people in place to conduct the draft for the club.
“One thing we will be requiring is that the next coach live within the greater Amherst area,” he said. “It could be in the Town of Amherst or Cumberland County but he has to be in the area.”
Stephen Maltby of the Maltby-Casey Group said he was disappointed with the decision.
“We were disappointed to hear this decision as we had no discussion or contact the past month with the team current executive with regards to this termination,” Maltby said later Thursday. “We have had a great two-year contract with the team which has expired and were presently discussing a one year renewal which we based on the current xoach and supporting cast. We were extremely happy with Jimbo, Tim Ripley, Jamie Matthews, Willie Boyle and the strong supporting cast - which we felt were the strongest part of the operation. We will review our position and decide if we will participate in the future. Our firm and my related businesses have been a big supporter of the Ramblers and the community and we wish to associate with a well run team.”
Maltby said that if the local organization does not have the financial capacity to run the team they should agree to transfer the franchise to a new group who can raise funds to run the team.
“It is difficult time to run a team and I know everyone for the most part are volunteers, but they do need a competent full-time coach,” Maltby said. “Jim brought with him some additional support and respect that I believe the current executive did not fully appreciate. From the outside looking in there was poor communication between the executive and coach. It is a tough league with most teams well funded and very competitive so we are fortunate to even be able to have a team in a small town"
Earlier in the week the Yarmouth Mariners parted ways with its head coach and general manager Laurie Barron. The team's owner said following the past two seasons of playoff disappointment it was time for a change. The Mariners were knocked out of the playoffs last year in the first quarter-final round by Amherst and this year didn't make it past the mini-series with Valley.