Andy Thompson not returning to Kootenay

By Jeff Bromley

It is now official; Andy Thompson will not return to the Kootenay ICE and has requested a trade. For reasons that ran the gamut from being homesick, to a demanding girlfriend back home in North Delta, B.C. or parents that were breaking up, all grossly false in their nature, Andy Thompson left the ICE after the club’s 4-0 sweep of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the second round of the WHL Playoffs last spring.

Struggling with clinical depression and recovered sufficiently to resume his once-hopeful hockey career, the 18-yr-old is now looking for a new beginning. “I think the main thing for Andy is that he wants a fresh start,” said ICE G.M. Jeff Chynoweth. “When he left in his situation, battling a form of depression which came to the forefront, the hockey club was behind him 110% to get his life in order. I think he’s got his life in order and he just feels now that with the situation, it would best for himself to go to a new city.”

Thompson, a highly-touted defenceman when he was Kootenay’s first round Bantam pick, seventh overall out of North Delta as a Bantam in 1999, lived up to early billing in his first full year on the ICE blueline in 2000-01. The 6’3″, 200 lb blueliner had NHL scouts singing his praises as he entered his NHL Draft year at the beginning of the 2001-02 season. Even a season of inconsistency that saw his ice-time drastically reduced couldn’t prevent the Central Scouting Bureau, the NHL’s watchdog of young talent, from ranking Thompson 36th among North American skaters for the 2002 NHL Draft. Before Thompson left the club, the consensus opinion was that towering d-man was playing his best hockey of the season.

It was then things ultimately fell apart for the affable Thompson who was a gentle giant off the ice but a formidable opponent on it.

Seemingly lost among the fervor of the club’s Memorial Cup championship, Thompson’s departure, from a fan’s point at the very least, was almost forgotten. G.M. Chynoweth received a call from Thompson just weeks after the Memorial Cup win asking if he could have his equipment to resume skating. “It was a good sign,” Chynoweth said. Reports surfaced of Thompson’s return to the ice, another good sign, but it was after the scheduling meetings in Kelowna over the summer that talk emerged that Thompson didn’t intend to return. Culminating in the trade request announced this week, Chynoweth says there are no hard feelings whatsoever between the hockey club and Thompson. But trading him, specifically to Vancouver, and putting Thompson closer his North Delta home isn’t exactly going to happen either.

“He’s asked for certain things,” offered Chynoweth. “But I’ll be perfectly blunt, we going to make the best trade possible for the Kootenay ICE. We’ll do our best to accommodate his request as quickly as possible but we’ll not make a trade unless we’re getting fair market value for Andy Thompson.”

“We didn’t ask for a trade, Andy Thompson did and I respect that. I’m disappointed in it but I respect it and we’ll do our best.”

Complicating things is the fact that Thompson will not attend Kootenay ICE training camp set to begin this weekend. With all teams getting a fresh start as the new season approaches and the fact that teams are cultivating their own stables of prospective players, fair market value isn’t near its peak, especially for a player a valuable as Thompson. Set to return possibly four of seven blueliners from the championship club in Brennan Evans (should return as an overage), Girard Dicaire (same situation), Steve Makway, Curtis Fransoo, Kootenay isn’t in a hurry to make a deal. Travis Featherstone, also a natural defenseman who saw duty on the fourth line towards the end of the year will also be in the mix in addition to training camp prospects looking to step into the lineup.

Chynoweth reiterated the fact that a personality conflict was never part of the situation. “No, none whatsoever”, said Chynoweth. “Jerry Johansson (Thompson’s agent) has been completely up front with us through this whole thing. There’s no hard feelings over this at all and I’d like to get it done as soon as possible but the reality is that everybody is in first place right now and it’s tough to get fair market value.” “There are people saying that he left our hockey club last year after the second round of the playoffs and we won a Memorial Cup.”

Quick Hits -Gerard Dicaire will not be attending Tampa Bay’s training camp. For unknown reasons the Lightning have decided to only invite older prospects that are already pencilled in on the club’s roster. Dicaire returns to the ICE as an overage player, of which the club’s overage situation won’t be resolved until all eligible players either return or sign pro contracts… Jarret Stoll is off to the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp, scheduled to open in two weeks but as of press time, remains unsigned… Kootenay’s annual training camp Blue-White game goes Labor Day Monday at 1:00pm. Proceeds will once again benefit the Cranbrook chapter of the United Way.