Heck leaves North Stars after one season

When the Battlefords North Stars open up the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season, they will do so with a new head coach and general manager.

The team announced Wednesday via a press release that Brandon Heck will be leaving his role after one year with the club to pursue coaching opportunities elsewhere and to be closer to his family in Alberta.

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"It was a mutual decision between the team and Brandon," North Stars president and governor Shandon Reichert said. 

"When you get into a situation where someone wants to be closer to their young family, it's hard to say no to that."

With the vacancy, the North Stars will be in search of their fourth bench boss in as many seasons.

After five years with the team, Kevin Hasselberg departed in the summer of 2016 to take a coaching job with the Southern Professional Hockey League's Pensacola Ice Flyers, which he was fired from partway through the 2016-17 campaign and has now taken charge of the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Drumheller Dragons. 

Nate Bedford took over as head coach and general manager of the North Stars prior to the start of last season and led the team to their first Canalta Cup championship since 2000.

He left the job in June to take over as head coach for the Portage College Voyageurs of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. 

"Although we're looking for another coach, I feel like we're still in a good situation here that people want to be part of," Reichert said.

"We should have another strong team again next year with a good returning core and a number of young players that Brandon, Nate and Kevin have added over the last few years."

The 33-year-old Heck, who joined the North Stars after four seasons as the head coach of the Camrose Bantam AAA Red Wings, compiled a 42-14-2 record this year and led the North Stars to their third straight division title.

Their title defence ended in the semifinal round as they lost in five games to the Estevan Bruins.

Applications for the head coach and general manager position will start to be accepted by the team in the next couple of days.

"Unlike the last couple of years, we have some time before the season starts when it comes to filling the position, so we can take some time to find the right person for the job," Reichert said.

It's expected that associate coach Boyd Wakelin will be back for his second year with the club and he will more than likely be in charge of the team's spring prospect camp in Saskatoon next month.

Meanwhile, applications are also being accepted for the vacant athletic therapist and equipment manager postion as Rachelle Matisz will be leaving the team after one season to begin studies in nursing at the University of Saskatchewan.

In other North Stars news, their will be a new play-by-play voice for the team next fall as Nathan Kanter will be departing the Battlefords after two seasons to pursue opportunities elsewhere. 

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