Kamloops Blazers GM resigns after long separation from family in U.S. due to pandemic

The manager of a Western Hockey League team based in Kamloops, B.C., will quit next month, citing challenges of separation from his family in the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamloops Blazers general manager Matt Bardsley announced his resignation on Tuesday and said he will transition out of his post in the coming weeks.

Bardsley, 49, joined the B.C.’s junior hockey team in 2018, after working for almost two decades with the Portland Winter Hawks, another WHL team, in various roles.

“The [international] border closures, the travel restrictions…it’s been really challenging for us,” he said Wednesday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

Bardsley said his five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son haven’t seen their grandparents living south of the border for almost two years.

“There’s been some missed opportunities [for the children],” he continued. “Our plan was to be here [in Kamloops] for many years…[but] when COVID hit, after a while it started to impact us and our families.”

The WHL’s B.C. Division regular season ended two weeks ago. 

Bardsley said he’ll always remember the achievements Kamloops Blazers have made since he became the team’s general manager — including a tie-breaker win over Kelowna Rockets in March 2019 which earned Blazers a place in the WHL playoffs.

“I remember that building [where the game took place] was so full and we had such a passionate fan base,” he said. 

“That’s certainly one of the highlights that I’ll always remember.”

The Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers face off in a 2017 game. (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Bardsley said he doesn’t know yet what he will do next, but he will stay with the team until the end of June.

Meanwhile he said he’s confident the general manager vacancy will be filled by a quality candidate.

“I would imagine it [Kamloops] is a pretty desirable location,” he said. “I think the team’s in a really good place right now to continue success on and off the ice.”

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