By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – While Condors coach Marty Raymond and his team are focused on the next game at hand and looking toward the playoffs, Bob Bartlett is already working toward next season.
As Directory of Hockey Operations for the Condors, Bartlett, who won’t give his age but admits that he’s called “the old guy,” has many duties but the day-to-day operation of the team is not one.
“My job is more to continue to look at the future,” said Bartlett, who lives in Lethbridge, Alberta, and spends much of his time scouting junior players in western Canada. “It’s real good that we’re doing well right now, but we want to do well year to year to year.”
Bartlett has an impressive pedigree — on and off the ice.
A member of the 1962-63 University of North Dakota NCAA championship team, Bartlett tried his hand at professional hockey for a few years.
“I can’t tell you I played for Toronto because I made quick exits out of (training camp) there three years,” he said.
But he did have brief stint with the California Seals in the old Western Hockey League in 1965, was injured and made an evaluation of where his pro career was headed.
“I figured I’d better get an education,” he said with a deep chuckle. “I ended up with a masters’ degree in social welfare administration out of (UC) Berkeley.”
Bartlett can tell stories of his experience in Berkeley just as the anti-war movement was gaining strength, and he only stuck around long enough to complete his education.
He put the degree to work for 10 years for the city of Lethbridge, where he served as recreation and parks director then, another 10 years as city manager.
And although his day job did not involve hockey, Bartlett stayed involved in the sport.
“My passion has always been hockey,” he said. “I was working full time and working full time on hockey.”
The early hockey gigs included coaching at various levels from AAA Midgets, to junior to a semi-pro team in Minnesota. After he left civil service, Bartlett served as coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League for a year and as general manager for five years.
Bartlett first met Condors coach Marty Raymond in 1997, when Raymond was named coach of the Tucson (Ariz.) Gila Monsters, an expansion team in the old West Coast Hockey League.
“The fellow who is now the mayor of Edmonton (Stephen Mandel) phoned me up and said he had a hockey team in Tucson and that he really needed some help. I asked if he had a coach and he said ‘I’ve hired a coach by the name of Marty Raymond.’ I said that’s good, never heard of the guy.'”
Bartlett flew to Tucson shortly after that and met Raymond.
“We kind of clicked and have worked together off and on since then,” Bartlett said. “We’ve had an enduring relationship if nothing else.”
When Raymond was hired to coach in Phoenix midway through the 1999-2000 season, he quickly engaged the services of Bartlett. The team went 22-5-1 down the stretch, booted Bakersfield out of the playoffs in the first round, and went on to win the WCHL championship.
Bartlett went on to work with Fresno (a championship in 2001-02) for a couple of years, then Las Vegas before joining up with Raymond again in Bakersfield.
“When Marty called and told me he had the head coaching job here and wondered if I’d be interested in helping the following year I made my mind up as soon as I got the call,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett is heavily involved in the recruiting of players, which to him means face-to-face meetings and detective work.
“One of the best ways to meet people is face-to-face and I’m certainly the face of this organization in the junior hockey world,” he said. “One of the things that Marty and our organization are known for is bringing in character players and I end up phoning schools, teachers or whatever to get a bead on a guy.”
In addition to scouting and recruiting, Bartlett spent a huge amount of time last offseason trying to sell the Condors as a good fit for a National Hockey team in the effort to secure an affiliation.
“We went to the altar with Buffalo,” he said of trying to secure an affiliation. “I had the ring, they had the ring and somehow the rings didn’t get exchanged. It’s unfortunate it didn’t happen, but it’s like a trade — sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make. Maybe the deal that didn’t happen will serve us well in the future.”
Certainly the Condors, battling Las Vegas for first place in the ECHL West Division, have been successful without that affiliation, but securing an affiliation remains near the top of Bartlett’s to-do list.
“It’s a goal of ours to be affiliated, but I always caution everybody that affiliations cut both ways,” he said. “I’ve seen affiliations where they’ve destroyed ECHL teams and affiliations that have worked out very well. I think long term, over the long haul an affiliation does help. You can establish a good relationship with a National Hockey League and American Hockey League team.”
Bartlett has the ring left over from the engagement with Buffalo. Now he just needs another team willing to exchange vows.