By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Craig Heisinger, general manager and senior VP of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, is a man of few and guarded words. If you get anything approaching praise from him, you know you’ve probably earned it.
The Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL apparently have earned it. Heisinger announced yesterday the Moose have renewed their affiliation with the S-Kings for another season.
This follows the announcement last week that the Vancouver Canucks have also extended their affiliation with the Salmon Kings into next season.
The Moose and Salmon Kings make up the Canucks’ minor-pro system, but because the three teams are separately owned, each must negotiate its own affiliation deals.
Salmon Kings GM Dan Belisle deals directly with the hard-driven Heisinger, who negotiates with Belisle at one end of the chain and Canucks GM Dave Nonis at the other end.
Belisle described it as one of the best and most functional farm systems in hockey.
“It works on many levels, from geographically to being all-Canadian, and we’re all on the same wavelength … this relationship is going to get better and better each year,” predicted Belisle.
“Craig [Heisinger] is a completely straightforward man and is easy to work with. He’s to the point.
“Our conversations on the phone don’t last more than three or four minutes before an issue is decided, but we could have eight or nine of those conversations in a day. He tells you exactly what he thinks, whether you want to hear it or not. But this is a guy who is honestly not only worried about his own Moose team, but equally worried about us. He takes as much pride in the accomplishments of the Salmon Kings as he does in his own team’s. He sees it as one whole.”
Last season was a busy one for the Canucks’ affiliates.
Players, both under contract and drafted by the Canucks, such as Julien Ellis, F.P Guenette, Marc-Andre Bernier, Alexandre Vincent, Patrick Coulombe Shaun Heshka, Phil Cole, Matt Kelly and Milan Gajic saw time in both Manitoba and Victoria.
“We made great strides in the inaugural year of our partnership in 2006 and the Salmon Kings did a good job in the development of some players we hope will play a role in the future of the Manitoba Moose,” said Heisinger.
Belisle said the Salmon Kings and Moose are conducting “a joint recruiting effort.”