Kelowna Rockets’ Lorne Frey is stepping away from his current role as assistant general manager and director of player personnel after nearly 30 years with the organization.
After the WHL Bantam Draft on April 22, Frey will assume the role of senior advisor, a position that will allow him to spend more time with family.
“My wife and I have been discussing (this decision) and I turned 70 the other day and we’ve been here for 30 years and we felt it was time now to pull up roots and go back to where our kids and grandkids are in Swift Current, Saskatchewan,” said Frey.
“We have two young grandkids that we’re very close with as well as a daughter and a son in law. We felt it was time.”
Frey and Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton have been working together since Hamilton purchased the club in 1991, including four years in Tacoma.
”The last 30 years here in Kelowna have been the highlight of my life by far,” said Frey.
“Like I’ve said many times there’s not anyone in the league that I’d rather work for than Bruce Hamilton. We’ve had a great relationship for 30 years and he’s done a great job with this organization. He definitely treats it with a pro mentality.”
As the Rockets’ director of personnel, Frey directs the Rockets scouting staff, recruiting and drafting an array of talent that should be attributed to much of the organization’s success during his tenure. Rockets alumni such Shea Webber, Duncan Keith, Jamie Benn, Tyson Barrie and Tyler Myers are just a few stars that Frey has had a hand in acquiring.
While these recruits have made big names for themselves in the National Hockey League, Frey is reluctant to take full credit, claiming that aside from strong scouting you need a bit of luck as well.
”When you’re in this business for as long as I’ve been you get an idea of what you’re looking for, but you’re guessing sometimes,” said Frey.
“I mean to be honest Shea Webber was a good young player and I liked what I saw in him but we certainly didn’t expect him to turn out to be the player he did. Now on the other hand, Duncan Keith was so skilled and so dynamic even as a younger player I knew he would play in the NHL someday even though people were afraid of his size. Same with Jamie Benn. Once I saw him at 16 you knew he had big-time potential.”
Frey won the Memorial Cup with the Rockets in 2004, with the likes of Webber, Josh Gorges, Blake Comeau and Troy Bodie carrying the way, all of whom he helped draft. He would also see his Rockets attend five other Memorial Cup Championships and capture four WHL Championships in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2015.
Now, Frey gears up for his final WHL Bantam Draft and while there may be a tendency to be sentimental, he said the draft will be business as usual.
“It will be the last one and it will probably be the most difficult one,” said Frey.
“There’s a lot of good players out there and we’ve got to hit on our first three picks. This is our second first-round pick in the last six years it’s sort of caught up to us a bt here player-wise, but hopefully we can draft some individuals that will end up playing for this hockey team.”