Surrey resident Grant Armstrong, who coached hockey in North Delta for many years, went from general manager of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings to amateur scout for Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. (Photo: wheatkings.com)

HOCKEY

Stanley Cup win for Surrey-based NHL scout who coached in North Delta

Grant Armstrong is among 11 WHL alumni currently with Tampa Bay Lightning

South Surrey resident Grant Armstrong is quietly celebrating a Stanley Cup win by the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise that employs him.

A year ago Armstrong signed on as an amateur scout with the NHL team, after working in scouting and management roles with three Western Hockey League (WHL) teams from 2007 to 2019.

Armstrong, who grew up in North Delta and later coached there as a parent of two hockey-playing sons, was not in the Edmonton “bubble” when the Lightning lifted the polished trophy Monday night (Sept. 28).

“Basically all the scouting staff were at home watching it from our comfy couches,” Armstrong said with a laugh.

“I’m just honoured to be with an organization as first-class as Tampa,” he added. “The people there are great leaders, and it showed with the product we put on the ice. I’ve been there a short period of time but I’m very impressed with everything they represent and how proud they are to be a part of the community in South Florida.”

Armstrong is noted among 11 WHL alumni who are current members of the Cup-winning Lightning, with his hockey-ops stops in Portland, Victoria and Brandon.

The Wheat Kings employed Armstrong as general manager from 2016 to 2019, when he was let go by the team. He soon bolted for a chance to be a scout in the NHL.

“When my time was up in Brandon, the Lightning reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in getting involved in their organization on the scouting side, and it was a real quick turnaround last year,” recalled Armstrong, who now scouts junior players in the WHL and those on Junior A teams from B.C. to Manitoba.

“The nice thing is when you come into this position, you know the players and know their history, and for me it was an easy transition because the players were all familiar to me, and most of the people in the organizations are familiar with me as well.”

• RELATED STORY: Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup.

Now that the NHL season is over, Armstrong’s primary focus is the NHL Entry Draft, done in an online format Oct. 6-7.

Typically the annual event is held in June, but plans for an in-person 2020 draft in Montreal were cancelled by COVID-19.

“This year it’s been different,” Armstrong said, “because all of our preparation was done quite some time ago, back in the spring, so our work is done. Now, with the draft just a few days away, our setup work to put our list together is already in place, and we can now take the next step to, you know, draft future Bolts.

“We’ll all be on Zoom space and providing information as required,” he added. “Our head guys will be in Tampa, and there’ll be lots of communication throughout the day and during the draft, in terms of what’s next, what we’re looking at, but the list is done and we’ll generally follow the list and make sure we get everything in order from that list.”

Armstrong’s career in hockey started as a coach with North Delta Minor Hockey Association in the mid-1990s, when sons Jordan and Taylor began playing the game. He later coached the North Delta Devils junior team at Sungod Arena.

“Because I also grew up there, I probably spent more time in North Delta than I have in any other place,” Armstrong noted.

“I coached all through and got some opportunities through programs with Hockey Canada and met some good people, including Mike Johnston, who at the time was an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks,” he continued. “We developed a real strong friendship and he gave me a lot of concrete, sound advice.”

His next stop was with North Delta Devils.

“That parlayed into an opportunity to go to Portland when Mike went there,” Armstrong continued. “I became one of his scouts and went through the system and learned a lot about hockey development and programming, and overall how to run an organization. Credit to Mike, because I think he’s one of the best teachers in the game.”

From there, Armstrong had “four fantastic years” with Victoria Royals, followed by his years in Brandon.

“From what I’ve seen of kids coming out of minor hockey, especially in my years in North Delta, there are a lot of really good kids, you know,” emphasized Armstrong, 59. “Some of them have moved on to bigger and better careers, and they’re probably better and richer for it from the time they spent in North Delta.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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