UPDATED: Birt joins Caps

Jason Simmonds
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Introduced as vice-president of business operations

SUMMERSIDE – Trent Birt is back in the hockey business.

The Stratford resident was introduced as the full-time vice-president of business operations of the Summerside Western Capitals during a media conference at Credit Union Place on Tuesday morning.

“The ownership has made a full commitment, and I have made a full commitment to them to make this what it can be,” said Birt, who will be based out of an office at Credit Union Place.

Birt joins a franchise that has won three of the last six MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) championships, including a trip to the 2013 RBC Cup Canadian junior A championship in Summerside. The Caps, winners of the 2009 Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship in Moncton, N.B., also won the 1997 Canadian championship and lost in the 1989 final, both in Summerside.

“The history alone is a lot to build on,” said Birt. “There are not many junior A hockey teams across the country as rich in tradition and successful as this one, especially on the ice.

“The vision has grown since we first started talking a few weeks ago, but now everyone is all in and we are out there to maximize our potential.

“We will take baby steps and eventually we are going to get to a point where people are saying, ‘Wow, that’s quite an organization.’”

Birt previously headed up the business operations of the P.E.I. Rocket and Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“I’m excited,” said Birt in an interview following the media conference. “It’s an opportunity to stay in hockey, but that wasn’t Priority 1. Priority 1 was to get involved with something in which I thought I could make a difference and grow something somewhere.

“When I started talking to the ownership group here after a meeting or two, I knew this was the place. They stepped up to save the team (last summer), they want to make a difference in the community and they are putting their faith in me to play a leadership role and lead us in a positive direction.”

One of Birt’s immediate goals is to reconnect the team to the community.

“I’d like to get back to where it was before,” said Birt. “Not that long ago this team was embedded in the community. It was a big part of the culture of Summerside and Prince County.

“I’m not saying it’s not anymore, I know it’s still a significant piece of the community, but we can expand on that, get back to the grassroots and have the excitement back in the community and the rink.”

Birt added he also wants to run the Caps as a professional franchise, and expand the team’s volunteer base. He added the team will be putting billet and education co-ordinators in place as well.

“The history alone is a lot to build on. There are not many junior A hockey teams across the country as rich in tradition and successful as this one, especially on the ice. The vision has grown since we first started talking a few weeks ago, but now everyone is all in and we are out there to maximize our potential. We will take baby steps and eventually we are going to get to a point where people are saying, ‘Wow, that’s quite an organization.’” Capitals vice-president of business operations Trent Birt

“No hockey team at any level, outside of major pro, can run without a volunteer base,” said Birt. “I remember when I was travelling up here refereeing, there was a huge volunteer base. I don’t see a lot of those faces around anymore. . .”

Involved in community

Birt is a strong believer in community involvement.

“When we are involved in the community, our players are growing as people,” said Birt. “That’s one thing that can be easily forgotten or not seen by the public. They look at these guys coming in and they are paying dollars to see them play hockey. Junior hockey is much, much more than that.

“We have a responsibility, as an organization, to help these kids grow as people. Some of them are going to come in at 16-years-old and leave at 20-years-old, and those are some pretty valuable years of your life.”

Birt, general manager Pat McIver and the coaching staff all share a similar philosophy.

“When you are better off the ice, you are better on the ice,” continued Birt. “When we are involved in the community, we are learning, and if we can make a difference out there that’s a bonus.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Organizations: Credit Union Place, Summerside Western Capitals, Maritime Junior Hockey League RBC Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Summerside, Stratford, Moncton Prince

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