It’s not often any one man walks into a room and almost immediately receives the respect of all those in his midst.
It’s incredibly rare for any one person to join an organization and impact a positive evolution in its culture and every facet of how it goes about its business.
Jerry Bancks is one of these rarities.
Over the course of a lengthy coaching career with the Kimberley Dynamiters, the 60-year-old Bancks did all of this and more, including coach two championship teams — the Rocky Mountain Junior A Hockey League champions in 1998-99 and, most recently, the Kootenay International Junior B Hockey League champions in 2014-15.
Trophies are meant for mantles and Bancks helped fill his fair share of shelves during his years with the Kimberley Dynamiters, but ultimately, the greatest impact he had during his time behind the bench was on the people around him, both at the rink and in the community.
“Jerry comes in and he is so real and authentic,” said Jeff Keiver, who spent time playing for Bancks in the 1990s before most recently working alongside him as an assistant coach. “He believes in and has so much passion for what he’s doing that you can’t help but be swept up in it.
“He inspires, not only the players to give their all, but the executive and everyone else that’s involved can see how much passion he’s putting into it. You can’t help but want to be a part of that.”
After an initial stint as the head coach of the Dynamiters during the club’s Rocky Mountain Junior A days, and now a second run as the bench boss of the Dynamiters during its Kootenay International Junior B days, Jerry Bancks is riding off into the sunset as he announced his retirement from coaching Wednesday evening.
“He creates expectations that, sometimes, are hard,” said Mike Reid, general manager of the Kimberley Dynamiters, Wednesday evening. “He expects you to reach them and you do. For me, as a coach, I learned so much on how to push people, how to create expectations, how to create an environment of winners and how to have fun, too.
“It was the complete package… The expectations that he created for everyone in the organization, it’s like positive peer pressure — don’t let the guy down beside you. It’s fun to come to the rink. I need Jerry in my life, as a grown man, because he motivates me every day.”
The fiery and passionate coach so often referred to his team as more a family than anything else. Fittingly, Bancks announced his decision to walk away from coaching Wednesday evening, deep within the historic Dynamiters dressing room, buried in the hallowed halls of the Kimberley Civic Centre, in front of his most recent charges, fellow coaches, staff and team executives.
“I’m going to miss the whole process,” Bancks said, sitting in his office long after the dressing room stalls had been vacated, leaving nothing left but a low hum in what is so very often an arena and dressing room buzzing with excitement. “I love to see players commit themselves, control what they can control, which is their work level, and then a team pull together and grow as a group of individuals.
“Watching the kids say goodbye today… there’s nothing like the camaraderie that can exist in hockey in an environment that is demanding. It was a demanding environment. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t for everyone. You had to be special to be a part of this gang and that’s what I’m going to miss the most — creating that environment and sense of belonging. From that comes the friendships and the camaraderie.
“It’s the camaraderie of hockey that rocks. It’s so neat to see what’s been accomplished here.”
Bancks always maintained he felt a civic duty to help restore the good name of the Kimberley Dynamiters. After spending time as an assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League in which he was a part of the 2011 Ed Chynoweth Cup championship staff, Bancks returned to Kimberley and did nothing short of return the Dynamiters organization to flagship status within the KIJHL.
Keiver comes from unique perspective in that he was taught grade school by Bancks, played for Bancks and coached with Bancks. Pretty much every step of Keiver’s life has been impacted in some way, shape or form by Jerry Bancks.
“He’s one of the last few guys that truly lives his life by a set of principles and doesn’t really bend from those despite peer pressure or the way kids have changed,” Keiver said of the characteristics that have helped boost Bancks to such success.
“I’ve seen a lot of the way he deals with situations. He sticks to what he believes in and he has certainly been raised right by his own parents. When he gives kids advice, it comes from the heart and it comes from a good foundation.”
That approach brought Bancks on-ice success in short order during his most recent stint behind the Dynamiters bench.
After going 29-21-2-0 and finishing second in the Eddie Mountain Division during the 2013-14 campaign, the Dynamiters improved to 32-15-2-3 during the 2014-15 regular season before blasting through the competition en route to the 2015 KIJHL championship and a narrow 6-5 defeat in the title game of the 2015 Cyclone Taylor Cup — B.C.’s provincial Junior B championship. Finally, in 2015-16, the Dynamiters put forth an astounding record of 41-7-0-4 to claim the KIJHL regular season crown before making their second consecutive trip to the KIJHL championship, falling during a hard-fought series with the 100 Mile House Wranglers.
“I’d love to see [the Kimberley Dynamiters] become a place where it’s great to come and develop,” Bancks said. “I want this league to become a developmental league. I think it’s critical and that’s what I think the Dynamiters should stand for. We moved four guys on last year and I’ll bet we’ll move eight to 10 kids on this year. I’d like that legacy to continue.”
You work your way up and down the roster, from rookies to veterans, locals to imports, and there is no shortage of evidence to support the resounding impact Bancks has had in advancing the lives of the young hockey players and men he has been responsible for tutoring, laying the groundwork for a legacy he so passionately wants to live on.
“He’s my hero,” said goaltender Tyson Brouwer, who spent the past three seasons playing for Bancks. “I get a little emotional when I think about it. Jerry Bancks is an amazing human being. He will be remembered forever in Kimberley hockey. I’ll never forget everything he’s done for me.”
Brouwer, who began life with the Dynamiters as a fresh-faced backup goaltender during the 2013-14 campaign, grew and evolved into arguably the best puck-stopper in the league over the course of his time with Bancks. Both on and off the ice, his work ethic carried him towards the next step of his life, which is a college hockey career with the University of Jamestown Jimmies in North Dakota. That opportunity he credits to Bancks.
“[Jerry] gets it in our head that we’re going to work hard and you’re not going to like him at some times but it’s all for your own good,” said Keenan Haase, a native of Mission Viejo, Calif., who came to Bancks and the Dynamiters at the start of the 2014-15 season and now finds himself headed for NCAA Division III hockey at New England College. “Once you kind of figure out that he’s not out to hurt you or insult you very much, he starts trying to make you better. You get along with him and you understand why.”
Captain Jason Richter — perhaps the only person other than Bancks to be spoken of frequently in recent years as the heart and soul of the Dynamiters — has followed a path quite similar to that of Keiver’s. After years in Bancks’ sports school, Richter graduated and joined the Dynamiters for the 2012-13 season and has been along to watch Bancks transform the organization.
“My first year here, it wasn’t quite what I expected,” Richter, a native of Cranbrook, said Wednesday night, looking out at the ice in the empty Civic Centre. “I wanted a little bit more out of the coaching staff and pretty much everyone. It seemed like a bit of a league where no one really cared if you moved on or not.
“Ever since Jerry stepped in, it’s been constantly growing and getting better. Guys are getting involved in the community… We’re still able to practice and play good hockey while working and getting involved in the community. It’s come a long way.
“Jerry has been the biggest influence in my life over the past four years. He’s completely changed my life. I don’t think I’d be here without him. I could go on and on about how great of a person he is. He knows, and hopefully everyone else knows, how grateful I am to have had him as a coach and a friend. It’s been incredible what he’s done for me the past four years.”
Brouwer, Haase and Richter represent just a small sampling of players Bancks has helped send on to the next chapter of life and the next step in their hockey careers.
Bancks once said he prioritized his life in this fashion — first and foremost, he was a family man; secondly, he was a teacher; and lastly, he was a hockey coach. He said that final responsibility was influenced heavily, if not completely, by the two that came before it.
In the development of so many young men, Bancks succeeded as a family man, a teacher and a hockey coach.
And as he so eloquently puts it, the people he has met along that journey have helped to fill the pages of his scrapbook, a scrapbook that has so much paper and ink, most others should be envious.
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t know about,” Bancks said. “Chad Koran [president] and Kathy Merkel [co-treasurer] — it’s amazing the amount of effort they put into it.
“My fondest memories are teaching kids to say ‘Thank you.’ It’s kind of the highlight. I’ve been with Neil Rye [equipment assistant] way back from Junior A to now. It was a sin when I used to watch people leave this dressing room and not say thank you.
“We beat Creston in overtime to clinch the [Eddie Mountain Division championship] series and the highlight of that night was listening to the players say thank you to Neil. It wasn’t the goal, it wasn’t anything else. It was a bunch of men learning to be men.”
Like his mentor, the 36-year-old Keiver is also walking away from the bench for the time being, along with president Chad Koran and general manager Mike Reid.
“I’m going to miss…the experience of being so alive, being out on the bench with the kids and looking up into the crowd to see friends and family and knowing how much everyone in this town wants us to win,” Keiver said. “Then looking over and seeing Jerry, who I give all the credit to, but at the same time, he’s allowed me to share in this experience with him. That camaraderie you hear players talk about when they retire… I’ll miss that with the players for sure, but as a coach, you also miss that camaraderie with your fellow coaches.”
So while questions remain as to what the future holds for the Kimberley Dynamiters organization as it seeks a new generation of personalities and characters to take over, there is absolutely no question as to how far the club has progressed under the guidance of Jerry Bancks — the family man, the teacher and the hockey coach.
As for what life holds next for Bancks, he plans to travel alongside his wife Marilyn, who recently announced her own retirement from her position as principal at Marysville Elementary School.
With son Carter striking out a successful professional hockey career with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League, the hope is to take in more of his son’s games as well.
That being said, even on a day when he is supposed to be talking about retirement and looking forward to kicking back, Jerry Bancks just can’t quite let go.
“I’ve got coaching in blood,” Bancks said. “It’s almost like I’d like to take a year just to see if I could pull myself away for a year and see where it takes me, see how much I miss everything. But I’m not sure I can do that, because I already miss it.”
So for now, at least in this manner, Jerry Bancks is hanging up his skates, gloves, clipboard and whistle after having launched so many young men into the real world.
Jeff Keiver will believe it’s true retirement when he sees it.
“I would just like to wish Jerry a happy readjustment of his time and priorities,” Keiver said in closing. “Because I know he will never retire and never stop helping the youth and everybody in this community. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Jerry Bancks restored greatness to the Dynamiters and established a winning culture — for life and hockey in Kimberley — and for that, his immeasurable contributions will always be respected and never be forgotten.