Rybalka may go 'own' way

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Boris Rybalka won't say it into a microphone - but his incredibly successful career with the Camrose Kodiaks could be approaching the finish line.

While the head coach and GM of the AJHL champs is preparing for his club's first game in the RBC Cup - the national Junior A championship tournament - tomorrow in Cornwall, Ont., this could be his last title shot with Camrose.

There is a chance Rybalka could leave the organization before the start of next season if the right Junior A offer comes along.

The 41-year-old is committed to coaching Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose next fall, which means he must be involved with a Junior A club somewhere in September.

That being said, there is a much bigger chance Rybalka will still be with the Kodiaks for the 2008-09 season, but could then leave next spring.

Why is this coming to light on the eve of Camrose opening its tournament schedule against the Weeks Crushers on Sunday (noon MT)?

Because Rybalka is now publicly admitting that part ownership of a Junior A team is enticing to him.

When asked if he would leave Camrose next fall if somebody offered him part ownership in a different AJHL team, Rybalka replied: "That would interest me.

"If (part ownership) was available, that would be a very serious thing where I would be sitting down and going: 'Look this is something where I am very interested in, because now you become a part owner.'

"You can see why I am looking at that ... (It is) setting yourself up for future."

There are rumours of BCHL teams making such offers - but it hasn't happened yet.

The most important fact is this: What does Rybalka have left to accomplish in Camrose?

The answer: Nothing.

Involved with the Kodiaks since Day 1 in the franchise's 11-year history, Rybalka took over behind the bench in 2000-2001. Since then, he has guided the organization to five AJHL titles, five Doyle Cup wins and one national championship (2001).

If the Kodiaks win two games at this upcoming RBC Cup, Rybalka will become the all-time winningest coach in tournament history. His record in four trips to the big dance is 17-6.

A knock on Rybalka is that his team has failed to win another national title in the three other RBC Cup appearances ('03, '05, '07).

Will an enticing offer come the way of this Vernon, B.C., native?

It should.

There have been other offers in the last few years.

"Why do I (still) coach a Junior A level in Camrose?" Rybalka explained.

"It is not about dollars and cents. If you develop players and you develop them as people, that means you have done something in life. Life is too short to worry about all the other big things."

But Rybalka wants more than what he currently has.

And executives behind the community-owned Kodiaks can't give Rybalka a part ownership stake in the financially successful club.

Obviously, Kodiaks' governor Barry Fossen wants Rybalka to stay. There is a five or a 10-year contract waiting for Rybalka's signature.

While the base head-coach salary in Camrose is nowhere near the richest deal in the AJHL, Rybalka's important decisions down the road will not boil down to money.

Everything will come down to what is best for his young family (wife Roxy and four-year-old daughter Mckenna) and what new challenge really grabs his attention.

The son of a church minister would definitely consider jumping to the WHL if he received a five-year contract offer - giving him enough time to build a winner. So far, there has yet to be a WHL team offer even a short-term deal.

"Maybe they're scared of me," cracked Rybalka, who has taken prime prospects - like Joe Colborne - away from WHL teams.

"Maybe (WHL) teams are mad at me."

If Rybalka does walk away sometime in the next year, the hole to fill - within the team and community - will be huge.

"He's very well respected (in the city)," said Kodiaks' assistant coach Miles Walsh, who has been involved with the club for nine years.

"You can imagine the requests we get for Boris's time."

But Rybalka isn't going to leave the organization high and dry if he departs.

Assistant coach Doug Fleck has been at his side for seven years and has become a master at breaking down video to give the club ridiculous edges.

"I don't think there would be much of a blip on the radar screen (if Fleck took over)," said Walsh, holding a positive mindset.

But like everyone else, Walsh and Fleck will have to wait and see if Rybalka says goodbye sometime in the next year.


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