Recently I was able to send some questions to Mark Collins, head coach of the Bellingham Blazers. They’re one of the two expansion teams this season in the WSHL.
WSHL 365: Why did Bellingham choose the WSHL over following the other NPHL teams?
Mark Collins: The WSHL was the best option for us to continue our program moving in a positive direction. The caliber of play and the reputation of the league as it continues to grow were both big factors.
WSHL 365: What is Bellingham most looking forward to this season?
Mark Collins: We are looking forward to the level of competition being much improved. We have an opportunity to play more than just a couple of teams and the challenge of having to up our game in order to compete at this level.
WSHL 365: What preparations has Bellingham done so far to prepare for their first WSHL season?
Mark Collins: We have been working hard as a coaching staff to make sure we have the best quality players that will comprise our team. We look for good players and good people that we can work with help to develop.
WSHL 365: How do you think the WSHL’s liberal import rules will affect your roster?
Mark Collins: I am originally from Canada, so for me I like the idea that we can bring in more Canadians as well as Europeans. I feel that it only helps with the caliber of play. I hope to fill the roster with the best players no matter where they are from.
WSHL 365: Any chance you change your team name?
Mark Collins: We will work on the possible name change this season. I don’t feel it is a big deal though to have two teams with the same name. We are obviously a completely different entity and nobody would have a hard time differentiating between the two organizations. We have a lot of history with the Blazers from the 70’s when Stan Smyl (Vancouver Canucks) played in Bellingham and it would be a shame to lose that.
WSHL 365: How do you feel last year’s team would stack up in the WSHL?
Mark Collins: Last year’s team was a young team that would have a hard time with challenges of the WSHL. We are building around those core players though and bringing in some veterans and solid goaltending to make sure we are competitive.
WSHL 365: What’re the biggest differences in your opinion between the NPHL and WSHL?
Mark Collins: In my opinion the WSHL as a whole is a better run organization with 30 teams compared to 6. The recruiting is quite a bit easier and once the season begins the caliber of play will be a huge difference.
INTERVIEW BY DEREK HARPER