Brandon, MB. – When the Brandon Wheat Kings open up Training Camp later this month, they will have a new head coach on the ice for the first time in seven years.
Wheat Kings’ general manager and owner Kelly McCrimmon has announced plans to step aside this season and hand the coaching reins over to former Kootenay Ice and Ottawa Senators’ head coach Cory Clouston.
The second winningest coach in franchise history with 330 victories, McCrimmon has led Brandon to a 294-177-35 record, since replacing Mike Kelly in March, 2004. In addition to capturing the Eastern Conference Title in 2005, McCrimmon led Brandon to three Eastern Division pennants and to within one win of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
“I felt this was the right time for this move,” says McCrimmon. “As much as I enjoy coaching and working day to day with the players and coaches, I’ve said all along that there is real value in having two people fill these positions. I look forward to working with Cory, Dwayne and Darren and channeling my efforts to other areas of our organization.”
A native of Viking, Alberta, Clouston has spent the past two and a half seasons behind the bench of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators. His contract was not renewed by the Sens this past April after the club finished the year with a record of 32-40-10. A former member of the Alberta Golden Bears, he had a 95-83-20 overall record with the Senators.
“Kelly and I talked at the end of the season and we’ve always kept in touch,” says Clouston, who replaced Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa in February 2009, after spending close to two years as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Binghampton Senators. “He told me that this might be a possibility when we met at the NHL Entry Draft.”
Clouston compiled a career regular season record of 209-114-37 in five years as head coach of the Ice. Kootenay made the WHL playoffs in each of his seasons behind the bench, advancing as far as the Western Conference final in 2004-05. He was named both the WHL and Canadian Hockey League coach of the year for the 2004-05 campaign, posting an impressive 47-15-7-3 record. As well, he was named WHL coach of the year in 2006-07.
“Coming to Brandon and joining the Wheat Kings is a great fit…both hockey wise and for me and my family,” Clouston added. “The Wheat Kings have always been one of the most respected teams in junior hockey and having the opportunity to work with Kelly is something that I’m really looking forward to.”
In addition to his junior hockey experience, Clouston has participated in Hockey Canada’s national team program, serving as assistant coach for the national under 18 2005 World Cup gold medalists and head coach for the 2006 team that also took home gold.
“Cory is a tremendously proven, experienced head coach,” says McCrimmon. “He’s had great success in the WHL, in Kootenay as well as four years of professional experience since then. He will add value to our organization and contribute positively to the development of our coaching staff and players.”
“Cory is an exceptional choice to lead our team moving forward,” he added. “I am confident and pleased to welcome him to the Wheat Kings’ organization.”
Assisting the 41-year old Clouston on the Brandon bench will be Dwayne Gylywoychuk and Darren Ritchie. Gylywoychuk returns for his ninth season with the Wheat Kings, while Ritchie is entering his fifth year in Brandon. Unlike his first four seasons, however, Ritchie will assume a full time position with the Western League club in 2011-12.
“Ritch is a real respected member of our organization,” says McCrimmon. “I am very excited to see him turn this position into a full time opportunity. Darren adds a great deal and I look forward to watching him develop.”
The Minnedosa born Ritchie joined the club in 2007, after serving as an assistant with the Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings. A former WHL all star in Brandon, Darren scored 152 goals (7th most in franchise history) and 278 points in 232 career games. His best year came in 1994-95 when he fired a team leading 62 goals and 114 points in 69 games and was named to the Eastern Conference First All Star Team. As well, he was chosen winner of the Brad Hornung Trophy that goes to the league’s Most Sportsmanlike Player. Following his junior career, he spent nine seasons playing professional hockey in both North America and Europe.
A 5-year member of the Wheat Kings, the 38-year old Gylywoychuk is the club’s all time leader in games played with 323.
In addition to Gylywoychuk and Ritchie, the hockey club has confirmed that Matt Cockell will return for his fifth season as Goaltending Coach of the WHL club and Jim Frederickson will be back for his ninth season as Strength and Conditioning Coach.