While I haven’t lived in Brandon since 2001, I still follow the Wheat Kings to some degree and am always happy to see them have success. To people that know me fairly well, it’s no secret that while I lived in Brandon I didn’t always cozy up to Kelly McCrimmon and Bob Lowes. In fact, I’m sure both of them would tell anyone who asks that I’m not their favorite person. Far from it.
Truthfully, I felt I got along with Bob excellent up until they had a situation with assistant coach Mark Johnston that resulted in him leaving the team and then the on-ice product went into a ten game tailspin and I ended up asking some fairly pointed questions during a live interview with goalie Jamie Hodson prior to a game in which Lowes installed a call-up goalie to try and get a badly needed win. The strategy worked perfectly. Geoff McIntosh stood on his head and I attempted to do a glowing story about another Lowes hunch that pays off for the Wheat Kings. Instead, Bob was hot about the interview I did with Hodson and didn’t give me any quotes to use for my story. Being young and vindictive, I took Bob’s sarcastic quotes and used them to create my own equally sarcastic story. It wasn’t flattering. And, it ruined my relationship with him. He was never nice to me again after that and I decided I didn’t like him either. Our paths crossed many years later at an SJHL event in Saskatoon and we had another heated argument about my big mouth and about his hot temper and unwillingness to cooperate. By the time we were done, I think we found some common ground. I haven’t seen him since and am more than willing to admit I was young, stupid, mouthy, and to this day I don’t intimidate well. When you push, I push back. Much like Bob does, I think. Still, I’ve never shied away from the fact I was always impressed at how he was able to get results from his players. I believe, I was also the only media person he ever trusted to wear a wireless microphone during a game. He let me follow him around on a game day one time. It was, maybe, my favorite piece I ever produced at CKX. I learned an incredible amount from him and about him that day.
As far as Kelly goes, I have always found him guarded at the best of times. Secretive and uncooperative at the worst of times. However, over the years I admit that if I was in his shoes I wouldn’t have looked at me favorably either. He’s a highly successful hockey executive with a business to run and why should he answer dumb questions from some 20-year-old who thinks he knows it all. Today, I should be embarrassed, quite frankly. Now that I’m out of the media, I see questions from people proclaiming to be journalists all the time and I often think, ‘Man, I wish they were interviewing Kelly McCrimmon so he could teach them a thing or two aboutasking questions.’ The one thing Kelly taught me, unknowingly, was how to do a good interview. If someone is going to make themselves available for a few minutes and if you are going to put this conversation out in the public for the world to see, the least you can do is ask intelligent questions that require thoughtful answers and will generate interest from those watching. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen an interview of a sports figure and felt it was nothing more than complete filler. I never ever viewed interviewing Kelly as ‘filler’. When I talked to him, I made sure I was prepared because if I wasn’t, I would sure know that by the time I was done.
I don’t think I’ve spoken to Kelly in the fifteen years since I left. I have no reason to and he, certainly, has more important people to talk to than me. I suspect his opinion of me falls somewhere along the same lines as the one Bob had/has when we came together at the SJHL event about seven or eight years ago.
Having said that, in light of Kelly landing a job as assistant General Manager with the new NHL team in Las Vegas, I can tell you there are very few people who would be more qualified for this job. We used to sit in the sports office at CKX and laugh at how Kelly would fleece opposing WHL teams with trades. It seemed he not only won the deals, he committed grand larceny. Kirby Law for Jason Boyd still has me howling. Here’s what I do know from my time in Brandon: Kelly wore the Wheat King logo on his sleeve. Yeah, it’s his business and who doesn’t want to run a goodbusiness, but the passion was always evident and it filtered down to a lot of the players, many of whom told me straight up they had the utmost respect for Kelly and would run through a wall for him. Read Jordin Tootoo’s book. I really found an appreciation for Kelly, the man, upon learning some of what’s in there.
So as Kelly McCrimmon leaves the Wheat Kings in body, I suspect his finger prints will remain on this team going forward and I think fans can rest easy knowing he will find a way to ensure the excellence you have all come to expect will continue for many, many years ahead.