Brandon, MB. – With Training Camp set to begin in less than two weeks, the reigning Western Hockey League Champion Brandon Wheat Kings have named their coaching staff for the 2016-17 season.
30-year old Winnipeg native David Anning replaces Kelly McCrimmon, who recently accepted the Assistant General Manager’s position of the new National Hockey League franchise in Las Vegas.
McCrimmon will remain Owner and Governor of the club that announced a major restructuring to its Hockey Operations on Thursday.
Joining Anning on the bench this season will be longtime coach and fellow Winnipegger Don McGillivray and former WHL All Star defenceman Aaron Rome.
Former assistant coach Darren Ritchie meanwhile becomes the Wheat Kings’ new Director of Scouting and Tyler Plante rejoins the organization as the club’s Goaltending Coach.
Anning joined the Wheat Kings in 2012-13 after spending six seasons in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Winnipeg Saints, Dauphin Kings and Steinbach Pistons. After helping the Kings win the Anavat Cup as an Assistant Coach, he took over as Head Coach and General Manager of the Winnipeg Saints.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity offered to me by Kelly,” says Anning, who coached Team West on two occasions at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. “It goes without saying that this is a very proud and storied franchise and I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with great players and staff for the past four seasons in Brandon.”
“I value the philosophy and loyalty that is engrained throughout the organization and I’m very excited for the challenge that lies ahead,” added Anning, who played four seasons with the MJHL’s Saints.
“I am happy for David to get this opportunity,” says McCrimmon. “He is an excellent young coach, has great experience and embodies what we stand for and believe in.”
McGillivray arrives in Brandon with a wealth of coaching experience, having served behind the bench in the MJHL with Portage, Neepawa, St. James and the Winnipeg Blues, the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders as well as three seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
He joins the Wheat Kings after spending the past seven seasons with the Blues, where he served as Head Coach and General Manager. In addition to leading the Blues to the 2014 MJHL Title, his Terriers captured the 2005 Championship. McGillivray was named the League’s Top Coach in 1995, 2005, 2012 and 2013.
Last season his Blues finished fifth with a 32-18-10 record and lost out in the Semi-Finals.
A 32-year old native of Nesbitt, Manitoba, Rome is a 5-year WHL veteran, having scored 31 goals and 155 points in 304 games during a career that saw him play in Saskatoon, Kootenay, Swift Current and Moose Jaw.
A fourth round draft choice of the Los Angeles Kings in 2002, Rome played several seasons in the National Hockey League, scoring six goals, 28 points and 185 minutes in penalties in 226 career games.
A member of the 2007 Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks, Rome also played in Columbus, Vancouver and Dallas, where he played his final season on hockey in 2013-14.
Selected in the second round by the Florida Panthers in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Plante played three seasons with the Wheat Kings, beginning in 2004-05, when he was chosen the League’s Top Rookie.
A Brandon product, Plante is currently tied with Jordan Papirny for first place on the club’s All Time list with twelve shutouts, including six during his first year in Brandon.
Plante, who played the last three years in Europe, spent six seasons in the ECHL and American Hockey Leagues and as a Wheat King, he compiled an average of 2.89 in 162 career games. He replaces Matt Cockell, who currently serves as Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships for True North Sports and Entertainment in Winnipeg.
“I’m very excited to have Don, Aaron and Tyler joining the staff,” says Brandon’s new head coach. “I feel these are very capable individuals who share similar views when it comes to developing players and people. I feel the staff will complement each other very well and each coach will work hard to help our players reach their potential and continue to develop.”
A 9-year veteran of the Wheat Kings’ organization, Ritchie has served as an assistant to coaches Cory Clouston, Kelly McCrimmon and Dwayne Gylywoychuk.
Following his junior career that saw him named to the 1995 Eastern Conference First All Star Team and capture the Brad Hornung Trophy as the league’s Most Sportsmanlike Player, he spent nine seasons playing professional hockey in both North America and Europe.
As Director of Scouting, Ritchie will be responsible for coordinating the club’s scouting staff, overseeing all WHL and minor hockey scouting operations, assisting the development of the Wheat Kings’ 50-man Player Protected List and the recruitment of prospective players.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” says Ritchie, who scored 152 goals (7th most in franchise history) and 278 points in 232 career games. “I am really looking forward to working with our strong staff of scouts in both identifying talent and the development of our young prospects.”
“Darren is a real good hockey man,” says McCrimmon. “He loves scouting and for a few years now saw this as his next step. He will do a great job in this area and will still remain involved in all facets of Hockey Operations.”
Meanwhile the hockey club announced the hiring of Athletic Therapist Chris Trivieri. A 27-year old from Welland, Ontario, Trivieri has spent the past two seasons with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies. A Physical Education graduate from Brock University in 2012, he also graduated from Sheridan College with an Honours BSC in Athletic Therapy this year.
The new Wheat Kings’ coaching staff will now spend the next twelve days preparing for what should be an exciting, competitive Training Camp, scheduled to get underway at Westman Communications Group Place on August 30th. Among the players that will be attending is 17-year old Daniel Bukac from the Czech Republic. The 6’4” 175 lb defenceman was Brandon’s second selection in June’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. In 38 games with Chomutov U18 Juniors last season, he scored three goals and 15 points.
In other news from Thursday’s media reception at the Canad Inns – 2016-17 Season Tickets have surpassed the 2,000 mark and are up slightly from last year at this point. Meanwhile the WHL Champions provided more details on a number of special events and initiatives to take place during the club’s 50th Anniversary season. Among them – western Manitoba hockey fans will have a chance to select the Wheat Kings All Time Team. A committee, made up of members of the local hockey community, media and fans, will determine the top fifty and fans will be able to go online and vote for their choice of two goaltenders, six defencemen and 12 forwards. Voting will begin in late September.
Brandon will open up defence of its WHL Title with a home and home series with Moose Jaw during the weekend of September 23rd-24th.