(Courtesy of James Shewaga, Brandon Sun) -- Kelly McCrimmon didn’t have to look very far to find his new head coach.
For the first time, the Brandon Wheat Kings owner/general manager has promoted from within, hiring longtime assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk as the WHL club’s new head coach on Wednesday afternoon.
For Gylywoychuk, a former Wheat King defenceman who is the franchise record holder in games played (323), it’s the opportunity he has been waiting for since first joining the coaching staff back in 2003.
"I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else," Gylywoychuk said. "I can remember moving here when I was 16 to play ... and from being a former player to now being the head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and I look forward to the challenge ... I am very excited. It’s a dream come true."
Gylywoychuk, a 39-year-old Winnipeg native, signed a two-year contract that also includes a one-year club option. He replaces Cory Clouston, who was fired at the end of the 2011-12 season with one year left on his contract after leading the Wheat Kings to a 39-28-1-4 record and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
Other than his own seven-year stint as Wheat King bench boss from the spring of 2004 to 2011, McCrimmon had always previously looked elsewhere for a new head coach, hiring the likes of Clouston, Mike Kelly, Dean Clark, Bob Lowes and Kevin Maxwell dating back to 1991.
"Well, I’ve said right through that I’ve wanted to look real hard internally before we made a decision," McCrimmon said. "And I felt with the time I spent with Dwayne and the discussions that we had, that he was ready for this opportunity ... I feel he’s earned it and he’s got a good experience base and I think he will be complemented very well by (returning assistant coach) Darren Ritchie, who we think a lot of as well. He will do a good job."
The news was well-received by Wheat King players like defenceman Ryan Pulock — the top returning scorer on the team with 60 points last season — who has worked closely with Gylywoychuk, well-known as ‘Chewy’ around the rink.
"Chewy has been there for me since I have been in Brandon and he has helped me a lot being the D-coach and I am excited that he is getting this opportunity," Pulock said. "I think Chewy knows everyone very well and everyone respects Chewy a lot and I am happy for him and I’m looking forward to getting the season started."
After playing five seasons in the WHL and moving on to eight years as a minor pro hockey player, Gylywoychuk returned to the Wheat Kings in 2001 to work in a marketing and business capacity, before joining the coaching staff two years later. He became a full-time assistant coach under Mike Kelly in 2003-04 and worked as McCrimmon’s right-hand man for his seven seasons behind the bench.
"I think in a lot of respects, this is the first time that he’s been given consideration for the head position, with me doing it for seven years and going a different direction last year by bringing in an established coach in Cory," McCrimmon said. "With the job open this time around, it was the first time that I had spent a considerable time considering him as a candidate and I think he’s excited about the opportunity and I feel that he’s confident that he’s ready ...
"I think he’s well-respected by his players, he communicates very well. I think he has real good experience. He has been part of a successful program and no one knows better than I do the contributions that he has made to our program and I am very comfortable that he is ready for this challenge."
Gylywoychuk said he has been happy to learn under multiple coaches over the years in Brandon and feels he’s well-prepared to make the jump.
"I’m looking forward to it and I understand the responsibility that comes with it," he said. "It is something I have watched from behind the scenes from all the guys I have worked with and worked under, but I am ready for the challenge."
Gylywoychuk will open his first training camp as Wheat Kings head coach in six weeks.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2012