The ‘Billy Keane Era’ in Opaskwayak Cree Nation very well may have already set an OCN Blizzard franchise record for most transactions in such a short period of time. After letting former head coach/general manager Chris Perchaluk go in mid-July, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Blizzard brought in Keane to take over duties on July 16.
Since then, the 57-year-old hockey mind has begun a major retooling of the team that finished as a cellar dweller in 2019-20. Just 10 days into his new role, Keane pulled the trigger on a deal that saw the club part with the rights to 2003-born forward Owen Wiehs, in exchange for veteran centreman David Queree and a Player Development Fee from the Steinbach Pistons.
Following that deal, Keane quickly got the wheels turning on a deal with the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Campbellton Tigers. The following day, the Blizzard sent Quebec-born forward Tobias Commanda-Odjick out East, in exchange for 2001-born defenceman Thomas Dodds, as well as a Player Development Fee.
Two days later, OCN announced a third deal which saw forward Kobe Campbell shipped to the Waywayseecappo Wolverines for a Player Development Fee. Although cutting costs in all three deals, Keane knew that the option to bring back 18 of the members of the 2019-20 squad was not a desirable one, so deals have been made.
This past week, two more pieces were added to the puzzle, as the Blizzard signed forwards Michael Hlady (2002) and Trenton Morriseau (2002) to standard MJHL agreements.
Hlady, 18, is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound speedster out of Miami, MB., who spent the past four seasons with the AAA Pembina Valley Hawks. He had 27 goals, 52 points and 64 penalty minutes in 48 regular season games this past year, before putting up three goals in six playoff contests.
Morriseau, 17, is from Thunder Bay, ON. and has spent his minor hockey career within his local community, most recently suiting up for the Thunder Bay Kings AAA U-18 team the past two seasons. In 56 total games over two years of play, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward had 22 goals, 47 points and 34 penalty minutes in regular season play. He also had back-to-back three-goal playoff performances with the Kings.
Between the end of July and the start of the 2020-21 MJHL season, a new-look OCN Blizzard squad has already emerged as one of the most improved teams across the league, led by the new coach/manager. Last season the Blizzard went 17-39-5, putting up just 37 points in 60 games, while finishing second-last, significantly outside the playoff picture. Things already look significantly improved with still over a month to go before the proposed September 25 league start date.
Keane, 57, opted to take in the 2019-20 MJHL season from the sidelines, cutting ties with the Winnipeg Blues following the ownership change last offseason. His coaching experience includes 11 years as an assistant with the University of Manitoba Bisons before another 11 seasons within the MJHL. This is his second shared head coach/GM position.