On Monday morning the Winnipeg Jets announced that the team had signed Dave Lowry to fill the position of assistant coach, a post left open following Todd Woodcroft’s departure to the University of Vermont, where he now serves as head coach of the Catamounts.
Lowry, who had just finished his first year down the No. 1 highway in Brandon as the bench boss of the Western Hockey League’s Wheat Kings, will leave that position and move east to Winnipeg for the 2020-21 season. On Tuesday, Brandon announced that longtime assistant coach Don MacGillivray will assume duties as the 24th head coach in Wheat Kings history.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’d like to thank the ownership and management of the Brandon Wheat Kings for entrusting me with this position,” MacGillivray said in a release Tuesday. “I’m honoured, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity that I had working with Dave Lowry last season and David Anning the seasons previous.”
The outgoing Lowry – who joins his son Adam in Winnipeg – knows the Wheat Kings are heading in the right direction, and laments having to walk away as the going gets good.
“I know there’s unfinished business in Brandon,” Lowry told reporters on Monday. “I really like the way the team has grown and I really enjoyed watching the growth after Christmas and how this team together and really understood what took to be a competitive group. I really like the lessons that we learned. I know this team is in a better place today and I know moving forward this team has an opportunity to win. I’ll sit back and I’ll enjoy watching the success.”
For Lowry, Brandon served a special purpose in his coaching career – that of a tight-knit, welcoming community that thoroughly enjoyed its hockey… win or lose.
“The big thing in Brandon is the people,” he reflected. “I was extremely fortunate. I loved my staff and we had a lot of fun. That’s something I always try to create. Not only do I want my staff to come to the rink, I want them to have fun. I know there were some times when we probably weren’t playing as well as we’d like to play but I always wanted to make sure everyone was enjoying what they were doing.”
Although having spoken with Paul Maurice four years prior about potentially joining the Jets’ staff, Lowry decided that the timing wasn’t right at that point, as the elder Lowry wanted his son Adam to fully establish himself as an every-day NHL player before he jumped on board. But this time around, the phone call caught him a little bit off guard, as he was actually in Brandon preparing for the 2020-21 WHL season ahead.
“Two weeks ago I was in Brandon for a week getting ready for training camp,” Lowry said. “This is when the phone call from Paul Maurice came in, and obviously the wheels kind of changed their motion. I feel like where we’ve left the team right now, this team is set up to win. I know all the preparation going into the season along with GM Darren Ritchie and Don and Mark, this team will be ready to go when the puck is dropped.”
According to Ritchie, the decision to announce MacGillivray as the bench boss was a no-brainer.
“This is a great opportunity for Don, he deserves it as he will do a great job leading our players,” Ritchie said Tuesday. “He has a wealth of experience in junior hockey and I look forward to working with him and our coaching staff moving forward.”
MacGillivray has been with the Wheat Kings the past four seasons in an assistant role, after having been coaching since the late 1980s within the MJHL, CIS and WHL. Prior to hopping on board in Brandon, the veteran coach earned MJHL Coach of the Year awards four times from 1995 to 2013, while picking up league championships twice as well. He was named Canada West Coach of the Year in 2008 with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
With an interesting-looking season ready to take shape, the Wheat Kings will begin play on 2020-21 after Christmas, with the club’s first game expected to come on January 8. Staying within its East Division, Brandon will strictly play against the Winnipeg Ice, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos during the regular season.