The Brandon Wheat Kings finally have a full staff in place for the coming 2020-21 Western Hockey League season. Although seemingly having the names and faces set in place months ago, changes became necessary when former Wheat Kings head coach Dave Lowry officially accepted an assistant position with the Winnipeg Jets on November 23.
That move prompted a chain reaction which saw Brandon ownership make a rather swift decision to put Don MacGillivray at the helm for 2020-21, just one day after the Lowry news. Then late this past week, the team announced it had added an assistant coach to fill MacGillivray’s past role, while also adding a video coach to the mix.
MacGillivray had been with the Wheat Kings the past four seasons in the assistant role, while having rotated through the coaching circles 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.
“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 following the announcement. “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.”
According to GM Darren 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,” he said. “He has a wealth of experience in junior hockey and I look forward to working with him and our coaching staff moving forward.”
As the 24th head coach in team history, MacGillivray will retain goalie coach Tyler Plante and former Wheatie Mark Derlago for his second season in Brandon as an assistant, while adding 42-year-old Todd Miller from the OHL’s Barrie Colts and 28-year-old Daniel Johnston to serve the team in the video department.
Miller, who worked alongside the late Dale Hawerchuk as an assistant with the Colts for nine seasons, before taking over duties in the late stages of 2019-20. He helped the team to a 13-7-2 record in his abbreviated time in charge. When MacGillivray came calling, Miller answered the call without much hesitation.
“This is great news for our team,” Ritchie said in a team-issued release. “Any time you can add a coach who has extensive experience in the Canadian Hockey League, like Todd does, you have a chance to make your team better and I think we’ve done that. Daniel’s experience in hockey, between playing and as a video coach, is going to be a great way to improve the development of our players on the ice. We’re really excited to add these two new members to our team.”
Johnston begins his coaching career as a technical helper, giving players and fellow coaches video files to review, while highlighting certain plays, breakouts, and opponent highlights in individual/group sessions as the team’s first ever video coach. Following a lengthy six-year WHL career with the Portland Winterhawks and Lethbridge Hurricanes, Johnston suited up for eight different ECHL teams over a five-year span, to which he earned 13 goals 60 points and 199 penalty minutes in 198 total games played.
“I’m really excited to be coming to Brandon,” Johnston said in the release. “I’m just retiring from playing and I’ve been video coaching with players over the last year, so this opportunity felt like a perfect fit for me. I remember Brandon well from my playing days; it was a tough building to play in on the road. I consider it one of the model organizations in the WHL so I couldn’t be happier to get the chance to join this club”.