The Western Hockey League has announced that it has bestowed its highest honour upon Kelly McCrimmon – former long-time owner, governor, general manager and head coach of Manitoba’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and current general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
The WHL Governors Award is presented annually to an individual who has been associated with the league and through their outstanding hockey and overall contributions to the game has impacted on the growth and development of the WHL.
“I am grateful and honoured to receive this award,” McCrimmon said upon acceptance. “The WHL and the Wheat Kings were an integral part of my professional career, and an amazing way of life for Terry, Chelsea, Micky, and I. I really valued the relationships over the years with fellow governors and general managers. I loved the competitive nature of running our own team, and the collective care and responsibility of being a member of a great league.”
Although having distanced himself from the Wheat Kings in recent years as his commitments with the Golden Knights have continued to grow, the 62-year-old McCrimmon remains in the picture as an alternate governor, despite Jared Jacobson having taken over full ownership of the team in the fall of 2020.
“Kelly is very deserving of this award,” Jacobson said. “Under his guidance, the Wheat Kings became one of the winningest teams in the entire CHL. He was able to move numerous players and staff onto the next level and has always focused on developing good people first… He left the WHL in a better place than when he arrived, and we are very proud of his accomplishments.”
Past recipients of the WHL Governors Award:
2022-23: Kelly McCrimmon
2021-22: Tim Speltz
2020-21: Yvonne Bergmann
2019-20: Sheldon Kennedy
2018-19: Ken King
2017-18: Rick Brodsky
2016-17: Ed Chynoweth
2015-16: Lanny McDonald
2014-15: Russ Parker
2013-14: Jack Brodsky
2012-13: Jim Donlevy
2011-12: Ben Wiebe
2010-11: Terry Simpson
2009-10: Ken Hodge
2008-09: Bob Brown
2007-08: Bill Hunter, Scotty Munro, Jim Piggott
2006-07: Bob Cornell
2005-06: Jack McLeod
2004-05: Pat Ginnell, Ernie McLean, Bill Hicke, Del Wilson
McCrimmon joined the Wheat Kings in 1988 and took over as the club’s general manager in 1989-90. He also took over as head coach midway through the 1989-90 season, to which he spent nearly 30 years in charge.
He served as GM for 27 seasons, while 13 of those years also saw him serve as the team’s head coach. He became a part owner in 1992-93, and in 2000-01 he purchased the remaining shares, taking over sole ownership.
Even though he joined the Golden Knights in 2016-17, McCrimmon remained as Brandon’s owner through 2019-20, before ultimately selling the team after taking on the general manger role in Vegas.
He won two WHL championships, while sporting 80 victories in 140 playoff outings (fourth-most winningest coach all-time). He led the team to the WHL championship series in both 1995 and 1996, winning it in the second year, while doing the same thing in 2015 and 2016. He owns 465 WHL regular season victories, while appearing in 847 games. McCrimmon earned the WHL’s Executive of the Year award in 1995, 2010 and 2015.
“On behalf of the Western Hockey League and our 22 member Clubs, we would like to extend our congratulations to Kelly McCrimmon for being selected this year’s recipient of the WHL Governors Award,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “Kelly has been the face of the Wheat Kings franchise in Brandon for over three decades and is one of the most respected General Managers and team owners in WHL history. The WHL relied heavily on Kelly’s hockey knowledge and insight during his time with the Wheat Kings and we always took his advice when considering new regulations or policies.”