By Carter Brooks
Image courtesy of the Brandon Wheat Kings
The Brandon Wheat Kings have concluded their search for a new General Manager.
This past weekend, Wheat Kings' Owner and Governor Kelly McCrimmon announced that Darren Ritchie would fill the vacant role of GM, effective immediately. On May 7th, it was announced that Brandon had parted ways with former GM Grant Armstrong, before the club also relieved former Head Coach David Anning of his duties on June 11th.
Ritchie, 45, has spent the past 13 seasons with the Wheat Kings, serving as an assistant coach from 2006-16, before shifting his focus to player development, acting as the team's Director of Scouting for the past three years. The Winnipeg native actually played junior for the Wheaties from 1990-95, racking up 152 goals and 278 points in just 232 regular season games for Brandon, on top of 22 goals and 41 points in 36 postseason games.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound forward collected a team/career high 62 goals and 114 points in 69 games for the Wheat Kings in 1994-95, helping lead the team to the 1995 showing of the Memorial Cup. After a short stint professionally in North America, Ritchie took his talents overseas, playing for SC Bietgheim-Bissingen of Germany's second-tier professional league for six seasons from 1998-2004.
“It is a real honour to have been given this opportunity,” said Ritchie in a team-issued media release. “I’ve always been proud to be a Wheat King and I look forward to working with our staff to ensure this club continues to improve and become a consistently successful team. Being a leader for our hockey club, I am excited about having the chance to help make this club the best that it can be.”
Since taking over as Director of Scouting, Ritchie has overseen the selections of many significant players, including: Braden Schneider, Ben McCartney, Kyle Bettens, Ethan Kruger, Jonny Hooker, Ridly Greig, Vince Iorio, Anthony Kehrer, Jake Chiasson, Nate Danielson, Tyson Zimmer, Rylen Roersma and Zach Turner.
The Wheat Kings' 2017 third round draft pick Nolan Ritchie is Darren Ritchie's youngest child (also daughter Quinn). Nolan put together a phenomenal 2018-19 season for the Midget Wheat Kings, collecting 39 goals and 94 points in 47 games played, taking the MMHL championship trophy, as well as putting up the most assists and points, before earning the league MVP award.
Now settled in as team General Manager, Ritchie's first task at hand will be to assemble the Wheat Kings' coaching staff for the upcoming 2019-20 Western Hockey League season. After letting David Anning go, Brandon has been without a Head Coach the past month. An announcement is expected within the coming weeks.