McCrimmon highlights 2019 class
Manitoba hockey hall announces latest inductees
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/05/2019 (1493 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kelly McCrimmon gets a pass for missing a shindig Thursday in Winnipeg announcing he’s headed into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame with a starry 2019 class of inductees.
It was probably the promotion at work that kept him away. Or, perhaps, a busy day following the news emerging from his other gig.
McCrimmon was named general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights on the same day the junior team he owns and operates, the Brandon Wheat Kings, was stockpiling young talent in the Western Hockey League bantam draft in Red Deer, Alta.
He was named to the hallowed hall as one of two builders, joining six former players, three decorated teams, a dedicated official, a member of the media, and an individual and team in the veteran category.
McCrimmon didn’t play in the NHL, but spent two seasons with the Wheat Kings before playing four years at the University of Michigan (1980-84). He was hired as an assistant coach in Brandon in 1988, took over as bench boss four years later, and by 2000 owned the franchise outright.
The Wheat Kings have been one of Canadian junior hockey’s most successful organizations under his reign, appearing in three Memorial Cups. McCrimmon is a three-time WHL executive of the year, and was behind the bench in 2016 when the squad won its most recent WHL title.
McCrimmon, in Las Vegas this week, said in a note to the Free Press he was thrilled to be included in this year’s class.
“It’s such an honour. Manitoba has meant so much to our family, the consistency of people that live here and the love of the game of hockey,” said McCrimmon, who is originally from Plenty, Sask.
“I was fortunate to be able to come back to the place that I fell in love with as a junior player. The fact I met my wife and her family in Brandon, and raised a family there, too, means so much to me. My playing career and coaching/management career came full circle with the Wheat Kings.”
In a remarkable twist, a trade he made in 1991 sparked a true reversal of fortune for the Wheat Kings, and the key players in that deal are both going into the Hall of Fame this year, as well.
Former NHL goalie Trevor Kidd, who hails from Oakbank, was a brilliant last line of defence on a lowly Brandon squad during the 1990-91 campaign. Sensing an opportunity to retool his struggling team, McCrimmon sent Kidd to the Spokane Chiefs in a multi-player deal that included the rights to Marty Murray, a teen from the tiny Manitoba hamlet of Lyleton.
It was truly a trade that worked for both teams. Kidd and the Chiefs went on to win a Memorial Cup national junior title, and Murray became a WHL star and helped turn the Wheat Kings program around.
Kidd, who started skating at an old outdoor rink at the corner of highways 44 and 59 and went on to play 11 NHL seasons, said he was floored when he heard the news he was being inducted.
“This is impressive. It’s taking being honoured to a new level when you see the names of these individuals and what some of those teams did back in the day — Barry Shenkarow and Kelly McCrimmon (as builders). Wow,” said Kidd, who got called on to make 356 starts for the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Obviously, I have such close ties with Kelly and in Brandon and the opportunity I had there, and then being traded for Marty. That trade, you can make an argument, turned around the Wheat Kings. And for myself, going to Spokane was a great opportunity, just a great group of guys.”
The statistics say he made 10,237 saves during his time in the NHL. Kidd said it felt like he had to make that many his final half-season in Brandon before he was dealt to Spokane midway through the 1990-91 campaign.
“I was facing 50, 60, 70 shots a game, but there wasn’t much of an emphasis on winning. It was how many could I stop? That was the goal,” he said with a chuckle. Brandon won 19 games that season.
Kidd and Murray would suit up together with the Calgary Flames in the late 1990s and then again with the Hannover Scorpions of the German Elite League in 2005-06.
Contacted by phone in Minot, N.D., Murray said he’s humbled to be heading into the hall, and it’s an added bonus to go in with Kidd and McCrimmon.
“It’s an absolute honour to be inducted. When I found I was going in, I looked at the long list of some of the great hockey people already in there and, wow, what a list. You forget the amazing hockey history of our province. A lot of those individuals definitely influenced my career,” said Murray, who coaches the Minot Minotauros, who are currently on a playoff run in the North American Hockey League, a U.S. junior league.
“And the group going in, there’s a lot of ties between us. My dad and I had a chuckle about seeing Trevor and Kelly going in at the same time. That’s pretty special. Kelly was the architect of that deal, and it really worked out for everyone. Playing close to home in Brandon was definitely a highlight of my career.”
The 2019 Hall of Fame induction banquet is scheduled for Oct. 5 at Canad Inns Polo Park.
Murray was a key figure in two world junior championships for Team Canada, was selected by the Flames in the 1993 NHL entry draft and played more than 200 NHL games. He got to see plenty of the hockey world in 14 pro seasons in North America and Europe.
“It’s hard to pick highlights. Winning the (WHL) Eastern Conference in Brandon (1995) and going to the Memorial Cup was big. Two world juniors, too. Every young player remembers waking up early to watch those games on TV, so to play in it was something special,” he said. “First NHL game (in Tampa Bay), first NHL goal (in Dallas), I remember them pretty clearly.
“It’s fitting my dad and mom (Ian and Nancy) were there (at the induction announcement) on my behalf. Without them, none of what I accomplished in my career would be possible.”
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Friday, May 3, 2019 7:34 AM CDT: Corrects cutline, adds comments from Kelly McCrimmon