Dwayne Gylywoychuk went to his first Brandon Wheat Kings training camp 24 years ago, and you can count on one hand how many he has missed since then.
So it will certainly be different not seeing the former Wheat Kings head coach on the ice at Westman Place next week when the WHL club opens training camp. Gylywoychuk, who began his five-year WHL career as a
16-year-old rookie defenceman with the Wheat Kings back in 1989 and later rejoined the organization after a seven-year pro career back in 2001, admits it’s going to be a strange feeling not being a part of the action next week when rookies hit the ice Wednesday and are joined by the veterans for Wheat Kings main camp on Friday.
"Yeah, there haven’t been many training camps that I have missed since I was 16 years old because even when I was playing (professionally), I was around for training camps helping Bobby Lowes and Kelly (McCrimmon) and Mark Johnston and all those guys, being guest coaches and that kind of thing," said Gylywoychuk, who played a franchise record 323 WHL games for the Wheat Kings from 1989 to 1994. "So it’s going to be different and I am going to miss it. I know this time of the year the players are coming back and you kind of get that itch. But at the end of the day, I wanted to coach and there was no room to coach."
Gylywoychuk was dismissed and replaced behind the bench by McCrimmon — now serving as coach, general manager and owner once again — after Gylywoychuk guided the club to a disappointing 24-40-4-4 record last season as Brandon missed the playoffs.
The 40-year-old Gylywoychuk, who began his coaching career with the Wheat Kings as an assistant back in 2003, turned down an offer to remain in the organization in a non-coaching capacity and has been looking for work ever since. Yesterday, Gylywoychuk said he still hopes to coach this fall, possibly in the minor pro ranks.
"I have nothing lined up to confirm, but I have a few irons in the fire that I really can’t talk about yet," Gylywoychuk said, noting the openings are not in the WHL or the MJHL. "It’s not that far along. There’s lots of talk and it’s in the interview process ... They are in various other leagues, it’s all I can say."
Gylywoychuk won’t be the only notable absence at Wheat Kings training camp. Former longtime director of player personnel Al Macpherson, who first joined the club in a scouting capacity back in 1986, also won’t be at camp next week after he retired in the off-season.
THOMSON TRIO: In a busy August for local athletes, one of the most interesting stories of the month was the Thomson family returning to Brandon from the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., with three bronze medals.
After Brandon University Bobcats setter Mary Thomson helped lead Manitoba’s women’s volleyball team to a third-place finish, her younger sister Paige and her father and head coach Don also picked up bronze medals for Manitoba in women’s basketball. In fact, it was the first medal for Manitoba in women’s basketball at the Canada Games since 1989, an impressive performance in a sport usually dominated by powerhouses Ontario, B.C, Alberta and Quebec.
"It definitely was one of the highlights (of his coaching career)," Don Thomson said. "Having Paige there made it special, for sure. We just had a great time ... and it was just one of those things where you have to have a little bit of luck and things worked in our favour and it all came together for us."
OH CANADA: It was also great to see Brandon natives Amanda Thornborough and Lisa Barclay and Wheat Kings Jayce Hawryluk and captain Ryan Pulock take their turns in the international spotlight.
Thornborough, a 23-year-old Vincent Massey and Brandon Barbarians graduate, earned her first cap and scored a try for Canada’s senior women’s rugby team at the Nations Cup in Denver, Colo. Thornborough, who has now suited up and scored for both the national 15s and 7s teams, helped Canada win its first ever Nations Cup title with a 27-13 victory over England on Aug. 11.
For her part, Barclay, a 21-year-old Crocus Plains graduate and UBC standout, will try to help Canada’s women’s volleyball team — ranked 22nd in the world — complete a three-match sweep of Peru — ranked 17th — in Winnipeg tonight. Barclay has amassed 19 kills in two matches for Canada, which swept Peru three straight in Dauphin on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Pulock helped Canada’s junior team go 2-1 in an exhibition series in Lake Placid, N.Y., earlier this month as the 18-year-old first-round NHL draft pick showed he is a strong candidate to wear Canada’s colours at next year’s world junior hockey championship.
Hawryluk helped Canada’s under-18 men’s hockey team capture its sixth straight gold medal overseas at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament as the 17-year-old Roblin native scored Canada’s second goal in a 4-0 win over the U.S. in the gold-medal finale and should be poised for a big season with the Wheat Kings in his draft year.
Not to be forgotten, Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak is currently skating with Canada’s top 40 women’s hockey players at the national team development camp in Calgary. The 18-year-old is the second-youngest player in the camp and has served notice that she could be in the Olympic mix one day.
BASEBALL HALL: It’s been quite the year for Souris native and longtime major league baseball scout Murray Zuk. Inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Famer in 1999, Zuk was picked by the San Diego Padres to help represent the club at this year’s Major League Baseball draft and was recently named the 2013 winner of the Canadian Baseball Network’s prestigious Jim Ridley Memorial Award for Canadian scout of the year. Zuk, a former player, manager and umpire and the first president of the Manitoba Baseball Association, is the longest serving active MLB scout in Canada.
In other baseball news of note, the late Jim Flynn was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend in the Battlefords, Sask. The Brandon-born Flynn, who later moved to Carlyle, Sask., reportedly cranked a home run off of legendary Cooperstown pitcher Satchel Paige as one of the highlights in his storied baseball career.
BOBCAT CHAT: Jeremy Davies is the latest BU Bobcat to play on the national and international stage this summer, starting at libero on Thursday to help Canada beat Tunisia in four games to open the world under-21 men’s volleyball championship in Turkey. Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak of Montreal has now returned to Brandon to rejoin the Bobcats men’s basketball team after playing for his former country, Algeria, in the African Championship in the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, Bobcat men’s volleyball recruit Sebastien Steigmeier put on a show for Switzerland at the World University Games last month in Russia, while the Bobcats’ trio of Thomson, fellow Brandonite Jodie Baker and Winnipegger Shanlee McLennan earned bronze medals at the Canada Games. Former Bobcat Chloe Reimer also competed in the Games in beach volleyball, rounding out a big summer for Bobcat athletics.