Columns & Blogs

A tribute to Brad McCrimmon

While I didn't know any of the players or coaches killed in the plane crash in Russia on Wednesday, I do know Kelly McCrimmon of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Kelly's brother Brad, a standout in the WHL and NHL, was killed in the crash. Brad was named the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in May.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the McCrimmon family.

Here is a nice piece written by Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun.

Rob HendersonBrandon Sun

In 30 years as a National Hockey League player and coach, Brad McCrimmon won a Stanley Cup and countless admirers for his dedication and approach to the game.

Perhaps nowhere is he more revered than in the Wheat City where his legacy has remained as strong as ever in the 32 years since he last wore a Brandon Wheat Kings uniform.

McCrimmon, 52, died on Wednesday, the victim of a plane crash in Russia that claimed 43 lives and decimated the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. Born in Dodsland, Sask., and raised in nearby Plenty, McCrimmon had been hired as Lokomotiv’s head coach in May. The Kontinental Hockey League team was leaving for its first game of the season at the time of the accident.

Considered by many to be the greatest defenceman in Wheat Kings history, McCrimmon was a two-time Western Hockey League all-star in his three seasons with Brandon from 1976-79 and was named the league’s defenceman of the year in 1978. McCrimmon’s final year with the Wheat Kings was one for the record books, helping Brandon post a CHL-record 125-point season while playing alongside his younger brother Kelly, now the owner and general manager of the WHL team.

“He was my hero, he was my best friend,” Kelly McCrimmon said. “We grew up on a farm, so we did everything together. I was obviously his biggest fan and he was always really proud of me as well.”

Brad McCrimmon went on to play in 1,222 NHL games with six teams — winning the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1988-89 — and had coaching stints as an assistant with four different NHL clubs. His impact goes well beyond his accomplishments on the ice, however.

“Brad was a true pro in that he always had time for people,” Kelly McCrimmon said. “He wasn’t a guy that played professional hockey, he was a pro in terms of how he carried himself. He was honest, he never judged people, he saw the good in everyone and I think was a confident, humble guy that had time for everyone that he met.”That sentiment was echoed by WHL commissioner Ron Robison.

“Brad was not only one of the greatest players in WHL history, he was a great leader who had a major impact on every team he was associated with,” Robison said in a written statement. “Our thoughts and prayers along with our deepest sympathy are extended to Brad’s wife Maureen and their children Carlin and Liam, the McCrimmon family, his friends and former teammates during this very difficult time.”

McCrimmon left his job as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings this spring and signed with Lokomotiv to gain head coaching experience, although he was also the head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades for two seasons from 1998-2000. In his short time in Saskatoon, he left a lasting impression on Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome, who got his start in the WHL with the Blades under McCrimmon.

“He taught me countless things,” said Rome, a Nesbitt native who makes his off-season home in Brandon. “I had him for one year and he taught me so many things as a young player, how to kinda conduct myself on and off the ice. He was a hard-nosed, tough-as-nails player when he played and I think he coached the same way and liked the players that played like that. I felt like that was part of my game and I think he kept me around because he liked that about me. I really, really enjoyed playing for him and it’s just really tough to hear that news today.”Those attributes that people are raving about were spotted in McCrimmon at an early age by Jack Brockest, who was the Wheat Kings’ general manager and owner when the stalwart defenceman helped the team reach the Memorial Cup championship game in 1979.

“He was a natural leader,” said Brockest, from his home in Onanole.

“He will surely be missed by a lot of people.”