As there are so many exceptional coaches in the Ontario Hockey League there are a number of general managers who are very good at what they do.
But as the architect of three Memorial Cup championships in the past nine years, Windsor Spitfires GM Warren Rychel stands out as a cut above the rest.
In fact, it ranks as an understatement that the 50-year old Rychel has made a major impact in his 11 seasons as the GM in Windsor.
Not only have the Spitfires drafted well and traded with a purpose under Rychel’s watch but there have been a number of key free agent acquisitions. And what stands out about Rychel is that if a particular trade has not worked out, he quickly realizes it and moves to rectify the situation.
A multiple-championship career as an OHL general manager is not one that would have been easily predicted for Rychel.
As a truculent left winger lacking in skill, Rychel made it to the OHL as a 13th-round draft pick of the Sudbury Wolves and in three seasons in the league played for three other teams — Guelph Platers, Ottawa 67’s and Kitchener Rangers. His best season as an OHL goal-scorer was his last, when he tallied 17 times.
(It might be noted that Rychel now serves as a claim to hockey fame for Neil Jones, a former defenseman from Garden River First Nation. During the 1984-1985 OHL season, Jones was traded by Guelph to Sudbury in exchange for Rychel.)
At any rate, never drafted into the National Hockey League, Rychel nonetheless made it to the show and went on to play in 476 games, regular season and playoffs included. Playing for five NHL teams, Rychel totaled a mere 46 goals in those 476 games.
After his NHL playing career ended, Rychel earned a scouting job with the Arizona Coyotes before becoming the GM in Windsor, a position that was at least partially attained from being involved in the ownership of the Spitfires.
But if being a part owner in Windsor opened the door to being GM of the Spitfires, Rychel has certainly earned his keep — and then some — with those three Memorial Cup championships in a nine-year span, including the 2017 crown.
As arguably the best-run, best hockey development league on the planet, the OHL, as previously noted, has its share of first-rate general managers. It’s a list that features Dave Brown of the Erie Otters, George Burnett (who is also coach) of the Guelph Storm, Stan Butler (who is also coach) of the North Bay Battalion, Dale Degray of the Owen Sound Attack, Kyle Raftis of the Soo Greyhounds, Roger Hunt of the Oshawa Generals, James Boyd of the Ottawa 67s, Michael Oke of the Peterborough Petes and includes the up-and-coming likes of Barclay Branch of the Flint Firebirds and Dave Drinkill of the Saginaw Spirit.
But at the top of the OHL GM chart sits the man from Windsor who wears three Memorial Cup rings on his old left wing hands.
PHOTO: Warren Rychel, general manager of the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.