Major change of the guard


Randy Russon
By
April 18, 2017

George Burnett. Barclay Branch. Rob Papineau. In a day of major change at the helm of Ontario Hockey League teams, this troika of decision makers defined movement.

When all the eggs were counted following an afternoon of Easter Monday bunny-hopping, three OHL teams were wearing a different set of eyes and ears.

It began with Burnett when the venerable — albeit young-looking — 55-year old gentleman vacated his position as general manager of the Flint Firebirds for a more familiar, dual role as coach and GM of the Guelph Storm.

Burnett’s departure from the Firebirds paved the road for Branch to leave his general manager post with the Sudbury Wolves to take more responsibility in Flint as vice president and GM.

And with Branch gone from Sudbury, Papineau was given the GM position to go with his previous title of vice president of hockey operations.

Whew.

Not to speak for any of the three but there is an assumption that all are happy with what went down in a day of events that created headlines — and “hmmmms” — throughout the OHL coverage area.

For Burnett, who helped establish peace, harmony — and a playoff spot — in Flint in 2016-2017, moving to Guelph will allow him to return to coaching and stay in management. As the GM-only in Flint in ’16-17, it was the first time since 1989 that Burnett was not behind the bench of an OHL, National Hockey League or American Hockey League team as a coach.

In taking over from Burnett in Flint, Branch will be the main man in charge of Firebird hockey operations. Though Branch had the GM title in Sudbury, he answered to Papineau as VP of hockey operations. It should also be noted that Papineau was hired last year by new Wolves owner Dario Dulich while Branch was a carry-over from previous owner Mark Burgess.

And with Branch no longer in Sudbury as the GM, Papineau now assumes that title and as VP — and a personal hire of Zulich — is clearly in charge of hockey operations, though he does answer to Wolves president Blaine Smith.

Back to Burnett and Branch, there is irony in their moves. Not only are they good friends but they spent 11 years together with the erstwhile Belleville Bulls with Burnett as coach and GM and Branch as assistant GM and director of player personnel. Before that, Burnett and Branch worked together with the Oshawa Generals.

At any rate — and with so much else aside — what stands out from change-of-the-guard day in the OHL is that Burnett, Branch and Papineau all have good levels of respect within the game. All are considered to be good, honest, trustworthy people with work ethics that are a must in today’s OHL.

Burnett. Branch. Papineau. Change for the good.


What you think about “Major change of the guard”

  1. What a coincidence. Burnett was head coach of the Guelph Storm in 1997-98, and this should be an interesting year for the team. I will try to a submit a where-are-they-now piece on the 1997-98 Guelph Storm. I know a lot of those players have retired, and one has passed away three years ago.

    Burnett is the right man to bring the Guelph Storm back to the glory days.

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