A widely respected person who led the Flint Firebirds to their best season in franchise history has stepped down as general manager of the Ontario Hockey League team.
Affable Barclay Branch, who orchestrated a three year rebuild in Flint that resulted in a 40-21-2 record for the Firebirds during a 2019-2020 season that was shortened by COVID-19, confirmed his resignation today to Hockey News North.
The 45-year old Branch took the Flint job prior to the 2017-2018 season and began a methodical progression from lowly OHL team to one that was a legitimate league contender in 2019-2020 in establishing a franchise record for wins and points despite playing in only 63 of 68 games because of COVID-19.
Flint was further set up by Branch for the potential of having another competitive season in 2020-2021 but the OHL ended up being shut down for the entire campaign relative to COVID-19.
Prior to accepting the Flint job in 2017, Branch was the GM of the Sudbury Wolves for two rebuilding seasons and before that, had an overall successful 11-year gig as assistant GM and director of player personnel for the erstwhile Belleville Bulls.
And prior to going to Belleville, Branch was an assistant coach and director of player development with the Oshawa Generals over a five-year span.
Now, in deciding to move on from Flint despite having one year left on his contract, Branch does so after owner Rolf Nilsen recently brought 66-year old Terry Christensen back to the Firebirds in the newly created position of president of hockey operations.
Starting in 2015, Christensen had an earlier association with Nilsen and the Firebirds as both general manager and vice president.
In leaving the Firebirds less than two weeks after the hiring of Christensen, Branch told Hockey News North that he will begin to explore other career opportunities in the game.
Given his exemplary OHL background, one would think that Branch will find another hockey job sooner than later.