Wolves manage to Branch out

August 13, 2015

He is the son of the long-serving commissioner and he has moved into a position to try to reverse the fortunes of one of the Ontario Hockey League’s cornerstone franchises.

To be sure, 39-year old Barclay Branch has the opportunity of his hockey lifetime as the newly-hired general manager of the Sudbury Wolves, who finished last overall in the 20-team OHL in 2014-2015.

As the son of 66-year old OHL commissioner David Branch, he has spent the past 11 seasons as assistant GM and director of player personnel for the Belleville Bulls, who are relocating to Hamilton for the 2015-2016 campaign.

Branch takes over as GM of the Wolves from team president Blaine Smith, who had been doing double duty for the past five years. Branch will report directly to Smith, according to Wolves owner and chief executive officer Mark Burgess.

From the time that Burgess and Smith made it clear a few months ago that the Wolves were interested in hiring a full-time general manager, there was an interest in Branch — and the feeling was mutual.

“First and foremost, it’s the Sudbury Wolves, a cornerstone franchise of junior hockey,” Branch told Postmedia Network. “The Wolves have a deep-rooted history within the OHL and there is no question there is a strong foundation of youth and the future looks bright, so for those reasons I was interested.

“One very appealing element about this opportunity is that over the last little while the Wolves have done a good job at assembling some high-end, youthful talent to move forward,” Branch added.

In addition to being GM, Branch will also take over as chief scout for the Wolves, replacing the departed Andrew Shaw.

“My foundation and roots are in scouting and player evaluation and so the opportunity to kind of spearhead that is very appealing and important,” noted Branch.

Burgess, as owner and CEO, and Smith, as president, considered a number of individuals for the GM-chief scout responsibilities.

“Blaine met and talked to 10 or 12 people and it all came back to Barclay,” Burgess revealed. “I think the timing is ready for him in this role. He grew up in the Ontario Hockey League. Sometimes it’s nice to bring guys in from the National Hockey League but they don’t know the OHL. We can hit the ground running with Barclay.”

While in Belleville and working under coach-general manager George Burnett, Branch was part of four trips to the Eastern Conference finals with the Bulls.

“He has grown up in the industry and everyone knows him and he is passionate and professional and he is well respected and he was the guy who brought the talent into Belleville and they had a heck of a run,” Burgess said in praise of Branch.

And for the record, Burgess said Branch’s hiring should not reflect in a negative manner on the job that Smith did as president-general manager.

“Obviously, Blaine has done a great job and has worked for us for a long time but he was wearing too many hats and we had to break up the job and he is fine with it. Barclay has the reigns and is running our hockey program and will be reporting to Blaine, who will (continue to) run the business side,” Burgess pointed out.

The hiring of Branch caps on off-season of change for the Wolves, who earlier promoted David Matsos from interim coach to head coach and hired former OHL and NHL defenceman Drake Berehowsky as associate coach.

What you think about “Wolves manage to Branch out”

  1. Apparentley nepotism is still alive and well in the Old Boys Club of the OHL!
    This hiring has Old Man Branchs finger prints all over it.

  2. So the son of the commissioner is not supposed to get a job.? He worked for Belleville for 15 years and you probably didn’t even know that!
    This is good for the Wolves….absolutely.

  3. This is a good hire I agree. The Wolves have lots of good young talent to build around and a guy like Branch will give the Wolves a Head Scout w experience as Asst GM to take over as GM. Smitty had too much on his plate and did a good job building the team despite juggling 2 demanding jobs.

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