The winds of change blew through Swift Current on Thursday afternoon as the Broncos announced the resignation of Dean Brockman, who was in his fourth season as the community-owned organization’s general manager and head coach.
Chad Leslie, the Broncos’ assistant general manager, now is the interim GM, with assistant coach Devan Praught stepping in as interim head coach.
Leslie, 44, was the Broncos’ director of scouting each of the past three seasons.
Praught, 34, is from Summerside, P.E.I. He is in his first season with the Broncos after spending eight seasons at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. He was the head coach of the U-18 Hounds for the past five seasons.
Matt Keillor, also in his first season, now is the lone assistant on the Broncos’ staff.
The Broncos (2-3-0) have lost three straight games after opening the season with a pair of victories — 2-0 and 3-2 — over the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Swift Current is scheduled to play the Wheat Kings in Brandon on Saturday night and the Ice in Winnipeg on Sunday. The Broncos then will meet the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Tuesday, before returning home for a Friday night date with the Calgary Hitmen.
Brockman, 54, didn’t really explain why he was resigning, telling a news conference: “I want to reiterate this was my decision. It’s a personal decision on my behalf. It had nothing to do with the board of directors. In fact, the board of directors have supported me from Day 1. They took a chance and that chance was me.”
Before joining the Broncos, Brockman spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Saskatoon Blades, under Bob Woods, followed by two seasons as their head coach. The Blades fired him immediately after the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season.
Brockman had spent 17 seasons with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, seven as GM/assistant coach and 10 as GM/head coach. Under Brockman, the Broncos won five league championships and two national titles. He was honoured as the SJHL’s coach of the year on four occasions.
Three months after being fired by the Blades, the Broncos hired him to replace Manny Viveiros, who had been named the WHL’s coach of the year after leading Swift Current to the WHL’s 2018 playoff championship. That was the Broncos’ first title since 1993. Viveiros joined the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers two days after the Broncos finished an 0-3 run at the Memorial Cup in Regina.
The Broncos paid a steep price for going all-in to win that championship, especially in trades with the Calgary Hitmen and Lethbridge Hurricanes. Swift Current sent five players — F Conner Chaulk, F Riley Stotts, D Dom Schmiemann, F Josh Prokop and G Ethan Hein — along with a second-round pick in the 2018 draft to the Hitmen, for F Matteo Gennaro, F Beck Malenstyn and a fifth-rounder in 2018.
Then, at the trade deadline, Swift Current dealt G Logan Flodell, F Logan Barlage, F Owen Blocker, D Matthew Stanley, first- and third-rounders in 2020 and a conditional second-rounder in 2021 to the Hurricanes for G Stuart Skinner, F Giorgio Estephan and F Tanner Nagel.
The rebuild hasn’t been especially rapid, with the Broncos going 11-51-6 and 10-48-5 in the two seasons after the championship. They were 6-16-2 in the 2021 development season.
At the moment, the Broncos hold the sixth and seventh selections in December’s WHL draft.
But just how tough has the rebuild been? The WHL’s final four in the spring of 2018 featured the Broncos, Hurricanes, Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans. Brad Brown (@saskawhat) pointed out via Twitter that Everett has won 114 regular-season games since then, with Lethbridge at 89; Tri-City, 60; and Swift Current, 29.
Financially, the team’s board of directors told shareholders that it had made a $561,500 profit in the 2017-18 championship season. However, a $38,196 profit for 2018-19 was followed by a loss of $791,000 for the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.
Late last month, at the organization’s annual general meeting, shareholders were told there was a loss of $129,968 — including a $600,000 grant from the provincial government — for that 2021 development season in which the Broncos played 24 games in the Regina hub.
The Everett Silvertips have hired Casey Bryant as their broadcasting and media relations manager, replacing Mike Benton, who left to join Seattle radio station KJR where he plays host to Seattle Kraken pre-game, intermission and post-game shows. Benton had been with the Silvertips through six seasons. . . . From a Silvertips news release: “Bryant is an award-winning play-by-play broadcaster whose prior credits include the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks (NAHL), Sacred Heart University Pioneers (NCAA D1), Jersey Hitmen (NCDC) and New York Apple Core (EHL). A 2017 graduate of Marist College, Bryant also worked as a production assistant for MSG Networks for four years, editing on-air promotions for the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and other MSG flagship teams.” . . . The Silvertips are scheduled to visit Kent, Wash., for a game with the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight.
JUST NOTES: F Patrick Brown of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t able to play last night after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. . . . The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals have had three positive tests within their organization this week. OLB Chandler Jones is on the COVID list, while two unidentified staff members also have tested positive. The Cardinals have had 18 players on that list since July 23, with three of them landing there twice each. . . . The Atlanta Braves aren’t planning to have OF Jorge Soler on their roster when they play host to Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday. Soler tested positive earlier this week and didn’t play in Game 4 of the NLDS as the Braves clinched the series with a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. OF Christian Pache was added to the roster in Soler’s place.
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JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The junior B Saanich Predators of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League named Cody Carlson, a former WHL player, as general manager and head coach on Thursday. He replaces Brent Polischuk, who was relieved of his duties “effective immediately.” Polischuk had been with Saanich since July 28, 2019. The Predators (5-9-1) are fourth in the five-team South Division. Carlson, 30, had joined the Kerry Park Islanders as assistant GM and associate coach prior in July. He split 305 regular-season WHL games between the Medicine Hat Tigers, Regina Pats and Prince George Cougars (2006-12). He played the past three seasons in Europe, mostly in Romania. . . . The NHL’s Calgary Flames have hired Connor Rankin, who played five seasons in the WHL, on a full-time basis as their video analyst. He had done part-time work for the Flames over the past five years. Rankin played 339 WHL regular-season games (2010-15), split between the Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets have released G Cole Schwebius, 20. He has cleared waivers so now is a free agent. He went 17-23-2 in 48 regular-season games split between the Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds over parts of four seasons. . . . D Jackson van de Leest, 20, has returned to the Calgary Hitmen from the camp of the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He is expected to be in Calgary’s lineup tonight against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. . . . Ian Furness, who has done his share of play-by-play on Seattle Thunderbirds’ games during his career, was at the KJR radio microphone on Thursday night as the NHL’s Seattle Kraken played the Predators in Nashville. Furness was filling in for Everett Fitzhugh, who remains in Seattle after testing positive.