Warren Rychel is certainly no stranger to the Ontario Hockey League, but he’ll have a new view when he takes things in this season.
The former Windsor Spitfires co-owner and general manager, who was the architect behind three Memorial Cup championship teams in 13 years, will move behind the bench for the first time after he was named the head coach of the Barrie Colts on Monday.
The former NHL winger is stepping in for long-time Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk after the club announced last week the Hockey Hall of Famer was taking an indefinite leave for health reasons.
The organization felt it needed a seasoned veteran to help lead the team this season.
“We consulted with many people, including Dale Hawerchuk, and we all agreed that Warren is the right man for the job,” Colts president Howie Campbell said. “It’s been a very difficult couple of weeks, but we are confident that Warren can help guide us to where we need to be.
“We’ve been building this team for a while and we feel we have the team to have a good run this year.”
Rychel, who led the team through his first practice on Monday afternoon at the Colts Centre, will join a coaching staff that includes long-time assistant Todd Miller and first-year assistant Taylor Carnevale behind the Barrie bench, along with goaltending coach Billy Smith.
The 2009 OHL Executive of the Year was part of an ownership group that bought the Spitfires in 2006 and helped lead them to a pair of OHL championships, including their title win against Barrie in 2010, before selling his stake in the club and stepping down as general manager this summer.
“Although I’m thrilled to be joining the Colts, this is not the best circumstance for anyone,” said Rychel, who won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996. “I have huge respect for Dale Hawerchuk and first and foremost my thoughts are with him and his family. I’ve known Howie and the Colts organization for many years and I know this is a top notch OHL team.
“I’ll do my best to work with the organization and the players to bring home a great season.”
Rychel says he couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff and added that he’s worked with Colts GM Jason Ford and Marty Williamson, the Colts senior advisor to the director of hockey operations.
“As a group, I think we have some of the best minds and experience in the league,” the 52-year-old said. “I’m excited to get started.”
Rychel’s will step behind the Barrie bench for the first time on Thursday night when the club faces the Niagara IceDogs at the Colts Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m.