After missing the playoffs in two of the last three OHL seasons, Howie Campbell says he’s determined to right the ship.
The Barrie Colts president and owner is confident that process took a big step forward by bringing a familiar face back into the fold and making sure another was returning.
In a day with several big moves dealing with the future of the franchise, including the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, Campbell announced in an Apr. 6 afternoon press conference held at the Barrie Molson Centre that former head coach Marty Williamson has returned to take on the role of senior advisor, while Dale Hawerchuk, the club’s longest serving head coach, has signed a new four-year deal to return behind the bench.
Williamson coached the Colts for six seasons, from 2004 to 2010, before leaving the club to take a job as general manager and head coach of the Niagara IceDogs for the next six seasons.
He will be entering his third season this September as head coach of the Brock Badgers men’s university hockey team, a position he will retain while taking on his new duties with Barrie.
“Everywhere Marty has gone, he’s won,” Campbell said. “He won the RBC Cup, he was successful here getting us to the finals (2009-10) and he got Niagara to the finals twice. He knows how to build a hockey team.
“Having one more guy like that in the room that helps with the debate and scouting… Marty was a no-brainer. It was easy to add him and we’re happy to have him back.”
Williamson said it was pretty much a no-brainer for him as well.
“When Howie started talking to me in January about this opportunity and talking it over with the family, it just felt like the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re pretty happy and excited.”
Williamson talked of a comfort level in returning to Barrie. He’s worked with general manager and head scout Jason Ford before and was proud of the job Ford, assistant general manager Rob Stewart and the scouting staff did in this year’s draft.
He’s also happy that Hawerchuk is returning behind the bench.
“Dale and I have done a lot of talking about where our identity needs to change a little bit and that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Williamson said. “(Dale’s) a wonderful man. I knew it just by the respect everybody has for him, but now dealing with him.
“Him and I have talked a lot in the last couple of months and it’s pretty exciting going forward.”
Hawerchuk admits it was tough going through another rebuilding season, but he’s determined the pieces are in place to get things turned around.
“Being as close as we have (to winning) in the past and I think going through a year like this year to build it again and you want to be part of what’s moving forward and good things are coming moving forward,” Hawerchuk said of wanting to return. “Then with Marty coming up I thought it was a piece that was really going to help us.
“When you’re trying to win, you want good people with you and that was a great move.”
Hawerchuk will be entering his 10 season behind the Barrie bench next year. After inking a trio of three-year deals, he agreed to a new four-year contract.
“I prefer that’s going to be a luckier number,” he said, before laughing out loud. “Luckier than three.”
Hawerchuk said his good relationship with Campbell and co-owner Jim Payetta also helped in his decision to return.
“We all want to be successful and are all pulling the right way, and hopefully things can come together,” the head coach added. “You need good people, you need good players and you need a bit of luck at times. Hopefully those things start falling our way.”
For Campbell, there was never any doubt that he wanted Hawerchuk back behind the bench.
“No, it wasn’t even decision,” he said of whether to go in a new direction. “From Day 1 we wanted him back. Of course Dale has an out clause in his contract that allows him to leave if there’s other endeavours he wants to pursue.”
Williamson said the group will be looking at everything in the organization to get the club back on track. One area will be adding another assistant coach behind the bench to help Hawerchuk and assistant coach Todd Miller.
“Now that I’m part of Barrie, missing the playoffs two of three years is something we need to take a hard look at how it happened,” Williamson said. “My record is I’ve never missed the playoffs. I tease these guys I’ve never picked so high, so to get that consistency with the hockey team and to give ourselves a chance every year.
“That’s what we prided ourselves when we were here. Not every year is going to be your year, but I don’t think you need to finish out of the playoffs.”
Campbell also announced new hires for the Collingwood Colts, the Junior A affiliate of the Barrie Colts beginning next season. He named former NHLer and Barrie native Greg Johnston the first head coach and Nick Rica the assistant coach, as well as introducing new general manger Dermot Anderson.
“Dermot Anderson’s experience in the OJHL, along with his connections to draft age players, offers Collingwood a huge head start over the opposition next season,” Campbell said.
photo: The Barrie Colts have a pair of familiar faces back in the fold. Former head coach Marty Williamson, front left, has been named a senior advisor and director of hockey operations, while head coach Dale Hawerchuk, front right, has signed a new four-year contract to remain with the team. The moves were announced in an Apr. 6 press conference at the Barrie Molson Centre. Also in the picture is new Colts’ third-round pick Jacob Frasca, front middle, Collingwood Colts head coach Greg Johnston, back left, and Collingwood Colts general manager Dermot Anderson, back right. Brad Terry photo.