By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
There have been many high-profile graduates coming out of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League ranks. The majority of them are players, but there have been trainers, officials, and coaches who have made their mark after getting their start in the MJHL.
The latest alumni to make their mark following their time in the MJHL is David Anning, the head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
Anning suited up for the Winnipeg Saints in the early 2000s, and later transitioned into a successful coaching career, with stops in Dauphin, Winnipeg Saints, and the Steinbach Pistons. He coached as an assistant in the RBC Cup with the Kings, and led the Saints to the league championship where they fell to perennial powerhouse Portage.
He left the Pistons as their assistant head coach and general manager in 2012 to take an assistant coaching position with the Wheat Kings. And as fate would have it, the Wheat Kings’ former head coach Kelly McCrimmon recently took a job as an assistant general manager with the NHL’s expansion franchise in Las Vegas, opening the door for Anning to become a head coach in the WHL.
Anning, who hails from Winnipeg, said he has been enjoying his new position, and is excited about the team he gets to work with.
“We’ve been fortunate to put together a tremendous staff,” he said. “We have Don (MacGillivray), who is an excellent bench coach, and a former NHL player in Aaron Rome. I couldn’t be happier with the staff.
“And I think the challenge going forward is to get more and more comfortable with each other and the players,” he added. “And I would say the expectations are much the same here as they have been in the past, except the message is different.”
MacGillivray, the long-time and successful MJHL coach, can also offer some insight for Anning, as he too served as a WHL assistant and later head coach with the Prince Albert Raiders in the late 1990s.
“Don is a great coach with all sorts of experience, both in junior A as well as the Western (Hockey) League,” noted Anning. “He has a lot of knowledge and is someone the group respects.”
Anning said his time in the MJHL was the perfect place to learn and hone his craft, learning on the job from some very knowledgeable hockey people.
“I was fortunate, as I started coaching in the MJHL at a very young age, and it forced me to really take a mature outlook on things, and to handle myself to a certain standard as I was dealing with players close to my own age,” said Anning, who recently turned 31.
“I was fortunate to work with several different coaches, and picked up a lot of different things from different guys.”
He mentioned former Dauphin Kings bench boss Marlin Murray and Doug Stokes (and his 670 victories in the MJHL) as two coaches he enjoyed working with.
“Marlin gave me a lot of responsibility when (Dauphin) hosted the RBC Cup, and the ownership (with the Winnipeg Saints) showed me a lot of faith making me coach and general manager, and we were able to put together a good team and had some success there,” he said.
After moving to the Wheat Kings, Anning had the chance to learn from one of the best in McCrimmon.
“Getting to learn from him every day, I was lucky to work along side him,” noted Anning. “And Kelly had several different responsibilities from an ownership, management and coach perspective, so there was a trickle down where myself and other staff would take on a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities on the hockey side, and we were fortunate to have them, as it allowed me to see how things operate first-hand.”