New Wheat Kings head coach Cory Clouston (left) takes over from Kelly McCrimmon (right)

When the Brandon Wheat Kings open up Training Camp later this month, they will have a new head coach on the ice for the first time in seven years.

Wheat Kings’ general manager and owner Kelly McCrimmon has announced plans to step aside this season and hand the coaching reins over to former Kootenay Ice and Ottawa Senators’ head coach Cory Clouston.

The second winningest coach in franchise history with 330 victories, McCrimmon has led Brandon to a 294-177-35 record, since replacing Mike Kelly in March, 2004. In addition to capturing the Eastern Conference Title in 2005, McCrimmon led Brandon to three Eastern Division pennants and to within one win of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

“I felt this was the right time for this move,” says McCrimmon. “As much as I enjoy coaching and working day to day with the players and coaches, I’ve said all along that there is real value in having two people fill these positions. I look forward to working with Cory, Dwayne and Darren and channeling my efforts to other areas of our organization.”

A native of Viking, Alberta, Clouston has spent the past two and a half seasons behind the bench of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators. His contract was not renewed by the Sens this past April after the club finished the year with a record of 32-40-10. A former member of the Alberta Golden Bears, he had a 95-83-20 overall record with the Senators.

“Kelly and I talked at the end of the season and we’ve always kept in touch,” says Clouston, who replaced Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa in February 2009,  after spending close to two years as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Binghampton Senators. “He told me that this might be a possibility when we met at the NHL Entry Draft.”

Clouston compiled a career regular season record of 209-114-37 in five years as head coach of the Ice. Kootenay made the WHL playoffs in each of his seasons behind the bench, advancing as far as the Western Conference final in 2004-05. He was named both the WHL and Canadian Hockey League coach of the year for the 2004-05 campaign, posting an impressive 47-15-7-3 record. As well, he was named WHL coach of the year in 2006-07.

“Coming to Brandon and joining the Wheat Kings is a great fit…both hockey wise and for me and my family,” Clouston added.  “The Wheat Kings have always been one of the most respected teams in junior hockey and having the opportunity to work with Kelly is something that I’m really looking forward to.”