For the first time in more than 40 years, there is coaching upheaval in Weyburn.
Longtime Red Wings head coach Dwight McMillan submitted his resignation to the team’s Board of Directors on Wednesday, ending a run with the club that dates back more than four decades.
Heading into the season, McMillan had made it known to the team’s board that it would be his final season behind the Red Wings bench, but after a sluggish start and dealing with health matters facing his wife, Diane - McMillan accelerated his retirement.
“He came to us,” said Red Wings president Scott Sabados. “Admittedly, there was certainly a concern with our record heading into the break, but at the end of the day, the decision was Dwight’s.”
Aside from a pair of campaigns in the late 1980's, McMillan has coached the Red Wings since 1972. The team he inherited was struggling both on and off the ice, but McMillan and long time general manager Ron Rumball revived not only the hockey team, but also the Red Wings brand.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again,” said Sabados. “To have someone serve a community and an organization like that for so long. You’re just not going to see that in this day and age in the sporting world.”
McMillan led the Red Wings to National Championship titles in 1984 and 2005. Along the way, McMillan was named the SJHL coach-of-the-year three times, won six league titles and five Saskatchewan-Manitoba championships. In 2008 joined Scotty Bowman and Brian Kilrea as the only three men to guide their team to 1000 career wins and was elected to the SJHL’s Hall of Fame the following year. The Red Wings say they plan to properly honour McMillan’s service to the organization later in the season.
“Knowing that it was his going to be his last year, we certainly wanted better for Dwight,” said Sabados. “To come out flat like that is a shame, but one-half of one season does not a career make, and it’s definitely not a true reflection on everything Dwight’s done for the organization. We’ll try our best to properly recognize his value to the Red Wings.”
McMillan’s service to the Red Wings organization actually dates back to the early 60’s, joining the team as a player in 1961. He played for the Red Wings for the next four seasons before embarking on a short lived professional career.
Not surprisingly, word of McMillan’s retirement rippled through the hockey circles quickly.
“It’s a loss to the SJHL, and it’s a loss to junior hockey in Canada,” said SJHL President Bill Chow. “Everything that he’s meant to the Red Wings and the community of Weyburn, he’s the kind of guy that you simply don’t replace.”
Former players also weighed in on the McMillan legacy left. Shayne Emmons played under McMillan from 2002 to 2004, captaining the Red Wings in his final season.
“I think his biggest asset was his ability to identify and evaluate other team’s tactics and tendencies,” said Emmons. “I played against the Red Wings in the Anavet Cup as an 18-year old. We won the first two games rather handily, but by the time the series shifted back to Weyburn for the next three games, Dwight had us figured out. We didn’t have much of a chance from there on in, and they closed us out.”
Longtime assistant coach Darcy Pindus will take over behind the bench on an interim basis, with the Red Wings executive left to fill the void in the offseason.
“To be honest, we’re not sure exactly what to do,” joked Sabados. “It’s amazing to think that we’ve never been in this position as an organization. Dwight’s always been the coach. We’ve seen other teams go through this and come out the other side – so I know we’ll be fine.”