Barrie Colts Hire 3-Time Memorial Cup Champion

It was a Monday morning to remember for the OHL. The Barrie Colts made a large, unexpected splash, bringing on former Windsor Spitfires’ general manager Warren Rychel as their new head coach.

Just two months ago, Rychel was behind the wheel of the Spitfires, having won three Memorial Cups (2009, 2010, and 2017), and preparing to build a fourth roster.

Now, after Rychel went through a rollercoaster summer, an unfortunate circumstance has put him behind the bench at the Barrie Molson Centre.

Hawerchuk Taking Break

Dale Hawerchuk has been a staple behind the Colts’ bench since 2010-11, guiding the club to five 40-win seasons. In 2012-13, the Colts lost in Game 7 of the OHL Final to the London Knights.

Dale Hawerchuk of the Barrie Colts
Dale Hawerchuk of the Barrie Colts. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Just one week ago, though, the Colts announced that Hawerchuk would be taking a leave of absence due to health reasons. Team president Howie Campbell told Sportsnet that Hawerchuk needed time to deal with that situation.

“We are a tight and close family here and it’s difficult to have to make announcements like this,” Campbell said in his statement.

“Dale is facing some health issues… Our best wishes and thoughts are with Dale and his family during this difficult time. All of us want to see Dale back as soon as possible and we look forward to that day.”

In early July, Rychel announced he was stepping down as GM of the Spitfires, being replaced by team Vice President of Hockey Operations, Bill Bowler.

Rychel had visions of the NHL in July. However, this is an important situation. He said it’s a tough move but he’s going to put the Colts in the best position he can.

“Although I’m thrilled to be joining the Colts, this is not the best circumstance for anyone,” Rychel told CTV.

“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 joins a Colts’ staff that includes another former Spitfire, Taylor Carnevale. He played under Rychel for 30 games in 2010-11.

Rychel’s Resume Shines

Who exactly are the Colts getting?

Rychel joined the Spitfires in 2005 as their GM when he bought the club along with Bob Boughner and Pete Dobrich, who left the club in 2013.

During his tenure, the Spitfires won three Memorial Cups, had numerous players move on to the NHL (Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Zack Kassian, and Mikhail Sergachev, for example), and moved into a state-of-the-art arena.

2017 Memorial Cup Erie Otters Windsor Spitfires
Warren Rychel won three Memorial Cups with the Windsor Spitfires. (Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

While Rychel has never been a head coach, officially, he has a proven track record of developing talent and not being afraid to express what needs to be done.

He’s known for his hard-working, in-your-face approach to the game. The Colts will likely be hard to play against, creating offence and making life miserable for the opponents.

Off the ice, Windsorites know him as the guy who truly cares about both his team and their fans. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his organization, even if it meant making tough decisions.

Spitfires Warren Rychel
Warren Rychel was always willing to talk to the local media. (Dave Jewell/THW)

Hopefully, Hawerchuk’s absence will be a short one and he can have a full recovery. Health always comes first and all the best to him.

In the meantime, the Colts get a passionate hockey executive who will do everything in his power to make them successful. They’re a young team, too, making it a good test for both parties.

Spitfires’ fans won’t have to wait long to see Rychel again. The Colts make their only appearance in Windsor on Saturday, Oct. 5. Game time is 7:05 p.m.