Barclay Branch appointed Firebirds Vice-President of Hockey Operations and General Manager
Office: (810) 744-0580 ext. 201
Branch has spent his 18-year career in Major Junior Hockey in both management and scouting capacities, most recently as the General Manager of the Sudbury Wolves. He spent 11 years with the Belleville Bulls as Assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel where he reported to Burnett, and directed the Bulls’ OHL Priority Selection, drafting players such as P.K., Malcolm, and Jordan Subban, Brendan Gaunce, Eric Tangradi, and Brandon Saigeon. During that time the Bulls played in four Eastern Conference Finals highlighted by an appearance in the Mastercard Memorial Cup in 2008. Branch started his career with the Oshawa Generals, and also served as Assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel with the Hamilton Bulldogs prior to joining the Wolves. He is entering his fourth season as a regional Under-17 scout for Hockey Canada.
While other hockey-playing kids in Canada dreamed of becoming the next Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, Barclay Branch dreamed of becoming the next Sam Pollock or Bill Torrey.
Branch was always attracted to the behind-the-scenes action in hockey, even when he was still young enough to wonder where his playing ability might take him.
“From a very young age, I really got drawn toward the scouting and management side of hockey,” Branch said. “It intrigued me. When I would go to games, I’d always watch the scouts. I saw them writing on their pads, wondering what they were writing, what they saw.
“It was something from the age of 7 or 8 that I really felt drawn toward, which leads me to where I am today.”
Today Branch is the general manager of the Flint Firebirds, continuing a career in the Ontario Hockey League that began as a stick boy for the Oshawa Generals.
He was assistant general manager and director of player personnel for the Belleville Bulls for 11 seasons, including the 2007-08 seasons when the team played in the Memorial Cup. He was general manager and head scout of the Sudbury Wolves the last two seasons before being named the Firebirds’ GM in April. He also had stints as an assistant coach in Oshawa and assistant GM/director of player personnel in Hamilton.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity, first and foremost,” Branch said. “It’s a really exciting young hockey club. There’s a lot of potential with this group. I’m excited to be part of it and help put together a team that the people of Flint and Genesee County are proud of, really want to get behind and get excited about.”
As the Firebirds’ new GM, Branch is continuing a love affair with the OHL that began as a youngster in the Toronto area. Branch and his friends would go to the old Maple Leaf Gardens to watch the Toronto Marlboros.
By the time he was 10, he had his first job in hockey. Under the heading of “hockey is a small world,” the assistant coach of the Generals was George Burnett, the man from whom Branch takes over as the Firebirds’ GM.
“I feel like the Ontario Hockey League has been part of my life from a very young age forward,” Branch said. “It’s something I’ve grown up with. I definitely have a passion about the league, what it’s about, what it stands for. To be part of it is one of those things that has been a goal of mine from a very young age. The fact I’m part of the league now is something that excites me. I’m honored and I look forward to many great years ahead.”
Branch believes he is taking over a strong, stable organization that is in much better shape after Burnett’s year as GM.
“A tremendous job was done by him and the rest of the staff,” Branch said. “Again, I feel like I’m entering one of the best situations in the Ontario Hockey League because of his work and the rest of the staff’s work. Things are definitely pointed in the right direction. There’s a real strong positive culture around the team. I can’t say enough about the work that has been done prior to me coming to Flint.”
It was Burnett who gave Branch his first real job in hockey as an assistant coach with Oshawa. Branch considers Burnett one of the greatest influences in his life.
“In a lot of ways, he was a very influential person on me, both on a personal level and professional level,” Branch said. “He gave me an opportunity to work in a league I grew up watching and being passionate about. I’ll always feel in debt to him for that. It was also one of those things where every day I was learning from him without realizing it. It was almost by osmosis. Now I look back and I look at a lot of things I learned along the way. They were lessons that he taught me that I didn’t even realize I was learning.”
One of Branch’s thrills in hockey was being part of the Belleville organization when future NHL star defenseman P.K. Subban played for the Bulls.
“Every day he woke up, he was focused on becoming an NHL hockey player,” Branchsaid. “There wasn’t anything that was going to stand in his way. He did all the work that was required. It’s a great lesson to young hockey players who really strive to be hockey players at the NHL level. He shows them, ‘I’m a good person and I worked hard.’ It’s no mistake where he is.”
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