Barclay Branch: Vice President of Hockey Operations & General Manager
Barclay Branch enters his second year as Flint Firebirds Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager for the 2018-19 season.
Branch has surrounded himself around the game of hockey his entire life. Take it one step further, it would be hard to find many people who have spent more of their life in the prestigious Ontario Hockey League than Branch himself.
For the past 18 years, he has either been behind the bench or part of the management team for a club in the OHL, which is known as the premiere player development league for the National Hockey League.
“When I was 10 years old, I would help out as much as I could with the Oshawa Generals,” said Branch. “That’s how I fell in love with this game.”
The Oshawa Generals is where Branch met former Flint Firebirds General Manager George Burnett. The two didn’t know that they would work together for 16 straight years down the road.
“I used to attend as many games as I could and help out in any way possible until I left for college,” added Branch.
Branch reconnected with Burnett in Oshawa in 2000 after his stint in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks.
“After being hired on as a coach in 2000, I was in Oshawa for four years and then moved to Belleville to work with the Bulls for 11 years.”
That’s when Branch transitioned to the management side of the operation, overseeing the scouting department, player development and player trades. That’s when he knew for sure what he wanted to do in life.
The Belleville Bulls went on to become four-time East Division Champions, Eastern Conference Champions and represented the OHL at the 2008 Memorial Cup.
“When I look back on that period of my professional life, the one element I would draw from that time is the success we had in Belleville, both on and off the ice,” said Branch. “We were a small market team in Belleville, who were in the conversation for four or five consecutive years in the conference finals. We had a plan, stuck to our plan and the plan worked. We were very proud of the success we had.”
The Ontario Hockey League prides itself on sending more players to the NHL than any other league in the world. But to Branch, it means just as much when the players he’s worked with in the past become professionals in careers outside of hockey.
“There’s a lot of players that I have been fortunate enough to work with that have gone on to have success in the NHL, but there are also a lot of people that I remained in contact with who are now successful lawyers, doctors and good familymen that I am equally as proud of being associated with.”
Setting up a team for success didn’t end in Belleville for Branch. He played a key role in laying the foundation for the Hamilton Bulldogs who went on to win the OHL Championship this past season. An impressive nine players out of Hamilton’s initial draft that Branch oversaw, played in the OHL last season.
He is confident the same plan and process will take place here in Flint.
After two seasons as General Manager with the Sudbury Wolves, Branch was promoted to Vice President of Hockey Operations & General Manager for the Flint Firebirds on April 17, 2017.
After just one season with the Firebirds, Branch couldn’t be happier to be in Flint.
“I’ve met a lot of amazing people here, which is the first thing I always think of when I look back over the last year. I’m so impressed with how this organization operates and I’m so impressed with the fan base and the passion for hockey in this community.”
The OHL has only been in Flint for three seasons but for someone who has been part of this league going on two decades, it’s obvious this is a hockey town.
“The support we’ve received so far has been an amazing experience. It fuels our drive here. I cannot say enough about the energy in our building when it’s filled to capacity and when our fans are out in full force. It’s an amazing environment to watch a game in and for our players to play in. It adds another flare onto the ice for our hockey club.”
“The goal moving forward is that we’re going to continue to put a team on the ice that our fans are very proud of.”
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