Hextall on Hockey: thankful for outgoing Wheat Kings owner

Kelly McCrimmon talks with his team at practice in Brandon in this 2016 file photo.
Kelly McCrimmon talks with his team at practice in Brandon in this 2016 file photo. Jeremy Desrochers / Global News

Very early in my broadcasting career in Brandon, I hit a road bump. I wasn’t sure if the industry was for me — so much so that I applied for a position with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the team’s communications department.

I knew all the staff and the organization’s culture through my experience covering the team.

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I felt it would be a good fit, and explained that in my interview for the position with Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon.

I left the interview thinking I nailed it and really had a shot at the job but deep down I was torn because I truly loved being a broadcaster.

Read more: Brandon Wheat Kings ownership to change hands as team sold to local businessman

But when the time came to decide about the job I didn’t have to make a decision. McCrimmon made it for me. He called on a Sunday afternoon and said, “Leah, its Kelly. Listen, you are qualified for this position and I know you would do well… but I’m not giving you the job. You have tremendous potential in what you’re doing and I believe you need to keep going.”

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I thanked Kelly, hung up the phone, and was relieved. Kelly had made the choice for me and I’m so thankful he did.

From there, I built on Kelly’s belief in me and the belief I had in myself. I continued working the Wheat Kings beat, which laid the foundation for my entire career — which led to a moment in March: my first NHL play-by-play assignment calling the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights.

Just prior to puck drop, as I walked the catwalk towards the booth, there was the Knights’ GM — Kelly McCrimmon, patiently waiting outside to wish me luck.

It was unprofessional, but I gave Kelly a big hug and he said, “Be great, have fun.”

I’m not sure I can express how thankful I am for Kelly’s support over the last 18 years. I can only imagine what he thought when I first walked through the Keystone Centre doors. Trust me, I saw him shake his head a few times at my questions over the years.

I am a better professional and person from knowing Kelly.

And as he ends his era of owning his beloved hockey club, the Brandon Wheat Kings, I say to Kelly, “Be great and have fun.”

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