LESLIE MCKAY IS GOING TO HAVE A BUSY YEAR.
Not only is the 35-year-old from Norway House a full-time student at Brandon University, he’s also been named the first general manager in the history of the Keystone Junior Hockey League’s Waywayseecappo Wild.
For the second consecutive year, the KJHL, under past president and current director of officials Andrew Arksey, has expanded by one team. Last year it was the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Selects. This year, it’s the Wild. The KJHL is now a seven-team league.
“This is great for Waywayseecappo First Nation,” said McKay, just before leaving his home in Norway House to head south to Brandon. “They‘ve been trying for years to get into this league and this will give the players at Waywayseecappo and the surrounding area a great hockey opportunity.”
For McKay, it’s an added responsibility to an already busy fall and winter. Waywayseecappo, which is close to Russell, Man., is 45 minutes from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and about an hour and a half from Brandon. McKay is a second-year student in the faculty of education at Brandon University, a relatively older student who completed his undergraduate degree in physical education in 2021.
“It’s pretty rare that a student is general manager of a Junior hockey team,” he said. “I’ve been at Brandon University for quite some time. I left high school and went to university, and then I moved home for seven years and that is when I got involved in hockey as an official and was manager for the Norway House North Stars. Then, I decided to go back to Brandon University to complete my education degree and become a teacher. There was a seven-year break when I went home and was employed by the parks and recreation department in Norway House. That’s how I got involved in hockey, and was the president of minor hockey in Norway House and have officiated with a lot of guys who work in our league now.
"At the beginning of the summer, I got this job and wanted to take on the challenge and get into the hockey operations world.”
He got the opportunity before Waywayseecappo was given the final nod that they had indeed secured a franchise in the KJHL. But as Arksey explained, the league wants to add members in order to get bigger geographically and stronger competitively.
“Having a new KJHL team in Treaty 2 Territory in Southwest Manitoba is a valuable asset to the league,” said Arksey. “Affording local players the opportunity to play at home or close to home is something the league takes great pride in. We have a great mix of teams and this is another great step in expanding our footprint in Manitoba.
“Waywayseecappo had expressed interest early in 2023, as they had a few local players that were playing out of province or far away from home. A lot of families may not have the luxury to send their child away, so this seemed like a great move for them. Councillor Laura Brandon stepped up on behalf of the community to get the ball rolling on this endeavour. We had some great conversations that included the Waywayseecappo Wolverines (MJHL) head coach and general manager Taylor Harnett and they were in full support.
“Recruiting Leslie McKay was a logical next step - he had prior experience in the league as a manager, coach and official that would be a benefit to getting the franchise off the ground.”
McKay admitted he was grateful to get this opportunity.
“I was talking to a friend of mine from Sioux Valley and he was asked if he wanted to be the coach or GM of this new Jr. B team they were putting together at Waywayseecappo,” McKay explained. “He turned down the opportunity, but he told them that he knew a guy who had the experience required to do the job and he put forth my name. Their leadership gave me a call and we talked about it.
“They gave me a phone interview and the next day they offered me the job. Right away I started developing a presentation to the league. We completed the presentation and within 24 hours, they gave us the news that we were in the league for this coming season.”
After McKay was in place, the Wild executive hired 30-year-old local coach Adam Shingoose as the team’s first head coach. Born in Brandon, Shingoose grew up playing minor hockey at Waywayseecappo. He played high school hockey at Major Pratt in Russell and then played a couple of years of senior hockey with the Waywayseecappo Warriors. A minor hockey coach for the past three years, he’s the father of five and is pursuing a career in water treatment and wastewater treatment operations.
“We’re excited to see how the club shapes up, as they look to build an exciting team,” Arksey added. “Last season we had the PBCN Selects perform well in their inaugural season and we hope for the same with the Wild. Continued growth is something that will continue to be front of mind with the KJHL as we believe the product on the ice has improved significantly over the last few years.”