A Candid Conversation Dustin Wenger, St. Marys GM – by C. Scott Holland
One of the most difficult positions in all of Junior B hockey is that of a general manager and for St. Marys Lincolns’ GM Dustin Wenger the job may be the toughest role he’s ever taken.
Wenger is in his second season as the Lincolns’ general manager and came to the organization after serving with St. Marys minor hockey in many capacities. He applied for the Lincs’ GM position when it became available two years ago and as he states, “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Being elevated to such a status has brought an extra load of responsibilities. Being a GM means many long hours of hard work ensuring a competitive roster along with having a coaching staff which can develop the players. On top of that there’s arranging practices, ice times, setting the schedule, league meetings, arranging busing and billeting, budgets, reviewing OHA bulletins and a long list of other duties.
This season he feels that “St. Marys is doing okay …We’re actually a better team than our record shows. We’re a younger team and a younger league.”
Indeed, the Lincolns may be the youngest team in all of the GOJHL. “We have no 19 or 20-year-olds,” Wenger adds but admits, “We had a couple of older players we had expected to return but didn’t because of their education. Their schooling took them elsewhere and we lost a couple to the Canadian Armed Forces and it’s made it tough for us because we have a clear need for some older players to provide experience and leadership.”
The recent replacement of head coach Merlin Malinowski sent shock waves throughout the GOJHL and many people had considered Merlin to be the one person capable of turning the franchise around. But as Wenger explains, “It was a change in philosophy we needed; he was well-respected and it was by mutual agreement that we replaced him. We thought we needed a new face behind the bench to help us move forward.”
So Wenger hired assistant coach Jason Glover, a former Strathroy Blade and Lincolns Junior B player, as the Lincolns’ 32nd head coach in their history.
“He brings a fresh mind, fresh blood and is as well-prepared as Merlin. He’s a new voice, eager and elated to get the opportunity after spending six seasons with Elgin-Middlesex minor hockey system.”
So far Glover has the Lincs’ improving and a recent come-from-behind victory which came in overtime over Strathroy may have the Lincs’ fans excited and comes as a big boost to the club who had been winless in 10 consecutive games.
One of Wenger’s biggest concerns now is the fact the town of St. Marys will be losing one its biggest employers, the Kraft-Heinz factory, which employees roughly 250 people. The plant closure is slated for sometime within the next 12-24 months and Wenger knows it will affect the town and the team. Yet he has no idea just how great of an impact it will have on the Lincolns.
“I am sure it will affect us and the small community in some ways, ” he said.
Yet he remains optimistic. He has his sights set on rebuilding the hockey club and making St. Marys a winning franchise again. “We must build support and produce a competitive, winning team.” With that aspect clear in his mind the Lincolns have set off down the road which they believe will lead them in the right direction. With the vast amount of youth they currently have, it is hoped that somewhere along that path a championship lies.
In the meantime Wenger will keep things as stable as possible and hope the Lincs’ future is certainly brighter.
C. Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington with his wife Susan.
He can be reached at: email@example.com.