The Merritt Centennials have found their new head coach-assistant general manager.

The team has announced today, April 18, that Wes McLeod will be joining the Centennials after spending the last two seasons as head coach of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in the B.C. Elite Hockey League.

In the 2023-24 season, McLeod guided the Thunderbirds to first place with a record of 30-5-1 and advanced to the BCEHL’s semifinal round.

Prior to joining Fraser Valley, McLeod spent four seasons with the Valley West Giants program in the BCEHL. In the 2017-18 season, he also worked as an assistant coach for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons.

Brad Anstey, new Centennials owner and general manager, said in the release that McLeod’s experience with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds program is what made him standout.

“His technical and tactical knowledge, along with confidence gives us the assurance that he is our guy to lead the development of our program. Our ownership group feels his experience and success will carry over with us in the KIJHL. His vision for the players, team and our community was important to us,” he said.

In the release, McLeod said the opportunity means a lot to him and represents a chance to lead and have a positive impact on players, volunteers and staff in the organization as well as the community.

“Getting the opportunity to build a Junior A team from scratch is one that doesn’t come up every day, and to be able to do it in a passionate hockey community like Merritt was too good to pass up on,” he added. 

“I like my teams to play a fast, up tempo, forward checking brand of hockey. The Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is a smaller ice surface, so finding players who are comfortable playing through contact and in tight arenas is important for us to be successful.”