Claude Desjardins of the North York Rangers is the 2018-19 recipient of the Executive of the Year award in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). The award was voted on by a committee of OJHL general managers and media representatives.
A native of Ottawa, Desjardins grew up watching the likes of future Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin and realized “there was no way I was going to be good enough”.
He found success in the music industry, winning Gemini awards and playing on Juno-winning recordings, working as a musician, composer and producer.
Desjardins returned to hockey with the GTHL Rangers and Goulding Park Rangers minor programs while his son was a player beginning in 2003. He became North York’s general manager in 2008 and team governor in 2016
The common denominator – the owner of the Jr. A team and the president of the minor hockey clubs, Brant Snow, who passed away two years ago.
“We dedicate this recognition to my long-time mentor, Brant, who is no longer with us but that we all miss dearly as a pioneer and friend of the OJHL,” said Desjardins. “He’s one of those guys who just had the passion. I was lucky enough to have him as mentor. We shared a lot of those same passions and philosophies. He would be really happy about his team right now.”
This year’s Rangers finished the regular season with the second-best record (40-9-1-4) in the 22-team OJHL.
Ranked sixth in the nation this week, the Rangers lead the Toronto Jr. Canadiens 3-1 in their first-round playoff series.
“I’m humbled to be recognized,” Desjardins said. “Our organization stands for everything that we believe should be the priority for a league such as ours: ‘The players’. The success and the culture that these players have nurtured for the last couple of years is about them. ‘They’ are what we are most proud of.”
The hiring of head coach Geoff Schomogyi three years ago was also key.
“This award really belongs to the staff,” the GM said. “It’s the most cohesive and proficient group that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here. The trust and chemistry that I have with Geoff, whom is the most prepared analytical coach I’ve encountered. We have a common passion for what we’re trying to do.”
Desjardins and other OJHL trophy winners will be honoured at a ceremony this spring.