Darryl Wolski has been running adult hockey leagues in Brandon, Manitoba for 25 years. He is the veritable Godfather of beer leagues in a town that has four bustling ice arenas, 50,000 people and legions of hockey fanatics.
Because of his vast web of contacts and connections, it’s inevitable that every player in Brandon sooner or later has dealings with the man they call “Beef.”
“All of our rinks are busy, even in the summer,” said Tyler Woods, a Brandon native and local high school coach who has been playing in Wolski’s Westman summer and winter leagues for 11 years. “Sometimes, when we’ve needed ice, Beef has helped us out. He has a hook-up with all the rink schedules.”
While the cheery Wolski comes off more like a fun-loving John Candy than a brooding Marlon Brando, he has locked down all the best available ice times at all the town’s rinks. Bottom line: You want to play beer league hockey in Brandon, you talk to Wolski.
I think the thing we have done is eliminate any competition."
“I think the thing we have done is eliminate any competition,” Wolski said. “All four of those four rinks that are available in the city, we kind of, for lack of a better term, we kind of own them in the summer.
“So if you want to come into town and try to run a league, it would be pretty tough. We have all the prime-time ice.”
It’s no accident that Wolski, who also works as a player agent for the 2112 Hockey Agency, has locked up Brandon’s beer league market. His leagues – there are 40 teams playing in the summer and about 20 in the winter – are among the most organized and extravagant you’ll find. Teams are decked out in custom jerseys and socks, league all-star games have been broadcast live on local television and championship games have been played in front of packed houses. Current NHL players are regulars in his summer league’s top division.
"People take their hockey, even beer league hockey, pretty seriously here," Woods said.
Name: Darryl Woski | Age: 49
Resides in: Brandon, Manitoba
Family: Samoyed huskies Curlin and Pepsi
Job: Player agent for 2112 Hockey Agency; Owner of PROactive Sports Management Group
Interests: Hockey, dog shows, music, movies, travel
Wolski grew up just north of Winnipeg in Selkirk, Manitoba. He was a goalie during his youth hockey playing days, then went on to a successful career as a bar DJ. He also picked up some shifts as the backup in-house announcer for the Winnipeg Jets in the mid-1990s. He started administering adult league hockey in 1991 and has been doing it ever since, adding on another career as a hockey player agent. His extensive website work includes organizing the live scoring of his Brandon-based adult league games, and he has helped the Winnipeg Jets adult league do the same.
Wolski recently added live scoring to the offerings. Off-ice officials punch in the goals, assists and penalties on Sport Ngin’s iPad Scorekeeper app during games, and the stats are instantly tabulated and loaded on Wolski’s AAAHockey.com site.
“The guys get off the ice, and they pull out their phone and they can see their stats,” Wolski said. “They are having a beer in the dressing room, you know, they can see how many goals or assists they had, their penalty minutes. They think it is the coolest thing.”
Wolski, 49, grew up just north of Winnipeg in Selkirk. He played goalie all the way through to the Junior B level, then took his big shot at Major Junior hockey with Medicine Hat (Alberta) in the Western Hockey League.
“I was sent home pretty quickly,” Wolski said. “I remember getting back into my white Vega, back in 1983, and driving it home. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
My phone rings about 18 hours a day, let's put it that way."
Wolski dabbled in radio and worked at a bar as a DJ for five years, all while settling in as a beer league player. He said he “just kind of stumbled” into running adult leagues in 1991.
Wolski’s web site is currently undergoing a facelift, and he expects the new and improved site to launch sometime in October. He said he’s also in the process of getting a branded app, which should launch at about the same time as the revamped site.
Wolski, who worked as the Winnipeg Jets’ in-house announcer back in the 1990s, lists learning “how to schmooz” as one of his primary studies at Selkrik Regional Comprehensive. His personable demeanor made him a natural choice to appear in a Toyota commercial expected to start airing on upcoming Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. His people skills are put to the test daily as he helps the players he represents as an agent overcome a variety of obstacles.
“I deal with players literally all around the world, from Minnesota to Japan to Russia. “There are always problems and issues that have to be sorted out. My phone rings about 18 hours a day, let’s put it that way.”