OHL names new commissioner

Bryan Crawford replaces David Branch, who is retiring after 45 years at the helm. Pictured: Tim Lukenda (who led the search), Bryan Crawford and the retiring David Branch. Photo Credit: OHL/X. 

The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) made it official Thursday, introducing Bryan Crawford, Golf Canada Executive and Tournament Director for the RBC Canadian Open, as Commissioner of the OHL. 

The Ontario Hockey League consists of 20 teams, including the Niagara IceDogs. 

Tim Lukenda, Chairman of the OHL Commissioner Search Committee and President and Governor of the Soo Greyhounds, introduced Crawford on Thursday. 

Crawford, who is also well known in the sporting world starting with his seven-year tenure as a running back and special teams standout with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts from 2005 to 2011, will begin his tenure as OHL Commissioner on Aug. 6.

“On behalf of the OHL Board of Governors, it is my pleasure to welcome Bryan Crawford to the Ontario Hockey League,” said Lukenda, who also serves as Chairman of the League’s Board of Governors.

“When we embarked on this search, we were really wanting to identify someone who can lead the way forward and be able to build upon the firm foundation established under David’s influence over the past 45 years.”

“The Search Committee came away confident in Bryan’s talents and ability to step in and lead the best development league in the world,” Lukenda continued. “Anyone succeeding David Branch as Commissioner of the OHL is going to have big shoes to fill, but we have the utmost confidence in Bryan’s ability to lead the continued growth and success of the OHL as we uphold the standard of putting our players first while remaining a leading talent provider to both the National Hockey League and U SPORTS.”

The 42-year old Crawford comes to the OHL having served in a diverse range of sport management executive positions, most recently as Director of the RBC Canadian Open, a leadership role with Golf Canada and the PGA Tour. 

In this position Crawford oversaw an operation that achieved new benchmarks for attendance, revenue growth and economic impact, orchestrating a series of record-breaking tournaments that have redefined success in the industry. Fuelled by Crawford’s strategic vision, the RBC Canadian Open saw attendance climb from 73,000 to over 135,000 annually between 2019 and 2024. 

From 2013 to 2015, Crawford was the Interim Executive Director and Director of Operations with Ontario University Athletics (OUA). He remains the youngest person to serve in the role of Executive Director in OUA history. Additional past endeavours have also included serving as the Senior Director of Operations for Canada Basketball from 2015 to 2018.

“It is an honour to be named Commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League and I am thrilled to be joining one of the great sport institutions in our country,” Crawford said.

“I am excited by the opportunity to build upon the legacy being left by David Branch. Thank you to the Board of Governors for entrusting me to lead our league. I look forward to engaging with our member teams and league partners while further familiarizing myself with the players, alumni, fans and all of the elements that make the OHL community so special.”

Crawford is a graduate of Queen’s University, earning a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Studies and Development. He was a Queen’s Gaels two-sport varsity athlete in both Football and Track and Field prior to being a fifth-round pick of the Toronto Argonauts in the 2005 CFL Draft.

Crawford feels his diverse sporting background as both an athlete and executive is a perfect fit in the OHL.

“I’m someone that sees challenges as opportunities. I don’t think you thrive in the sports world without being highly competitive.”

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