Nov. 18, 2021 – With programming again in full swing following the pandemic pause and subsequent programming restrictions, Bell MTS Iceplex is pleased to recognize the recent naming partners of its four hockey arenas. The official practice facility of the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose is home to the Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) Arena, Subway Arena, Flynn Canada Arena and Manitoba Building Trades Arena.
Bell MTS Iceplex prides itself on not just catering to Manitoba’s hockey community, but to being an integral part of that community, and the facility’s arena naming partners share this same commitment.
ACU has been a partner of the Iceplex since 2010 while the Subway, Flynn Canada and Manitoba Building Trades Arenas were named just prior to the pandemic shutdown in early 2020.
“ACU is proud to partner with the Iceplex as they bring the Winnipeg community back together again,” said Kevin Sitka, President & CEO of Assiniboine Credit Union. “2022 promises to be an exciting year with their full schedule of exciting events and activities and we are very happy to support this longstanding local partnership.”
“Hockey is an integral part of our culture in Manitoba and also within our membership of more than 10,000 skilled trade workers,” said Tanya Palson, Director of Business Operations with Manitoba Building Trades. “This arena is an important contribution from our organization to the community, our members and their families, and we wanted to be a part of the Iceplex as a community space where our members spend a lot of their evenings and weekends.”
“We are very proud to join the True North family in supporting the community where we reside. Flynn has been a part of the community since 1978,” said Dave Sterling, Regional Vice President at Flynn Canada. “We were a small commercial roofing company back then, and now we’re across Canada. Flynn knows the value of strong roots and a vibrant community, and that’s why we are proud to support Bell MTS Iceplex.”
Paul Karam, Subway Franchisee from Winnipeg added, “our partnership with Bell MTS Iceplex promotes health, wellness and active lifestyles. We are proud to support the many athletes that use the facility and especially the Subway® rink. We want to wish everyone in the hockey community, the best of luck this season.”
Bell MTS Iceplex has been an important facility within the hockey community since its opening in 2010, catering to players of all ages and skill levels from Learn to Skate all the way to the pros. Recognized as a Hockey Canada Centre of Excellence, the Iceplex is focused on providing a premier hockey and overall experience for all players and spectators. Its four NHL-sized rinks provide upwards of 12,000 hours of ice time annually for team, league, and tournament play, minor hockey, Jets Hockey Development group and one-on-one sessions, as well for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose team and individual training.
“If you play hockey in Manitoba, you’ve most likely played hockey at Bell MTS Iceplex,” said General Manager David Sattler. “We are proud to provide a premier facility to Manitoba’s hockey community and be part of the development of the many players who have skated on our ice, but there is so much more to this sport and to the hockey experience. We are equally proud to be part of that hockey community and to be a place where memories are made and where friendships grow.”
A 17,000-plus-quare-foot two-level full-service facility with everything under one roof – Ice Lab dedicated goalie training facility, Focus Fitness high performance training centre, Jets Gear Pro Shop, conference facilities, 445-seat Press Box Restaurant & Sports Bar – Bell MTS Iceplex is the most versatile hockey facility in Manitoba, and an ideal venue for hosting tournaments of any size. The increased demand for ice time also makes the Iceplex one of the busiest hockey facilities in the province. The upcoming annual Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup presented by Boston Pizza in December and January will be the Iceplex’s largest tournament ever hosted with more than 220 participating teams – a growth of more than 100 teams since the last Challenge Cup held in 2019.
Bell MTS Iceplex is also home of the True North Youth Foundation’s Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy program and serves as home ice for 11 tenant teams.
Hockey programming at Bell MTS Iceplex is all about grassroots development. From the child who is taking their very first lesson at the Learn to Skate Program, to a professional hockey player who is fine tuning their skills before a big game; Bell MTS Iceplex hosts an array of talent and skill levels.
The Iceplex is home to many hardworking and talented young players who have a dream of playing in the NHL one day, and from Nov. 18-21, the Iceplex will be hosting the Winnipeg Jets U15 AAA Classic to give young hockey players a chance to showcase how much they have developed in the last year.
“This AAA tournament is so important because it gives the Manitoba AAA players the opportunity to play against the highest level of competition in western Canada,” said Dean Court, Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager for Jets Hockey Development (JHD), and the primary organizer of the tournament.
Along with Court, Scott Coates knows how important this tournament is in the development of AAA players in the province. Coates has coached teams at the AAA Classic in the past and is a scout for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“We had asked for many years to have something in our home province,” noted Coates of the Winnipeg AAA league. “I think that was a great step for the league, to not only have teams from western Canada come, but there have been some U.S. teams that have come as well. It was always good to have a tournament you could call your own.”
After having to cancel last year’s AAA Classic, this year’s event provides a welcome return to being able to play in front of scouts and playing teams from out of province.
“When you’re at the age these guys are and you look forward to a tournament like this and it doesn’t happen, that’s a huge disappointment. That’s their opportunity to be seen,” said Court.
The opportunity to be seen by scouts has made a difference over the years. Where in the past, only 25-30 Manitobans would be drafted into the WHL, Court says there are now well over 30 players being drafted in higher rounds each year.
With no opportunity to play in front of scouts last season, much less play at all, this year’s AAA Classic will be integral for players and could offer up a few surprises for teams and scouts alike.
“Nobody really knows who has developed over the last two years, because these guys haven’t played,” added Court. “The players that are going to step up now are the ones who didn’t stop training, didn’t stop their development, and didn’t look for excuses. You might see some guys who were under the radar jump up and be front and centre for the scouts.”
With an unusual draft year, there will be no shortage of work for Coates and other scouts as they assess two key groups of players.
“Because of the pandemic, the WHL has the draft of players born in 2006 in December, and then we’re going to have to quickly transition over to the draft of players born in 2007 for next year,” said Coates. “(The AAA Classic) is going to allow us to see a lot of the 2007-born players in western Canada that we can start to identify, get them in our lists, and rank them where we see them possibly fitting in.”
Thanks to the AAA Classic, scouts can gather lots of information on many players in one weekend.
“I think it’s really important to see all the kids in one place and one rink,” said Coates. “Instead of having one game a day, you can get a full day of tournament play where you can see a bunch of different teams, evaluate the group of kids and where you would rank those kids, and do a general tournament report to rank the kids.”
The AAA Classic creates an atmosphere filled with so much passion and skill, and to have the tournament under one roof at the Bell MTS Iceplex is a one of kind experience for the players and the spectators.
“You see the camaraderie among the scouts, the parents, and the compete level amongst the scouts and the players – they’re not competing for any other reason than for the love of the game,” said Court. “There’s something special about minor hockey and these kids wanting to play the Canadian game and getting to do it in Winnipeg at Bell MTS Iceplex.”
With Jets Hockey Development (JHD), everything has a purpose. From their on-ice drills, to the information they share in boardroom video sessions, to the dryland training they do through Focus Fitness, everything they do is connected and intended to help hockey players improve their skills.
The 2021 JHD Summer Skills Camp being hosted at Gateway Community Centre from Aug. 23-27 for youth born in 2009 through 2014 will provide young players with more of that purpose-driven development as they prepare for not only a new season, but a return to minor hockey that has been a long time coming due to the pandemic.
After the huge success of last year’s camp, this year’s version will provide a safe and fun week that aims to get players ready for team tryouts by focusing on individual skills through two on-ice sessions, two off-ice sessions, and two boardroom learning sessions on each of the five days of the camp.
“We’re going to be focusing heavily on power skating and puck skills,” said JHD On-ice Instructor Devin Himpe. “That will of course play out in the drills on the ice, but it’s important for athletes to develop in those skills from every angle. We’ll be showing them NHL clips of what we’re teaching them on the ice to drive home the points and help them process what they’re learning, and the strength and flexibility training will all be with the purpose of giving them all the tools to develop those skills to the highest level.”
Each day will provide participants with a specific theme and appropriate skill progressions on and off the ice, which JHD’s Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager Dean Court knows will be crucial in a summer that is hugely important for hockey players in terms of getting back to an elite level.
“For some of the players at the camp, this may be their big training push prior to the season. For others who have been training all summer, it may be an extra boost before tryouts to compliment their summer training,” said Court. “Regardless of a player’s situation, we expect them to come ready to work, and if they do that, they can expect to gain a lot of confidence in their skills from this camp.”
The foundation of the Summer Skills Camp, and every camp that JHD runs, is their team of high-level coaches. With countless years of playing and coaching experience between Himpe, Court and Head On-ice Instructor Dave Cameron, young hockey players can bank on a polished, professional experience at all their camps that will teach them the skills needed in today’s game.
“We always focus on fundamental individual skills, but we really strive to treat each player as an individual and tailor our coaching to their needs,” said Court. “We truly care about each players’ development, and on top of that, we place a high priority on developing them as good people both on and off the ice.”
That’s a true statement not just for the athletes that JHD has worked with in the past, but for every young hockey player in Winnipeg and Manitoba. JHD is always striving to coach more young hockey players, giving purpose to their choice to host the Summer Skills Camp at Gateway Community Centre again, as opposed to their home rink at Bell MTS Iceplex.
“We want to reach and develop as many young hockey players as we can,” said Himpe. “With the Iceplex located where it is, our programming tends to be more convenient for those on the west side of the Winnipeg. Hosting a camp at Gateway gives us a chance to show that we care about the hockey players in and around east Winnipeg too.”
To register for the 2021 JHD Summer Skills Camp, visit BellMTSIceplex.ca/JHDPrograms/2021SummerSkillsCamp.
For more information on Jets Hockey Development, visit BellMTSIceplex.ca/JetsHockeyDevelopment.
High-level female hockey players have been putting the phrase “you play like a girl” to shame for quite some time.
Bauer Hockey recently released a commercial promoting women’s hockey that turned that historically derogatory phrase into one filled with pride. In the commercial, a coach uses female hockey players to elaborate his points, telling one player that he’s skating like Canadian Olympic star Marie-Philip Poulin, while telling another that his wrist shot looked like American superstar Hillary Knight’s.
In Winnipeg, and specifically at Bell MTS Iceplex, those compliments would instead be for goalies to hear that they’re stopping the puck like Kristen Campbell.
Iceplex Manager of Goalie Development Andy Kollar has for years been inspiring young goalies, both male and female, to play like and have the work ethic of Campbell.
“If you think you’re doing enough, you’re not,” said Kollar of what he tells other young goalies who aspire to follow in Campbell’s footsteps.
Campbell, who has most recently been training on the National Women’s Team roster as well as playing in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) Dream Gap Tour with some of women’s hockey’s top players, has been working a long time to get to where she is now.
“I’ve always had that mentality since I was a young girl that I wanted to make it to the highest level possible,” said Campbell. “My goal was the Olympics from when I started playing. My mentality is that every day I can get a little bit better – that’s how I’ve approached hockey and life in general. Each day I want to make the most out of it. I try to exercise every possible resource I have, whether it’s the on-ice part, the sports psychology part, nutrition, strength and conditioning, and all these different things. I feel that in order to get there, I need to be the complete package.”
One of those resources, of course, is Kollar.
“We’ve worked together since I was in high school and I moved to Winnipeg to play prep hockey,” said Campbell, who is originally from Brandon. “He’s been such a great mentor for me on the ice obviously, but off the ice we’ve worked together a lot on my mental game as well. Having that strong relationship off the ice helped me in knowing I had a coach who believed in me so much that I believed in myself.”
Though Campbell has been playing hockey elsewhere for several years now – spending her college career at the University of North Dakota and the University of Wisconsin, and now training out of Calgary with the National Team – she has always come back to train at the Ice Lab at Bell MTS Iceplex with Kollar in the summers and keeps in constant contact with him throughout the year.
“My phone’s storage is always maxed out because of the practice videos she sends,” noted Kollar of their communication and her passion for learning and studying the game. “She’s a real student of the game. She really analyzes plays and options on everything that happens and plays it out in her head. She really knows what players’ thoughts are in a sense. Her hockey IQ is getting so much better, and it’s something she needed to work on instead of becoming stationary.”
That student-of-the-game approach is key to Campbell’s success in his opinion. She is always looking to get better, and never rests on her accomplishments and how far she’s come.
She hasn’t let her off-seasons go to waste either. While she was in college, Campbell notes how helpful it was to come back to Winnipeg in the summers and work with Kollar on specific aspects of her game.
“Andy always wanted more and he knew that I expected more of myself, so we’d always do an hour-long skate and it would be at a pretty high intensity,” said Campbell. “We were always working on fine-tuning my game, and there would be a few areas that we would really try to hit on, whether it was footwork and skating, or my stance, or rebound control. It always felt like he had such a plan for me.”
Kollar saw that hard work and determination early on in his days of coaching Campbell, which leaves him unsurprised by her constant success.
“Probably five years ago, I thought – having seen her and having worked with her – that this is where she was going to get to,” Kollar noted of Campbell training with the national team. “Seeing what she does on a day-to-day basis, a week-to-week basis, a month-to-month basis – before we were telling her to slow down a little bit, but that’s just how she’s wired. Her rise is due to a lot of hard work. She’s done everything she can to put herself in this situation.”
She’s become the perfect role model for Kollar to point to when working with other young goalies. Not only has she shown other athletes what’s possible, but her work ethic is a prime example of the dedication required to succeed at high levels of hockey.
“Young players should be learning from her holistic approach to goaltending,” Kollar added. “I hear a lot of goalies saying they want it. Saying it is one thing, but living it and doing it is another, and Kristen is certainly living it.”
Campbell herself wants to inspire the next generation of goalies in Winnipeg and showed that by spending time as a coach in the Ice Lab in summer 2020. Though Kollar notes that the original idea was to have her be a role model for other young female goalies, her impact reached much farther than that and young male goalies are idolizing her now too.
“Set your goals high,” said Campbell on what she tells young goaltenders. “I know a lot of people talk about goal setting, but realistically you’re never going to get there unless you have that clear picture of where you want to be. If you have that clear picture, there’s no way you’re not going to get there if you’re working towards that goal each day.”
As a society, we love heroes. They are everywhere – on TV, in movies, and in the sports we watch. The idea of someone swooping in at the last minute to save the day is something that has long been romanticized by our culture.
The pandemic has lasted almost a year-and-a-half now. It has been long, and it has been physically, mentally, and emotionally hard on a lot of people. Many of us probably feel like we are not at our best. Maybe we have gained weight, maybe we don’t feel mentally sharp, maybe we’ve lost touch with people who are important to us, or maybe we feel worn down, tired, slow, and unmotivated. If this is you, it’s okay; we have all been there. I have been there at times over the last year-and-a-half, but here is the truth: no one is coming to save you. Read that again. No one is coming to save you. You are going to get back in shape, lose the weight, improve your mental game, reconnect with people, and feel better because YOU are going to make the choice to do it.
You are the hero of your story, this is your movie, and this is your time. There is not a person on this planet who can magically make everything better; the trainer at your gym, the person whose book you read, the influencer on Instagram who promised you could lose 20 pounds in two weeks – they cannot save you.
I have worked in this industry for almost 20 years and I can honestly tell you that I cannot save you. I can help you – if you need help, reach out. I am happy to help in any way that I can, and I truly, sincerely mean that. In the end, though, you will not make it because I or anyone else saved you. It will be because you made the choice – you made the choice to exercise, you made the choice to eat better, and you made the choice to reach out and seek help.
You are the hero; you are the only one who can save yourself. Can we lean on others? Absolutely. Having a support system is extremely important, but remember; they can help, but they cannot do it for you.
There is a common misconception that motivation precedes the action, but it does not work like that. If we wait for the motivation, we will wait forever.
Just start – the action comes first. Start even if you do not feel like it, and once you start, keep going. Even if it feels like you are crawling some days, keep going and the motivation will come. Once a little progress is made, then the motivation comes. The more progress, the more motivation. Keep going and you will become unstoppable.
If this pandemic has been tough and you find yourself down in a hole and in a place you do not like, do not wait. No one is coming to pull you out. I cannot pull you out. I can help. I can throw down your cape, but you must make the decision to put that cape on and be the hero that your life needs. You’ve got this; I believe in you. Afterall, you are a hero.
Until next time,
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
This article was originally published in the Game On magazine – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine.