Return to Play is a term that was added to the vocabulary of athletes, leagues, and programs across the sporting world this year. With Manitoba back under code red restrictions and all programming at Bell MTS Iceplex on pause until further notice, the team of coaches at Jets Hockey Development (JHD) has been working to ensure that it is indeed a return to play for young hockey players in Manitoba, and not a return to hockey when they can hit the ice again.
The difference? JHD wants to ensure that hockey and development are still front of mind for young athletes, even if playing isn’t possible right now.
To do that, the JHD coaches have turned to Zoom to stay connected with teams from around Winnipeg and beyond by hosting virtual seminar-style presentations – not unlike the boardroom sessions that would run in person at the Iceplex under normal circumstances.
Having been faced with a similar situation of being locked down in spring of this year, the JHD coaches had some experience to draw from.
“We had done presentations during the first lockdown, more as recordings for players and coaches to find, to put some information out there, and to keep players engaged,” said Dave Cameron, Head On-Ice Instructor and Program Manager with JHD. “JHD On-Ice Instructor Devin Himpe and I both do presentations for the Hockey Manitoba coach development program as well and did several of those through September and October. It started to open up the possibility of doing this a bit more, and as soon as things got shut down, we had a number of players, teams, and coaches reach out to do some Zoom calls and to keep their players engaged that way.
“Every session is an hour, where we typically present for about 50 minutes and leave some time for discussion and questions at the end,” continued Cameron. “Sometimes, those 10 minutes at the end have been the most valuable part of the conversation because players get to interact and ask any questions that they have.”
Despite not advertising these virtual team presentations formally, JHD has already run eight sessions with teams of various ages and levels from junior teams to AA U13 teams, with more to come.
Teams can request presentation topics that fit their team best, whether that be defensive positioning or developing good habits on the ice.
Chris McColm, head coach of the Eastman Selects AAA U15 team made sure to take advantage of this opportunity early with his team. The team took it so far as to do two sessions in one night – one for forwards, and one for defence.
“Us as coaches were thinking of what we could do to keep our players engaged. We can’t go to the rink, we can’t go to the gym, we can’t get together as a team. We had a couple team meetings on Zoom, so we thought why not use this platform to have some presentations?”
Judging from the reaction of the players, the sessions are more than just making the best of a situation that finds them sidelined.
“The kids really loved it,” continued McColm. “A couple of the players told me after that they could’ve stayed on all night to talk with Dave.”
For Cameron, the call with the Eastman team has been an early highlight from the initiative as some of the players did in fact choose to stay nearly all night to talk hockey.
“The thing that was really exciting for me was that many of the forwards joined the defencemen call, and many of the defencemen joined the forwards call,” said Cameron. “Their coach had told me that their group was really eager to learn and get involved. To me, that showed just how excited these kids were to be talking hockey that they were willing to spend an extra hour on with us virtually just to learn about somebody else’s position.”
Knowing his team well, McColm wasn’t surprised to see his players’ commitment. He was just happy to have another well-respected voice stressing the fundamentals of the game.
“There are a lot of kids on our team that are showing the commitment to make it to the next level, McColm said. “They’re showing that they want to learn – they’re sponges, and they just want to soak in the information and be taught about hockey. The kids were able to hear Dave, who has a lot of credentials in coaching, as another voice who is stressing the importance of all the small things.”
That kind of engagement from players has the JHD team excited about the possibilities for the virtual team sessions and Cameron sees them extending beyond the Iceplex closure, code red, and the pandemic.
“This is a way that we will for sure expand our programming because of the interest level and the ease of having us all together without people needing to be in one room. Teams can eliminate travel time and make it a bit more cost-effective without gas, meals and those things. We can just be in our living rooms and talk hockey.”
Every hockey player dreams of being on the starting lineup. It’s the line that’s counted on to set the tone for the game. It’s a line that the coach knows they can trust, and a line that will bring energy to the team.
The Jets Hockey Development (JHD) program at Bell MTS Iceplex has its own version of a starting lineup, with a roster of staff that includes Business and Programming Manager Dean Court, Manager of Player Development Larry Bumstead, Head On-Ice Instructor & Program Manager Dave Cameron, On-Ice Instructor Devin Himpe, Goalie Coach Andy Kollar, and Strength and Conditioning Coach AJ Zeglen.
Though these coaches’ goals are now to develop the next generation of players that will fill starting lineups on hockey teams at all levels in Winnipeg and beyond, these coaches too were once striving to develop to be the best athletes they could be. So how did they get to where they are now? What drives them in their work? What do they do away from the rink? Every hockey player, coach and trainer has a story, and this is a snapshot of the JHD coaches’ stories. To get a better look at the coaches and hear from them yourself, watch the video features on each instructor by pulling out your phone and scanning the QR codes in the article.
Dean Court – Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager
For Dean Court, his passion for hockey was love at first sight after he told his parents to pull over to watch some kids play on an outdoor rink when he was young.
That passion has taken him a long way, as he’s now a coach with JHD and a dad of three hockey-playing boys who has had many other coaching opportunities throughout his career. Court got here on hard work, which he learned from summers of working on his grandparents’ farm in Malonton, Man. in the Interlake region.
“I’d spend long days either in the field with my grandfather raking or haying square bails. The great life lessons for me were about hard work and the commitment level to provide and do a lot of good things for your family and each other. It allowed me to learn that hard work does pay off.”
It’s that kind of mentality that has allowed Court to rise to the elite coaching ranks. He doesn’t leave his hockey life at the Iceplex doors when he goes home from work either. Instead, he’s probably at another rink coaching another team, or off to Michigan or North Dakota to watch his middle son play (under normal non-pandemic circumstances).
It’s about more than hockey for Court; it’s about relationships built with his family and other members of the community, and he hopes to pass on those values to the next generation.
“What hockey means to me is building those relationships throughout the years and now seeing players’ development as they become parents, or as they become professional athletes themselves. It makes me feel really good to know that these players have gone through proper coaching and development and have had a great hockey experience.”
Larry Bumstead – Manager of Player Development
When Larry Bumstead has a passion, he tends to pursue it. Hockey has been one of his passions since he got his first pair of skates as a kid growing up in Northern Ontario. Following an extensive playing career that included stints in the WHL and Europe and a tryout with the original Jets, Larry came to the realization of where he wanted to take his passion with hockey.
“My passion was from day one like any other child, but I chose the path of development. I had chances to coach junior and other levels, but my passion was working with kids and it still is, and just being part of their development.”
That passion has led him to many years of working in developmental hockey, including at Bell MTS Iceplex since its opening. It also led Bumstead to develop the Northwestern Hockey Sports Camp in 1988 in Ignace, Ont. which has been running ever since and now includes various camps throughout the year for young hockey players in Northern Ontario.
Hockey isn’t Bumstead’s only passion though. He’s stayed true to his Northern Ontario roots, and loves the outdoors, particularly fishing and hunting. That passion led him to build his own cabin in a remote area of Northern Ontario.
“Eighteen years ago, I had a dream to build a log cabin. It’s in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario, and you can only get there by float plane or snowmobile in winter. I cut all my own trees and milled them. That’s our home away from home.”
Those passions of hockey and the outdoors are what Bumstead’s family revolves around. His three children have played high-level hockey and equally enjoy hunting and fishing with him. That time spent building relationships as a family is significant for Bumstead, and the opportunity to build relationships is what motivates him when he’s at the rink too.
“It’s about being with these kids when they need an opportunity to talk to somebody, or being there for them when they fail, or when they want to tell you about a goal they got. That’s what brings me to the rink.”
Dave Cameron – Head On-Ice Instructor and Program Manager
As a high-level hockey coach who works with everybody from those learning the game to professionals, Dave Cameron is always learning and making new connections. That’s the case at home too, where his willingness to try new things strengthens his connections with his wife and daughter.
“Right now, I’m trying to learn piano,” chuckled Cameron. “It’s just something different that I’ve tried to help my daughter with. I spend a lot of time volunteering with her and trying to do as much as I can.”
Spending time with his daughter at piano, gymnastics, and dance lessons is extremely rewarding in and of itself but it’s also helped Cameron to learn how to connect to the young athletes he works with through JHD.
“Seeing her work ethic when she’s doing her gymnastics or her dance helps me connect to some of the younger kids,” Cameron said of his daughter. “Being that she’s 8, and not involved in hockey, it helps me relate to how can I get through to other 8-year-olds that have a passion for the game. Just the way she talks and remembers, and the things we talk about with activity and movement really helps with the hockey side.”
As a coach, that connection is integral for Cameron to get his message across, no matter the age of the player.
“I’m always learning how to relate to players, whether that’s an NHL player, or a player turning from junior to professional. We have conversations about the game, about situations, about how to control the emotions that you feel during a game, or how to get the most out of every game. There are always hurdles for every age group to go through and I try to take from those experiences with other players and pass them on to the players we’re working with now.”
Devin Himpe – On-Ice Instructor
Few things have impacted Devin Himpe as a person and as a hockey coach as much as the 2009 death of his older sister Kristen in a car accident.
“She was an amazing person and still has a huge impact on my life now. She was an amazing teacher. She knew what she wanted to do when she was 5 or 6 years old; she wanted to be a teacher and she wanted to help shape minds and help mould kids and make them better people. I think that’s had a huge impact on what I do now. There’s always something that’s going to help you push, and she’s a big reason why I keep pushing every day.”
Himpe’s sister clearly left a lasting impression on him and has given him an example to follow. Now with JHD, he strives to be a similar kind of mentor to the players he coaches.
“I know I’m here to help make kids better hockey players, but I think the majority of it is that I’m here to make them better people by teaching them to show respect for other players, for their coaches, for their parents, as well as listen to what they have to say. I think that’s the beauty about hockey and our JHD team is that we are so close on and off the ice that I think we’re all here to help our athletes become better people at the end of the day.”
Himpe’s rapport with the young athletes he coaches extends off the ice and contributes to even more meaningful interactions.
“It’s great to see these kids off the ice whether it’s at the rink or somewhere else. You can see their faces light up and they say ‘hey coach’ to you right away. It brings up my attitude because you see them smiling and they’re happy to see you because you helped them achieve something on the ice.”
Andy Kollar – Manager of Goalie Development, Ice Lab
Goaltending in hockey is as much a mental game as it is a physical game. When Andy Kollar was put in net at a young age, he viewed it as an opportunity instead of a letdown and it is this mindset that makes him such a talented goalie.
“I think I only played a few years before I got thrown in net,” said Kollar. “That was it, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the net. There were a lot of kids not wanting to go in net, so I had a chance to be in net as much as I wanted at that age. I just felt like that was my safe place.”
That mindset helped him throughout his hockey career that saw him win an NCAA National Championship with the University of North Dakota (UND) and later play in several minor leagues in the southern U.S.
“I learned a lot at UND, and I did very well there. We had such good teams,” said Kollar. “After I was done there, I played a few years in the minor leagues down south, and it was right in the era when bigger goalies were coming in. Being a smaller goaltender, it was quite intimidating, but I felt I could still keep up.”
That perseverance in the face of challenges is something he tries to instill now in the goalies who train at the Ice Lab at Bell MTS Iceplex. Though most of their time is spent on physical skills, Kollar is always sure to keep the mental aspect front of mind for goalies.
“It’s knowing that you are going to make mistakes and moving forward. It can feel like you are on your own island. As much as you’re a part of the best team sport in the world, you’re on your own team because most people don’t understand what a goalie goes through.”
Having played at an elite level, Kollar relates to what goalies go through, while his 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter have given him extra tools to relate to today’s youth.
“Every day I come in to work, I have an experience that’s relatable to one I had with my own kids. My kids play hockey so when I get to the rinks and watch them, I get to see what’s going on and I can relate that to a lot of the kids of the same ages that come to the Ice Lab. It’s very helpful for me because I do see what goes on and I try to bring that home too.”
AJ Zeglen – Manager/Head Strength Coach, Focus Fitness
Every hockey player that wants to excel needs a foundation of fitness, which is where AJ Zeglen comes into the JHD picture. Working as a strength coach in a hockey facility didn’t always appear to be on Zeglen’s path, as he grew up playing football and basketball instead of hockey before moving into the world of fitness training. He was involved with Focus Fitness before it moved into the Iceplex but even then Zeglen had plans for another career.
“As I was training people, I wasn’t sure if that was going to be my career path. I actually went to fire college and completely finished all of my work to become a firefighter. I was waiting for the City of Winnipeg to post a hiring, and at that time we (Focus Fitness) were bought by True North and moved into the Iceplex and I was offered the position to run the facility. It just worked out that way.”
Firefighting and fitness training draw parallels beyond just the strength component for Zeglen. Both positions revolve around team environments and allow him to help others, albeit in very different ways. Though Focus Fitness is used by many professional athletes, Zeglen is passionate about helping anyone – regardless of their experience or fitness level – achieve their goals.
“I love helping people to be their best,” said Zeglen. “As well as working with pro and aspiring pro athletes, we work with the general community and we hear countless stories of people finding success, however big or small that may look on the outside. It’s a great feeling to know that you were part of helping change someone’s life for the positive.”
Having two kids of his own, working with youth in the JHD program to build that foundation of fitness, and seeing the excitement they bring, is a highlight for Zeglen.
“They’re just so raw and they have so much potential and so much excitement for what they’re doing,” said Zeglen of working with younger athletes. “They just do it because they can and they love it and they’re doing it with their buddies. When the kids come here, we want them to be in a positive environment and have a positive experience so they have fun continuing to foster that love for their sport. As a parent, that’s what I want for my kids, so I want to confidently have other parents have their kids come home after being here and say what a great experience they’ve had.”
Hockey skills will certainly be an asset to cracking the starting lineup, but if the JHD coaches are any indication, it takes a lot more than that. It takes character, commitment, and a well-rounded approach – the kinds of values that each coach emphasizes in all JHD programming.
For more information on Jets Hockey Development or to sign up for JHD programming, visit their Camps & Programs page at BellMTSIceplex.ca/JHD-PROGRAMS. For further information and any inquiries, please email JHD@tnse.com.
One of my favourite parts about training and working out is that it is never over. We never reach a point where we are completely satisfied with how we perform or how we look. We reach goals but the satisfaction is short lived. We will always want to be bigger, stronger, faster and go for longer. We are appreciative of where we are but still hungry for more.
To an outsider this may seem daunting, but if we really fall in love with the process, we realize that it’s actually a great thing that it never ends. There is so much good we can extract from this hunger that it can become a never-ending source of mental, physical and emotional support for us.
This year has been tough, and, in all probability, it may get tougher still. Hockey is back on television, which is great. We have registered our kids for next year, which is also great, but we still do not actually know when it will start. It can be difficult to train without an exact date to aim for. Is the season starting in September? January? No one is quite sure at this point – and that is just hockey. What about school, work, or trips? Everything is up in the air.
With so much unknown, it is great to have an outlet to help reduce the stress of uncertainty. With the right perspective, our training can be that outlet. Do not fixate on exact dates – enjoy and appreciate the process of getting better. Certainly, set short-term goals, but also enjoy the fact that it is a never-ending journey of self-improvement. We do not want it to end. If it did, we would no longer be able to reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise. We want to have that continuous resource at our fingertips, always just one workout away.
In a time of uncertainty, one thing is always certain: your effort in the gym dictates your results – both physically and how they translate into combatting stress.
I have a friend in the fitness industry who uses the analogy of training being a gift that we give ourselves (thanks Crystal! You can follow her @204lifestyle on Instagram. She is awesome!). What an amazing gift we can give ourselves during times like this. Even better, when this is over it will still be there for us to keep going back to because unlike this pandemic, working out is never over. And that is a good thing.
In preparing for the June 1 reopening, Bell MTS Iceplex made a commitment to ensure the health and safety of our guests and staff. Part of that commitment includes frequent review of our Return to Play Protocols to ensure not only the health and safety of individuals at the Iceplex but also to provide the best hockey experience possible under the province’s public health orders. As we approach fall and with Hockey Manitoba’s Phase Two Return to Play being approved by the Province, additional updates to the Iceplex Return to Play Protocol have been made.
Starting August 24 all individuals entering Bell MTS Iceplex who are not participants in hockey programming will be required to wear a mask at all times. Participants are required to wear a mask while entering the facility until they reach the dressing room and again upon leaving the dressing room to exit the facility. Coaches and team officials are not required to wear masks while on the ice or behind the bench, however it is strongly recommended. Off-ice coaches and team officials (managers, volunteers) must wear a mask while in the facility at all times. Individuals under the age of ten do not have to wear a mask, however, it is strongly recommended. Masks are not required to be worn in The Pressbox Restaurant & Sports Bar, although they must be worn to and from the restaurant.
Focus Fitness members must wear a mask in all areas of Bell MTS Iceplex until they reach the changeroom and again upon leaving the changeroom.
Under phase two of the public health order, games and scrimmages are allowed requiring few changes to the game of hockey itself. The public health order requires that facilities implement measures to ensure members of the public at the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from other members of the public at the facility, excluding participants while they are actively engaged in a sporting activity.
As per Hockey Manitoba’s approved Return to Play document, minor hockey games are not allowed at this time. Any group associated with Hockey Manitoba is limited to scrimmages amongst their rostered players.
The health and safety of our employees and guests is our number one priority. All employees and guests are required to complete a self-screening tool before proceeding to work or to their activity.
Employees and guests will be advised to practice physical distancing by standing at least six feet away from other people throughout the facility or an extended stick length away while on the ice, as much as possible. Distancing markers will be located throughout the facility in areas where individuals are in lineups or skate-tying locations. Enhanced traffic flow measures have been implemented to accommodate one-way traffic in the lobby. Visitors are asked to promptly enter and exit through and avoid congregating in the lobby. Spectators are asked to enter the arenas immediately upon checking in and should leave the lobby as soon as possible when exiting.
Hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed at key guest entrances and high-contact areas including the lobby, check-in desk, and other high traffic areas.
Bell MTS Iceplex has been made aware that an adult program participant from the Winnipeg region who was in the facility has tested positive for COVID-19. Program participants who were in Bell MTS Iceplex during the same timeframe as this participant have been notified by the ice user. Bell MTS Iceplex is committed to ensuring a safe experience for everyone in our facility. In following all provincial guidelines we continue to maintain enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures and operate at reduced capacity to accommodate physical distancing. We also strongly encourage all participants who use our facility to follow COVID-19 guidelines as directed by the province.
David Sattler, CPA, CGA General Manager Bell MTS Iceplex