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Our True North: 2021-22 Report to the Community

Thank you to all our fans and the community for joining us in making the efforts and impacts of the past season possible. We were excited to reengage with our fans and our community in 2021-22, both on and off the ice, and return to many favourite initiatives and events that have been missed over the past two years. We invite you to reflect on some of the highlights with us, both as a reminder of what we were able to accomplish together over the past year, and as we look forward to the return of many of these initiatives, and another exciting and impactful season in 2022-23.

Click on the images that light up blue throughout the report to watch the video highlights.

One Leg at A Time

A good strength and conditioning program should increase strength, power, speed, mobility, stability, address deficiencies, and correct imbalances. While this appears to be a tall order, it becomes significantly easier to check all these boxes if we include an adequate amount of single leg training in our program. Single leg training addresses all of those needs, and should be a foundational piece of your training program. Here is an example of what it looks like in the first phase of an off-season training program for a hockey player here at Focus Fitness:

A1 Single Leg Balance with Stick Shift x 30 seconds/side
A2 Mini Band Shuffle x 15 reps/side
A3 Single Leg Altitude Landing x 3 reps/side

  • 30 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 60 seconds of rest between sets
  • complete 3 sets

B1 Single Leg Skater Squat x 6 reps/side
B2 Single Leg DB/KB RDL x 8 reps/side

  • 30 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 90 seconds of rest between sets
  • complete 3 sets

C1 Single Leg TRX Cross Under Squat x 6 reps/side
C2 Single Leg Hip Lift (shoulders elevated) x 10 reps/side

  • 30 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 90 seconds of rest between sets
  • complete 3 sets

D RFE Split Squat Iso Holds x 30 sec/side

  • 2 minutes of rest between sets
  • complete 3 sets

If these exercises or terminology are new to you, simply scan the QR code and you can watch a video on how to perform the exercises correctly. Remember to always include single leg work in your hockey strength training.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen

 

This article was originally published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine.

Iceplex 3v3 Grassroots program keeps the fun in development for U7 and U9 kids

Every hockey player starts their development somewhere. In Winnipeg, there’s no better place to start than with the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) 3v3 Grassroots Hockey program at Bell MTS Iceplex.

The program, which includes U7 and U9 categories and runs on Sunday afternoons from October to December, is the perfect place for girls and boys of all skill levels to improve their game in a fun-filled atmosphere.

That was the case for young hockey player Raeleigh. When she started in the program, she could barely skate. But the experienced coaches gave her everything she needed to improve – including some encouragement.

“Raeleigh went into this program unsure and even wanted to quit after the first practice, but the coach went over and assured her she would love it if she continued, and he did not fail to deliver,” said Jennifer Wityshyn, Raeleigh’s mother. “Raeleigh ended the program with such confidence in herself. We couldn’t have asked for more. She went from barely being able to skate with a hockey stick to being able to puck handle, and her skating skills greatly improved.”

That’s what the program is all about to Dean Court, Business/Amateur Hockey Development & Manager of Team Programs for JHD. It’s a place where any kid can be involved, no matter what their on-ice skills are, and it’s a place where all of them will get better.

“We’re not coaching these kids with the purpose of winning, we’re coaching with the purpose of developing,” said Court. “Our goal is to build players’ confidence and abilities so that they can have fun at whatever level they’re at.”

That’s all done through a focus on individual development and ensuring everyone gets plenty of reps in each drill. With a maximum of 24 kids on the ice for a session, each practice sees the ice divided into three sections – one section to work on skating, one section to work on skill development, and one for a game.

“You get everything in one session,” noted Court. “That’s key for kids at this age. They’re getting to work on their skills every week, but we also want them to have fun along the way, so we make sure they all get to try out their skills in a game atmosphere too. We even bring Mick E. Moose onto the ice occasionally for some added excitement.”

For Wityshyn, that element of fun was the difference maker for her daughter in growing her self-belief on skates.

“The instructors went above and beyond to make sure Raeleigh was comfortable and having fun. Watching her confidence grow was something we will never be able to thank the program enough for.”

As fun as it is for the kids to grow their game and become better hockey players, the coaches – including Court – have just as much fun guiding them.

“This program is the most fun coaching that I do,” said Court. “The kids have such a pure love of the game and show so much excitement in every small development step they make. It’s a joy to give them the tools to go where they want in hockey.”

Junior hockey requires major commitment

Seemingly every hockey-loving Canadian kid dreams of making the NHL someday. Such an accomplishment doesn’t just happen, of course. You must work your way up from one level to the next until you finally reach that pinnacle, meaning that while those players keep that pro hockey goal in mind throughout their journey, they’re also working toward just making it to the next level.

That’s particularly true of players seeking to make it to the Junior level, and it’s the goal of the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at Bell MTS Iceplex to help as many players as possible make that jump through their Junior Prospects Program.

“The program is important because it starts to put like-minded players together who are all chasing the same goals,” said JHD’s Head On-Ice Instructor & Program Manager Dave Cameron of the Junior Prospects Program. “That’s a strong motivating factor when we look at it from a coaching perspective. There are no headaches, there are no questions – they’re all just trying to get to the Junior level. We know exactly where we want to start, and where we want to finish.”

Making the Junior level takes a lot of time and effort, and players hoping to make the jump really need to want it. Cameron doesn’t hesitate to make that clear to all the athletes who train with them in the Junior Prospects Program, as he did last summer for defenceman Sully Ross.

“During the camp, Dave challenged me by asking if I wanted to play Junior A or if I wanted to stick in AAA,” recalled Ross. “I came back the next skate and told him I would like to be a Junior player, and he said, ‘Would you like to be a Junior player, or do you want to be a Junior player?’ That really opened my eyes to wanting to be a Junior player. Ever since then, our connection and the way he pushes me has been brought up to a new level.”

The challenge worked, as Ross went on to play for the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) for the 2021-22 season, where he plans to return for the upcoming season as well.

There was, of course, much more than just ‘wanting’ to be a Junior player involved in taking that step. But the hard work started with that drive and desire and is what fuelled Ross to improve his game to the Junior level.

With JHD’s strong emphasis on individual skill development, Ross noted key developments in his game in perhaps the most important skill in today’s game – skating. For him, the way the coaches teach the skating fundamentals helped him keep up with the speedy Junior pace.

“It definitely helped with how they break down their skills into forward strides, the technique in your stride, and your turning and backwards skating. They push you to become better and give you feedback and teach you along the way as you’re learning new skills. That really helped bring everything into game situations and bringing it up to game speed.”

Even with a strong desire to make that big step to Junior hockey, Cameron notes that it’s common to have players participate in the Junior Prospects Program for more than one summer. That’s not to say some players haven’t been able to make the jump after one run of the program.

One such player is Carson Buydens, who starred for the Virden Oil Capitals of the MJHL in 2021-22. Though he was able to crack the team’s lineup, he still certainly found some challenges with the junior game.

“Everyone is bigger and stronger in junior,” noted Buydens. “You’re suddenly playing against 19 and 20-year-olds, so just working on things like puck protection and getting stronger on the ice is important. The Junior Prospects Program helped me gain confidence in those areas.”

That confidence showed, as Buydens did much more than just make the team. The centreman posted 27 goals and 53 points in 54 games during the regular season, leading all MJHL rookies in points, goals, powerplay goals, and game-winning goals, while placing second among rookies for points per game.

Clearly the work on skills like puck protection worked for him, which is why JHD puts such an emphasis on it at this level.

“At the NHL level, if a player puts the puck in the wrong spot, it’s gone,” said Cameron. “What we try to focus on is where a player’s weight is, where their body is, and where the puck is. Whatever they’re doing – whether they’re getting ready to shoot or ready to pass – the puck should always be in a protected position.”

The most important skill to possess at that age, though, is the willingness to learn and adapt. Cameron and his fellow JHD coaches see that in the players who join the program no matter what skill they’re working on.

“When players come with the right mindset to focus on themselves, it’s fun for us as coaches because we just get to communicate with them and give them the information that allows for changes. But they’re also open to correction. These guys all signed up for the program and recognize there are things they need to get better at.”

Do you want to be a Junior hockey player? Take your game to the next level by signing up for the Junior Prospects Program, or any other age or skill-appropriate program for you at BellMTSIceplex.ca/JetsHockeyDevelopment.

 

This article was originally published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine. 

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Kozub/Point Shot Photography. 

NHL Draft motivates Ice Lab-trained goalie Ty Brennan

If you’ve been to a goalie training session at the Ice Lab at Bell MTS Iceplex, chances are you’ve heard Head Instructor of Goaltender Development Andy Kollar tell you that if you think you’re working hard enough, you’re not.

Many Ice Lab-trained goaltenders take that to heart, including 18-year-old Ty Brennan. It’s that kind of mentality that led Brennan to the NHL draft in early July.

It was at pick number 102 that Brennan got to hear his name called by the New Jersey Devils. The obvious elation of being drafted into the NHL was quickly followed by another surreal moment for the netminder – getting to meet one of his goaltending idols, Martin Brodeur, now a member of the Devils organization.

“Being drafted was a dream come true, and a huge moment for me and my family,” said Brennan as he recalled hearing his name on the second day of the draft on July 8. “My whole family was there, and my girlfriend was there to celebrate, which was really special. I think landing in New Jersey will be the best thing for me.

“Meeting Martin Brodeur was cool too. He’s a goalie I looked up to as a kid. That’s a moment I won’t forget.”

Brennan has been doing a lot more than dreaming to get to this point, of course, and that’s exactly what he’ll continue to do to try to follow in the steps of the likes of Brodeur.

Few people have seen the work Brennan has put in like Kollar has. He’s been working with Brennan for over seven years.

“Ty’s been a big goalie from an early age, but our goal has been to have him not play like a big goalie,” noted Kollar of their training strategy over the years. “We’ve really focused on his skating, making him a very athletic goalie, and ensuring he’s constantly in control in the crease.”

Though Kollar’s on-ice training sessions with Brennan are more infrequent now due to Brennan’s WHL home being in Prince George, BC, Brennan still carries many lessons he’s learned with Kollar on the Ice Lab’s 45-foot by 37-foot surface.

“Since I was a young kid, Andy has helped develop me to where I am today,” said Brennan. “He really helped me set goals of where I wanted to be. That started with goals every summer to get to the WHL, and over time, he’s really taught me to be a pro. There have been a lot of experiences where I thought back to what Andy has taught me.”

No doubt this summer has provided numerous of those moments. Shortly after being drafted, Brennan was off to the Devils’ development camp where he and other Devils prospects got to interact with members of the organization and get a taste of the pro experience.

“That was a really good week,” noted Brennan. “We got to be in that professional atmosphere for a week, and all the staff were there to help us all develop through the whole week. The coaches gave me lots to work on, and the guys were all supportive.”

Soon after, Brennan was on his way to the Team Canada World Junior camp. That week provided him with yet another great opportunity to learn more and meet new faces, and he left the week with even more to work on in his game.

And through all of it, he still maintains constant contact with Kollar.

“It’s really important to build relationships with the athletes we work with,” said Kollar. “You can have a great skillset, but if you’re mind isn’t in the right spot, it’s tough to do the work. We’re proud to be a part of the on-ice development for goalies like Ty when they’re in town, but we see it as equally important to stay a part of their off-ice progress when they move away to chase their hockey dreams.”

A stable mindset and a relentless work ethic will be the key for Brennan throughout the rest of the off-season and as he enters another season between the pipes with the Prince George Cougars. Just because he’s been drafted by an NHL team doesn’t mean he’s working hard enough.

You can be sure Kollar would be there to remind him that he can always work harder.