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The Puck Stops Here

How big challenges led to bigger opportunities for Ice Lab lead instructor, Andy Kollar

Just over four years ago, Andy Kollar received a phone call from Dwayne Green, executive director of the True North Youth Foundation, that changed his life forever. “Greener let me know about a new job opening at Bell MTS Iceplex to manage its Ice Lab (goalie development) program,” recalls Kollar. At the time, Kollar had been working in sales for the past several years. “It took me less than an hour to make the decision to apply. Now looking back, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love what I do. I feel like a kid in the candy store (for goalies) every day I come to work.”

Ice Lab is a unique hockey training program offered just for goalies at Bell MTS Iceplex, utilizing a specially designed 40’ x 60’ rink, along with the other four NHL-sized rinks at the multipurpose facility. “I knew Andy would be a great fit,” says Green. “Not only does he have the experience, but I thought he’d also be a great fit for True North.” With 15 years of goaltending experience, including playing on the University of North Dakota’s men’s hockey team for five years, stints with various professional clubs in the East Coast and Southern hockey leagues, and success in junior and minor hockey ― just like his goalie pads at times, his experience is stacked.

Working with goalies of all ages is one of the most rewarding aspects of Kollar’s job, especially when he sees the confidence of the athletes increase in correlation with their skills. “We treat every goalie as an individual, focusing on enhancing their strengths and giving them the tools to build upon their weaknesses,” says Kollar.

Identifying “weaknesses” and turning them into strengths is something Kollar knows all about. For most of his prolific playing career (see “Padding His Resume”), the never-give-up netminder overcame challenges and embraced opportunities to the fullest when they came. “Being cut [at many levels of hockey] and told I didn’t have the typical body for being a high-level goalie was something that fuelled me to work harder than anyone else, and really focus on the fundamentals of what goalies really needed to be efficient,” says Kollar. That commitment led to individual awards and championships at almost every level of hockey he played. Kollar knows first-hand that no matter what size or skill level, if a goalie really wants to work at it, they can get better and strive toward some big goals – or rather, big saves.

As the head instructor of Ice Lab, Kollar works with a small, but dedicated team of instructors that has built a solid reputation for Ice Lab and Bell MTS Iceplex. “We’re getting some great feedback from teams that benefit from the Ice Lab. The time goalies spend on the ice here with Andy’s team is translating into athletes performing better on the ice at their games,” says Monte Miller, Bell MTS Iceplex general manager. “Andy’s passion for helping goalies play better in net, all while having fun, has been a real asset to our overall programming here at Iceplex.”

Getting all access to Andy and his team is now a year-round opportunity. With regular season hockey wrapping up, many goalies will turn their attention to off-season conditioning and development in preparation for next season. “The spring and summer are important times of the year for goalies to look back at what worked well and what could be improved upon from last season,” says Kollar. Ice Lab has sessions available throughout the spring and summer months for athletes wanting to enhance their skills without the pressure of a regular season. “The goalies we work with closely in the off-season enjoy the Ice Lab sessions because their hockey schedules are generally lighter, giving them more opportunity to focus on working on improvements to their game.”

Ice Lab develops goalies from all levels of play. From professional to peewee, and newbie to novice, Kollar and crew have it covered from the basics to specialized training programs. To learn more, visit bellmtsiceplex.ca or contact the Ice Lab at 204-926-5869 akollar@tnse.com

Padding his resume (Andy Kollar fun facts)

  • Played high school hockey for River East Kodiaks from1993 to 1994 (Won city and provincial high school championships; Won goalie of the year honours in 1993)
  • Played in MJHL for St. James Canadians from 1994 to 1995 (In rookie year, won championship; led league in GAA as a rookie)
  • Played for the Fargo Ice Sharks in the USHL from 1996 to 1997 (made the USHL All-Star team)
  • Played NCAA hockey for five years with UND Fighting Sioux from 1998 to 2002 (Won 2000 NCAA Championship; NCAA 2001 Championship Finalist; )
  • Modelled personal goaltending style off of Stanley Cup champion and Edmonton Oiler, Andy Moog
  • Says best play he ever made was marrying his wife Angie in 2003. The happy couple have a son, Ashton, 10 and daughter, Dylan, who is 8.

Originally published in Game On Magazine

The Next Wave: NHL Combine and Development Camp

Even though it feels like the hockey season just ended and there is a long break until the next season is under way for Jets fans, I can assure you that behind the scenes the hockey machine keeps rolling. The off season is a busy time for us and revolves around three main events: the NHL Combine, the NHL Draft and Development Camp. This year, I had the privilege of being directly involved with two of the three.

For as many great hockey players as there already are in the world it is sometimes hard to imagine that there is a next wave of them every year pushing to make that step to the next level. I had the great opportunity of attending the 2018 NHL Combine recently in Buffalo. It was a great experience to watch all the tests being performed first hand, especially since we have helped many players prepare for the combine themselves in the past.

Physiological testing has become a pretty big part of sports. Almost all sports now at different ages and levels have testing as part of their evaluation process. Does scoring the best on a test guarantee you will be the best player? Absolutely not, there are a multitude of different attributes that make great players in any sport, their strength and conditioning is just one. Physiological scores are one area of interest however as it is one that a player has complete control over. This measure can also get a sense of an athlete’s work ethic, desire, commitment, and mental toughness. My job at the combine was to help evaluate potential draft picks for this year’s draft in Dallas. Besides the obvious, how well they scored on tests, we were looking for other things as well such as preparedness, engagement, body language, and how well they move in all different aspects.

After the NHL Combine came the draft where the players were selected by the Winnipeg Jets and then the new recruits were added to the Development Camp roster for the week at Bell MTS Iceplex and Focus Fitness. The roster of players that makes up Development Camp is a combination of draft picks and free agent signings over the recent years and current players from our AHL organization, the Manitoba Moose. At Development Camp we put the players through another battery of tests, this time both off and on ice. These tests are chosen by our strength and conditioning team and coaching staff based on attributes and physical skill sets that the organization feels will help develop quality hockey players. The past week was a combination of on and off ice practices, work out sessions and team building activities all designed to evaluate the players and even more importantly to introduce them to the culture of our organization. Excellence is a habit so we want all the players learning how things are done the True North way. The group of athletes at camp this year were great to work with and I look forward to helping them continuing to develop so they can play important roles in our organization.


Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Mobility for Hockey

The number one tool you have in hockey, or any sport for that matter, is your own body.

If you can move more efficiently and effectively than your opponent, then you will consistently put yourself in a better position to be successful. You do this multiple times over the course of a game or competition and chances are you will have a favourable result at the end.

In order to move our body well we want to be strong, have good body composition and have great mobility. We use the term mobility over flexibility as the latter usually solely involves stretching. Mobility is a much more global approach which includes soft tissue work, stretching, and activation exercises to ensure joints move properly.

Having good mobility means that you can move through a full range of motion, restriction free. Having proper mobility allows for increased performance. Basic fundamental hockey skills like shooting and skating are dependent on you having the proper mobility I order to perform them.

If your skating stride is short due to tight hips and you can’t access full extension in your drive phase, you will not generate as much force as you potentially can. In other words, without proper mobility you are leaving stuff on the table.

Mobility is also important for proper transition between on-ice and off-ice training. As an example: Players experiencing a decrease in ankle mobility during the season as they are always in fixed ankle position (hockey skate). When this player enters the gym, whether it be for in-season or off-season training and attempts to perform power or speed exercises (sprints and jumps), which place a large amount of stress on the ankle they are no longer in a safe position as they lack the proper amount of mobility or movement at the joint.

At this point injuries are at a higher risk of occurring, and as an athlete staying healthy is always the No. 1 priority.

On the topic of injury, proper mobility also helps decrease the chance of injury during competition, especially with a contact sport like hockey where your body can be forced into compromised positions. The four main parts of the body — in which we always want to make sure we have adequate mobility — are the ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders. Even though, as mentioned before, the hockey skate limits ankle flexion and extension there still is some in our skating stride. Having proper mobility at this joint help you get lower in your skating stride.

Hip extension is what propels the skating stride. Having proper hip mobility will ensure that we have a complete full skating stride that puts you in the best position to generate power.

The thoracic spine is the name for the area of the spine which runs from the mid to upper back. Making sure we have great mobility in both our extension and rotation will benefit you in keeping your chest up while you skate and with developing a harder shot.

The shoulders are one of the most injured joints in contact sports. Making sure we have a strong, stable, mobile shoulder will help reduce injury through contact and also help with skills like stick handling and shooting.

There are many moving parts that are included in a successful hockey training program. Make sure that mobility is one of them and you will reap the benefits of increasing performance and reducing injury both on and off the ice.

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Originally published in Game On Magazine

When is the Right Time?

Off ice training is more popular than it has ever been, and for good reason. It can have a significant positive impact on your hockey game.

But when is the right time to start?

I often get asked by parents, “What is the correct age to start lifting weights?” or “What are the ideal workouts my kid’s off season?” It seems like every time you turn around another self-proclaimed expert is advising something or there is always a guy “who knows a guy” who is spreading some self-serving information that will fill his next camp. It can be tough to navigate and find the information that you need, so here are some tips and information that will help give parents some direction and dispel the rumours and misinformation.

There is NO magic age as to when athletes are ready to work out. All kids develop at their own pace. Because of this, we have both an athlete’s chronological age (actual age) and his/her training age. The training age is determined by the athlete’s experience in the gym and playing sports.

For example, we have two clients come into the gym. Client No. 1 is 14-years-old and has been playing sports since he was five and had two previous years of experience in a gym training with his team during the season. Client No. 2 is 19 and has very limited experience with sports and has never been in a gym. You can see that despite the fact client No. 2 is technically older, he would not be ready to lift weights yet. He would have to start at bodyweight progressions and work his way up while client No. 1 might be able to externally load some exercises with weight despite being, chronologically, five years younger.

Speaking of weight, there is also a concern regarding when young athletes should start lifting. Rumours about having to wait until bones are finished growing are pretty common. Again, the age at which an athlete starts weight training is linked to his/her training age. There are bones in the human body such as the scapulae (shoulder blade) and collar bone that are not done developing until your early 20s. You are not going to have athletes wait until they are 25-years-old before they start lifting weights.

As long as the athlete is coached and has progressed properly through the fundamentals then risk of injury is very slim. Truth is, the initial loads for athletes are probably the same or even lighter than other things they already carry. The young athlete performing a perfect squat with a 20-pound weight while he is aware of his form and technique, poses less risk for injury than that same athlete slinging his 30-pound hockey bag over his shoulder and walking with no attention to form or technique.

Another common question I hear all the time is, “What is the best thing for my kid to be doing in the off season?” For young athletes (ages 7-12) my answer might surprise you. The best thing to do is go play another sport.

These are prime years for the development of many athletic attributes that will form a youngster’s athletic foundation. Hand-eye co-ordination, re-action time, balance, proprioception (the awareness of his/her body in space) are all aspects which, when developed, improve athletic performance and are all prime for development at these ages.

There are drills you can do in the gym to better these attributes for sure and if hockey is the only path that the kid wants to take then it can be done. But even better, I would argue, is get out there and play other sports. All those athletic attributes will be developed through playing different sports and the kids will experience the benefit of both competition and of being part of a different team. Plus all the other great values that sport teaches us!

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Originally published in Game On Magazine

The Press Box Restaurant, a year-round draw

Press Box Restaurant

Restaurants are always trying to find ways to attract more customers but for The Press Box Restaurant and Sports Bar, located on the second floor at the Bell MTS Iceplex, it’s the building they’re in that usually does the drawing for them.

Though you won’t typically find people going to The Press Box simply to go out for dinner, it’s the hot spot to grab a bite for anyone watching or playing hockey at the Iceplex. When there is a hockey tournament in the building, head chef Leonard Church says it doesn’t take long for the restaurant to fill up.

“During one tournament, we had people waiting at the door to get in,” said Church, who was formerly a chef at the Hilton, and served as the head chef for the Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson this year.

Though the restaurant is a convenient spot for players and fans alike to fuel up, The Press Box’s largest area of service is provided as a caterer. On top of catering for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose players at the Iceplex, they feed the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, Camp Manitou, and hockey teams after their games, whether in the restaurant or to-go.

“Every time is busy time,” said Church. “It just turns from one thing to another. In the summer we have camps in here, with around 250 kids a day. Then we get into hockey season with the Jets doing training camp, so then we have 120 guys a day for a couple meals. Then the restaurant opens up again in September, and we’re busy with that.”

With seating for more than 300, a full-service bar, and the ability to close off the restaurant for a more intimate setting, The Press Box offers an accommodating and versatile space for meetings and special events, and also caters to many functions in all areas of the city

“Most of the events we host are annual events,” said Jessica Rosenbaum, Event and Marketing Coordinator for the Bell MTS Iceplex. “Some events are one-offs, but tournaments are typically annual, so we know what to expect.”

Both Church and Rosenbaum noted that the quality service, flexible staff and accommodating catering menu keep groups coming back year after year.

“Word of mouth travels fast,” said Church. “Especially within the hockey community. Between the events and patrons at the Iceplex and off-site catering, we’re always busy.”

For team meals, snacks and appies while watching the game on one of the big screens, or a cold beverage, The Press Box Restaurant is open 5 – 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, visit: