Bell MTS Iceplex prides itself on its team atmosphere among employees, and sometimes they don’t have to look far to find strong team players to join their staff. Two members of the Iceplex’s Building Operations team, Eric Rhoden and Cameron Neubuhr, have grown up at the Iceplex as both are graduates of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy (WJHA), which operates out of the facility.
Both Rhoden and Neubuhr graduated from the WJHA program in 2019 and started working at the Iceplex shortly after, with Rhoden working in ice maintenance as a Zamboni operator and Neubuhr working in general maintenance and covering everything from helping with ice maintenance to cleaning dressing rooms.
For the Iceplex, it’s meaningful to see students like Rhoden and Neubuhr that have utilized their facility as they’ve grown up transition into positions where they are now serving the next generation of students who get to enjoy all that the Iceplex has to offer.
“A lot of it relates to the skills that they learned through the academy,” said David Sattler, General Manager of the Iceplex. “So they understand what needs to be done in a team aspect. They learned those skills from the instructors and the True North Youth Foundation group, and they’re great ambassadors of those skills. They prove them day in and day out.”
Learn more about the True North Youth Foundation and the WJHA at TNYF.ca.
The Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team is branching out this August. Not to other rinks, as they’ve done in recent years, but to another sport. For the first time ever, they’ll be offering a ringette camp at Bell MTS Iceplex for girls in the U10 through U16 age categories from Aug. 10-14 and Aug. 17-21.
It won’t be JHD’s usual cast of Dave Cameron, Dean Court, Larry Bumstead or Devin Himpe running the drills for this camp for obvious reasons, as ringette is a very different sport from hockey. To meet JHD’s high standards of quality on-ice programming, ringette coaches are needed to coach a ringette camp.
To run the camp, JHD is bringing in Winnipegger Talia Gallant, who has won gold at the National Ringette Championships and at the Canada Winter Games, and captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Ringette Junior Championships. With Gallant’s pedigree, girls attending the camp can be assured they will be in good hands.
“We want this camp to really boost players’ confidence on the ice,” said Gallant. “Similar to JHD’s hockey programming, the focus will be on individual player skills. With a wide range of ages being involved at the camp, that will allow everyone to get the most out of the week and develop at their pace.”
The JHD team has been receiving an increasing number of requests for ringette programming, particularly over the last year. For Dave Cameron, Head On-Ice Instructor with JHD, it was a natural fit to add ringette programming to their offerings.
“We had a growing demand for power skating for ringette players this winter,” said Cameron, who is excited that JHD can help more players on the ice through this programming. “These camps were the next step to offer a full program for ringette power skating.”
The camp will feature two on-ice sessions and two off-ice training sessions in the Focus Fitness gym per day. The camp will also prepare girls for more than just their upcoming ringette season, as a boardroom session each day will bring in guest speakers to present on topics such as nutrition and career opportunities for females in sports.
“Ringette has had such a positive impact on my life, and I’m excited to share that with the next generation of girls,” said Gallant. “It’s more than a sport. You learn skills you can apply outside of ringette, you get to experience an active lifestyle, and you get to create friendships that will last a lifetime.”
The camp itself will have teamwork on display, as it is the result of collaboration from various departments of the True North Sports + Entertainment family. Gallant is no stranger to the True North-operated Iceplex, as she currently serves as a Ticket Sales Representative with the Manitoba Moose. The rest of the Moose ticket sales team is involved in the camp as well with everything from prep work and promoting registration to off-ice tasks during the camps. With the remainder of the 2019-20 AHL season cancelled and no clear direction on when things will pick up again at this point, the ringette camp gave the ticket sales team a creative way of utilizing their skills.
Cameron and the JHD team are both excited to have Gallant on the ice and to have the experience of the Moose ticket sales team powering the camp, but they’re even more eager to see how the experience impacts the players.
“Once we heard about Talia’s experience and that she was available, it was a great fit to have her come in and lead a camp to offer players this experience,” said Cameron. “My hope for the camp is that players will come and have a great experience learning from a great ringette player and working to continue to develop.”
Cameron is sure that these camps will only further drive interest in ringette programming at the Iceplex, and as the JHD team plans ways of growing their overall programming, they are already preparing more opportunities for ringette players at the facility.
“Our goal is to help as many players as we can and help them enjoy playing,” said Cameron. “As they build confidence in their game, whether hockey or ringette, they will continue to develop the passion to play.”
Gallant couldn’t agree more.
“I think this will continue to grow. A lot of ringette teams don’t often play at the Iceplex; typically it’s out of community rinks. This is really exciting and a great start to promoting ringette at the Iceplex.”
For now though, she’s just excited to get out on the ice and be a part of giving girls the chance to develop in the game they love.
The distance between minor hockey and the pros is usually expansive, but this spring when hockey was cancelled, we were all the same.
Women, men, girls, and boys from all over the world in every league imaginable were suddenly in the same boat: No hockey.
It was the same for everyone and I think that helped soften the blow a little. I know it did for my son who had his season cancelled the night before provincials. To him, it wasn’t fair, but when he found out that no one anywhere in the world was getting to play and the whole global hockey family were in it together, I think he felt compassion for others who were missing out on their goals and dreams for the year and he felt the unity of being a part of something bigger than just his team.
“No one gets to play?” he asked.
“No one,” I said.
“Even the Jets?”
“Even the Jets.”
The good news is we know hockey will start again. We don’t know when yet, but it will. So, until then, what do we do?
Well, since we’re all in the same boat, I’ll let you know what the Jets are doing. It’s simple, too: They are putting in work so when hockey comes back, they’ll be ready. You can do the same. In fact, here is how you can spend your summer training like a Jet.
Everyone always assumes it’s the pure talent that separates the pros from other players, but I can tell you after working with pro hockey players in our city for more than 10 years, its actually the things that require no talent that make the difference: eat right, sleep right, train right. That’s not talent. That’s just hard work.
Today’s professional hockey players devote more time to strength and conditioning than ever before. The result, of course, is that players have never been bigger, stronger, and faster. The Jets players know this well. Just watch a Jets game for a couple of minutes and you’ll see the speed, power, explosiveness, and relentless hustle that has become the physical trademark of the team.
So, do you want to train like Mark Scheifele or Josh Morrissey? Here are three ways to improve your strength and conditioning this summer:
Get stronger. Strength is the engine that makes all other athletic attributes go. Stuck at home this summer with no gym because of the quarantine? That’s ok, don’t get hung up on thinking strength is just about lifting heavy weights. The No. 1 tool we have in any sport is our own body. The best athletes move their body efficiently. Moving our body is our relative strength and it can be developed through body weight exercises that do not require any equipment. Focus on push up, pull up, plank, squat, and lunge variations. Get in plenty of unilateral lower body work, meaning one leg at a time, like single leg squat and lunge variations.
Get faster. If you want to be fast you must practice moving fast. The best way to get faster is to sprint and the easiest way to make your sprints effective is to race. Use different lengths from short sprints, 10-15 metres, to longer sprints, 100 metres and then, everything in between.
Work longer, recover faster. To be relentless like a Jet you must be able to work at a high level for an extended period of time and then recover fast so you can go out and do it again. Use different exercises such as running, biking, rowing and swimming. Start by using a 1:2 work/rest ratio meaning working as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest for a minute and go again. As you progress push the length of work time up by five seconds and your rest time down five seconds until eventually we have flipped where we started and are now at a 2:1 work/rest ratio, meaning we are working for a minute and recovering in 30 seconds.
The Jets understand that the foods they eat fuel their performance on and off the ice. Here are three nutrition tips to follow this summer:
Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated has a negative effect on both our mental and physical performance. Despite fancy advertising for all the sports drinks, water is always your best choice. Aim for two-to-three litres per day plus 250 ml for every 15 minutes of intense exercise.
Eat whole foods. If you’ve ever been inside the Jets or Moose players’ lounge, you would not have found any processed or fast foods. Everything is healthy and whole foods, meaning it comes from natural sources.
Eat a variety of healthy foods. Likewise, in the players’ lounge you will also find foods from all the food groups and all the macro nutrient categories. Lots of fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and nuts, dairy options such as milk and yogurt, healthy carbohydrate choices like oatmeal, rice, potatoes, and pastas. It is important to take in a wide variety of foods. Always be cautious of any diets that try to eliminate whole food groups or macro nutrients groups. You are an athlete and it is your business to perform at your best. These diets are not for you.
All the training we do is only as effective as our recovery. While part of our recovery comes from our nutrition the other extremely important part is our sleep. The Jets know this and make sleep a priority, so much so that it can influence how they plan their travel schedule, when they nap and even the types of mattresses they use on the road.
Here are three tips to get the most out of your sleep this summer:
Get the right amount of sleep. Aim for seven-to-eight hours each night. Your body performs certain processes while you sleep that help you heal, recover, and grow. For these processes to happen you must go through the sleep cycles which require you to be asleep for a certain amount of time.
Get the right quality. The quality of sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep you get. To ensure high quality sleep make sure the room is dark and quiet. This means not using any electronic devices within two hours of going to sleep. The type of light they emit, and at such a close proximity, throws off our body’s ability to enter our proper sleep cycle.
Nap right. The benefits of napping from a performance standpoint are immense. Most of us just do it at the wrong time and for too long. Do not feel you have to nap if you do not want to, but if you do, do it right. Nap as close as you can to the point — 12 hours from the mid-point of your nocturnal sleep cycle. So, if you slept for eight hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the mid-point would be four hours in at 2 am. Twelve hours from 2 a.m. is 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That is your ideal time. Make sure the room is dark and quiet. Aim for 15-to-25 minutes as this will help refresh and boost your performance without leaving you tired and groggy.
Let us make the most of our time while we’re waiting for hockey to return. Spend your summer training like a Jet by being great at the things that require no talent so that when hockey starts again, you’ll be ready.
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
This article was originally published in the Game On magazine – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine.
The Manitoba Moose Hockey League. The Winnipeg Jets Hockey League. The Iceplex Adult Hockey League.
For adult recreational hockey players, they will recognize these three names as the evolution of the recreational hockey league hosted at Bell MTS Iceplex since the facility opened its doors in 2010. There have been changes over the years beyond just the name of the league, all with the goal of continually improving the adult rec hockey experience at the Iceplex.
The next step of improvement for rec hockey at Bell MTS Iceplex is a much bigger one though.
The Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League (WRHL) is a brand-new league that will replace the current Iceplex Adult Hockey League at Bell MTS Iceplex, starting with the summer 2020 season. The WRHL will introduce Winnipeggers to a new and improved way of doing rec hockey by focusing on the player experience.
So, what’s different about this league?
For starters, the WRHL isn’t owned by the Iceplex, and won’t be run by Iceplex staff. The WRHL will be operated by a group with roots in Edmonton that has a successful history of operating the Capital City Recreational Hockey League there.
Though the group originated in Edmonton, it has roots in Winnipeg too. Rob Barnsley, the Director of the WRHL, is a born-and-bred Winnipegger who has lived in Edmonton for the last 20 years, but has recently moved back to Winnipeg to start the WRHL, which will not only play at the Iceplex but also at the Seven Oaks Arena and The Rink.
“When I moved back to Winnipeg, I wanted to replicate our league in Edmonton and give Winnipeggers the exact same experience of what we do in Edmonton,” said Barnsley, noting that playing in facilities like the Iceplex was the first step in ensuring that Winnipeg rec hockey players got a premier experience.
“We believe we’re a premier product, and we want to be aligned with premier facilities. True North is very well-respected in the hockey community with how they deal with their community. I know that their mantra is community driven.”
David Sattler, General Manager of the Bell MTS Iceplex, believes that having a separate ownership group running the league will be a huge benefit for players as it will allow all parties involved to focus on what they do best.
“This is such a strategic partnership,” said Sattler. “When the Manitoba Moose Hockey League was invented, the purpose of it, like many other adult rec hockey leagues, was to maximize use of our ice. We did that well for 10 years, but now we have an outside group who is able to focus on this and put all of their resources toward the rec league.
“This will also allow the members of our Jets Hockey Development team, who have been working with the IAHL, to focus more on grassroots development. We will be able to further enhance and develop program options for the younger population, as well as further grow our tournament schedule for players at all levels of hockey.”
Dean Court, Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager for Jets Hockey Development, was key in organizing the IAHL. He’s thankful for all the teams that have been part of the league over the years and is excited for them to now join the WRHL.
“We’re so grateful for all the teams that have made the IAHL their rec hockey league of choice over the years – from the teams that have been with us from the start, to the teams that have just joined in the last year,” said Court. “We’re excited to present them with a new league, and we hope that all of the amazing teams that have called the Iceplex home will continue to do so with the WRHL.”
Barnsley also believes that this partnership will help both the league and the facilities to excel.
“If we can take something and make it better and focus on that product, while letting True North and the Bell MTS Iceplex group do what they do best in running a great facility and running hockey academies and programming, that feels like a win to us.”
The premier adult rec hockey product that Barnsley is striving to create through the WRHL will bring some noticeable changes to the typical recreational hockey format. As a rec league player, you’re probably accustomed to getting three 12-minute periods with no floods between periods. Why? Because, as Sattler noted, rec leagues are designed to fill up ice time during low-traffic hours. One-hour games make it easy to schedule and get as many games in as reasonably possible. The WRHL won’t operate under those restrictions, instead featuring three 15-minute periods and one Zamboni flood after either the first or second period.
Barnsley believes the 15-minute period format is a feature that sets the WRHL apart from other rec hockey leagues.
“Every hockey player I talk to loves the idea of three 15-minute periods. They love it because they get more hockey and they want to have a great time. So, that format has been very well-received, and I think it’s going to take off in Winnipeg.”
The improved the ice quality and extra time for players to interact with each other during the game have contributed to the growth of Barnsley’s Edmonton League.
“If you talk to any hockey player at any level, as good as the on-ice stuff is, a lot of their great memories are made off the ice,” noted Barnsley. “The feedback we get is that teams just love to hang out together, and this intermission gives them more time to do that.”
Playing hockey at the recreational level is, after all, not just about the hockey. It’s about the culture of hockey and hanging out with your friends on your team. It’s about camaraderie and having a good time. The WRHL is fully aware of the importance of the social aspect of the game and fostering it is an important part of their league.
“This league needs to be a step forward, not only in the product that is offered, but in the way people interact with the adult hockey league market itself in our facility, and we believe the WRHL will do that.”
Barnsley echos that confidence and is eager to get the WRHL underway.
“I’m excited for recreational hockey players to join us and say, ‘where have you been all this time?’ If we can do more and offer a good value, why wouldn’t somebody want to try it?”
Bell MTS Iceplex is a place of gathering where the community comes to play, watch, and learn the game of hockey. Naturally, June 1 was a very exciting day as hockey programming was allowed to resume and people made their way back to the facility after nearly three months of the venue being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gathering the hockey community at the Iceplex looks much different now than it did prior to the closure. New health and safety protocols are now becoming standard as activities and access resume in all sorts of venues across the city. At Bell MTS Iceplex, this means each visitor now needs to complete an online health screening survey and sign into the facility, and once inside, capacity is limited and access to some amenities has been affected. These measures are all in place to accommodate the required physical distancing and other safety protocols mandated by the province, along with True North’s commitment to an enhanced cleaning and disinfection regimen.
“We have housekeeping staff around all the time, consistently cleaning the washrooms, cleaning high-touch areas, disinfecting the stands several times during the day, and more,” said David Sattler, General Manager of the Bell MTS Iceplex. “As we begin hockey games, we will be cleaning the benches several times per day. Basically, anything that could be touched is being cleaned multiple times a day.”
The venue’s protocols are continuing to change too as health authorities further evolve their restrictions. Iceplex staff are committed to not only stay in tune with government and health authority mandates, but also to provide the best hockey and training experience and restore convenience when able.
“Originally, players were required to come in their full gear and they were allowed to put on their helmet, gloves and skates in our dressing rooms so that people would stay within our 15-minute limit of using dressing rooms before and after their on-ice sessions ,” said Sattler, noting that the time limit was created so that proper cleaning measures could be taken in the dressing rooms between groups. “With summer approaching and warmer weather outside, that didn’t make for the best experience. We made the decision to let people get fully dressed in our dressing rooms, as long as they are staying in the 15-minute limit before or after their on-ice session. If we extend that time at all, there just isn’t enough time to properly clean the dressing rooms. The safety of our guests is clearly our number one priority, but within those restrictions, we still want to give people who come to our venue the best experience possible.”
Other restrictions have been dialed back as well. Though initially, the Iceplex required all visitors who would be sitting in the stands to wear a facemask while at the facility, parents and fans now have the choice of whether or not to wear a mask, though mask use is still encouraged. Iceplex staff will continue to wear masks throughout the facility when not actively coaching or training.
Sattler notes that these protocols can certainly be reversed just as quickly, but the Iceplex staff are all very grateful for the progress the province has made.
“We really are thankful for the hard work that Winnipeggers and Manitobans have put into flattening the curve of COVID-19,” said Sattler. “It’s because of everybody’s diligence in distancing and the resulting low infection rates that we can open our building and start to offer programming again.”
For Jets Hockey Development (JHD) programming, which is the Iceplex’s hockey training program, drills and on-ice sessions have been adapted to minimize the amount that players are in close proximity. Even the health orders note, though, that physical distancing won’t always be achieved while playing sports.
“The newest revision of the public health order says that facilities must reasonably maintain distance between people in the facility, except participants actively engaged in sport,” said Sattler. “Right now, we aren’t doing any contact drills, but JHD is still doing group drills. We’re asking that players try to maintain physical distancing when they can, but we know that hockey is a close contact sport, so there will be times when players are closer than six feet.”
Andy Kollar, Manager of Goalie Development at the Ice Lab goalie training facility in the Iceplex, noted that they’ve changed the way they do things as well to ensure as much distancing as possible.
“We’ve created a gap between goalie sessions that we don’t usually have, where we are trying to create less traffic for people coming in and leaving. Usually we do three straight sessions, then a flood with the Zamboni. Now we’re doing a session, then a 15-minute gap.
“We’re not using gender specific changerooms either. We just alternate which room is getting used with each session, which gives our housekeeping staff time to clean the room properly.”
Kollar noted that as a goalie coach his on-ice sessions haven’t had to change as much, since they are one-on-one and distancing is easier to maintain.
“As goalies, our sessions are non-contact, so we do have that spacing. But I’ve started to use my stick as a gauge of distance when I’m talking to participants so I don’t get too close.”
Focus Fitness, the 8,500 square foot gym on the second floor of the Iceplex, is operating well below capacity to allow athletes ample space to move within and is also undertaking careful cleaning measures. Users of the space are expected to clean the equipment they use after each use, and after each group session, the gym staff thoroughly clean all the equipment before the next group can use the space.
Greg Husson, an Iceplex customer with two boys in JHD programming who also works out at Focus Fitness and helps out the JHD team when they need a goalie, appreciates the added safety measures along with the effort the Iceplex has put in to making this a smooth transition for everyone.
“With all of the things that the Iceplex has in place now, they’ve made it seamless to come back,” said Husson. “You check in on the website and get everything cleared, and then you get to just walk in, sign in and say hello, and you’re off to whichever rink or amenity you’ve come to use.”
The new restrictions haven’t phased Husson’s boys either, as they are just happy to be back on the ice and playing the sport they love again.
“The smiles on their faces when they got back on the ice was great to see. You can see that they’re happy and motivated, and it’s getting back to a piece of normality in life.”
To Kollar, the fact that parents feel comfortable letting their kids back on the ice and back into their programming, along with the joy that the kids have for being back isn’t possible without a team effort from the Iceplex staff that focuses on patience and attention to details.
“Everything we’ve done to reopen has been well thought-out,” said Kollar. “We really look at the community and it’s safety first. We don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy, and I think our team has done a great job coming up with a protocol plan. We wanted to get the right details in place before opening up.”
These efforts are now providing opportunities that can improve the physical and mental health for all their guests – something that has surely been missed.
“The majority of people that we have in our programs are youth, who have been stuck at home and separated from their schoolmates and teammates for almost three months at an age where we are trying to keep people active and engaged,” said Sattler. “I think it’s important for us to be open to give kids something they enjoy doing and a sense of normalcy. For parents too, being able to see their kids skate might allow them to have that moment of mental calm.”