Continuous development is the key to success in hockey, or any other sport. Whether you are just learning the game, or are at the highest level of the game, you need to continue to get better all the time.
The Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at Bell MTS Iceplex knows this as much as anybody and it shapes their programming. There isn’t a level of hockey that their programming doesn’t touch, as they have programming for everyone under the age of seven to NHL calibre players. It’s all part of their philosophy to provide professional instruction at all levels of the game, and to help players continue to improve throughout their hockey journey.
Much of JHD’s coaching and instruction comes through their own programs such as hockey camps, tournaments, individual on and off ice sessions, and more. Their efforts to share their breadth of knowledge and experiences goes beyond those programs though. Through several partnerships with leagues, divisions, and teams in Winnipeg, the JHD team has not only increased their own programming at the Iceplex but has also brought their elite coaching off-site.
One program that formulated for JHD in the fall of 2019 was a partnership with the St. James Assiniboia Minor Hockey Association (SJAHA) Initiation House League. The partnership had the JHD coaches leading the sessions at SJAHA venues as opposed to at the Iceplex, and it offered them a great way to instill the basics of hockey to players starting at the beginning of their hockey careers.
The House league starts its season with an eight-week development program before regular season games. It was during this development program that JHD stepped in and brought their expertise, which was a new way of doing things for the SJAHA. In past years, the league had done their development program in-house, but in wanting to give greater support to their coaches and raise the level of development, having JHD run the development sessions was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up on.
“We wanted to bring someone in to allow our coaches, who are volunteers and are maybe new to coaching hockey, to see what things should look like when they have their own teams,” said Shawn Edinger, VP of the House League for the SJAHA. “We wanted someone to come in who we knew would help top to bottom with player development and fine tuning the skills that the players need.”
The partnership gave JHD further options to reach out to the community and stress the importance of fostering proper technique and skills at a young age, with the potential of giving these players an advantage down the road.
“The goal of the program is to start at a young age with these players and really expose them to some different skating techniques that they can continue to work on, as well as show coaches how they can utilize some of these skill development areas to make sure players get the most out of their team practices,” said Dave Cameron, Head On-ice Instructor with JHD. “It was also a chance for those volunteer coaches to be mentored on the progressions we use from the start of the program to the end of the program, as well as learn how to better communicate some of those skill development areas to their players.”
Both goals were achieved in Edinger’s mind. The benefits with the coaches has been obvious, and a few years down the road, he knows there will be a noticeable difference in the level of development with the players.
“We’re not worried so much about positions or systems, we’re worried about skills,” Edinger reiterated. “Everyone is seeing that these high-level coaches still focus on the skills. You think of an NHL player, and you think of them focusing on what the power play looks like, or what does their trap system look like. But the JHD coaches came in and showed us that cutting around a cone a certain way is important, and that the little things are the most important in planning.”
One partnership that has been running for much longer is with Winnipeg AAA teams at U-15 and U-18 levels. Every Monday night during the hockey season, the JHD team works with 11 AAA teams in skill-focused sessions.
“We have three rinks going on Monday night and it’s a full evening for our coaches, but we can communicate as a staff on what we want to work on with every age group,” said Cameron.
The program has grown from operating biweekly to now running weekly to maximize the return to AAA players.
“It was difficult to build on practice plans or work on progressions because sometimes players hadn’t worked on those skills in those two weeks they hadn’t seen us,” said Cameron. “The change was made to see the teams every week, which allows us to work on a lot of different things and really progress the sessions. It’s led to a lot of really good development opportunities for the players.”
Scott Coates, who coaches the Winnipeg Monarchs AAA bantam team, was coaching the team when JHD made the transition to weekly sessions. He said the change made a big difference for his team.
“It allows JHD to focus on the skill development piece and that gives us more time to do the tactical and systems work in our regular practices,” said Coates, as he continued to emphasize the importance of JHD focusing on skill development. “Our players are of course still developing and being able to do a skill development practice every week just gives them that edge. A lot of times, even at our level, kids might not have been shown the proper way to do things. When a guy like Dave comes out and coaches our players, you can definitely see that improvement toward the end of the year. So, when our players move up an age level, they’re that much more ready for it.”
Jets Hockey Development now also standardizes all of its practices at the AAA level, something they didn’t used to do, ensuring that all teams of the same age group get the same great experience when they come to the Iceplex. It has been a great way of leveling the playing field and has ensured that the JHD coaches can use the extent of their knowledge and experience to develop a plan where every player is developing the skills they will need to succeed.
“Players were getting really different experiences based on what their coaches were asking for,” said Cameron. “Some teams would ask for shooting drills, other teams would ask for power skating. The teams that got power skating lessons obviously got better at power skating, and the other kids wouldn’t. It wasn’t a fair system for a program where every team is putting in the same amount of time as the others. Now we structure what happens every time the AAA players walk through our doors. We come up with the practice plans for development purposes and let the players work through those plans. Now every player that comes through is getting all of those fundamental skills that will help them excel.”
Jets Hockey Development is always looking for new opportunities to develop players of all ages. If your team or organization is interested in receiving coaching from the experienced team of JHD coaches, please contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to explore the programs that JHD already offers, please visit https://www.bellmtsiceplex.ca/jets-hockey-development/. Though many programs for the spring and summer have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, the JHD team is prepared to return to action when the Province of Manitoba and local health authorities permit.
For hockey players, hearing their name called during a draft is a dream come true. At the April 22 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, that dream became a reality for 13 young protégés of the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) program.
The list of draftees includes Jayden Perron, Lukas Hansen, Liam Saxberg, Reeve Sukut, Ethan Alsip, and Chase Simon of the Winnipeg Warriors; Ryland Gould, Grayson Burzynski, and Blake Jones of the Winnipeg Monarch; Hayden Chaloner and Brandon Funk of the Winnipeg Sharks; Dawson Zeller of the Winnipeg Hawks; and Job Peters of the Eastman Selects.
Having trained players and helped them get drafted into the WHL is certainly a point of pride for the JHD team. The draft is not the end goal though, and Head On-Ice Instructor Dave Cameron and Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager Dean Court know as well as anyone that this is only the beginning for these athletes, and that the toughest work is still to come.
“We’re proud that these kids get selected, but it’s about how much work they put in now,” said Court. “It’s about the guys that remain committed, even though they’re drafted. The draft is only the start of the journey.”
“The real work starts now,” reiterated Cameron. “These players have gotten to a certain point, but if they ever want to get to the next level where they are actually on a WHL roster, there is a lot of work that goes into the next two years of their lives before they get there.”
Hockey players would be wise to heed the advice of Court and Cameron. Both have extensive playing and coaching careers, including Cameron who played in the WHL and was a third-round draft pick in the NHL. Cameron never actually heard his name called in the WHL draft though. Instead, he was protected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes shortly after the draft.
“I remember the disappointment I had the day of the draft but also how it motivated me to work harder and prove people wrong,” said Cameron. “I went to camp as a 16-year-old knowing that some of the players may be over-confident in their draft position and I knew what I had to do to make the team. For me, there was no other option than making the team, and I outworked all the drafted players and made the team as a 16-year-old.”
Cameron went on to have a successful five-year junior career in the WHL as a centreman, putting up over 50 points in a season on three occasions, and splitting time between Lethbridge, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon.
Cameron doesn’t highlight that story to take away from the accomplishments of the players who have been drafted, but rather uses it as a reminder that the draft guarantees nothing. If players want to earn a spot on a WHL roster, hard work will get them there, not their draft ranking.
It also serves as an encouragement to the players who haven’t been drafted. Just because your name wasn’t called on April 22 by a WHL team doesn’t mean your hockey journey is over. Continue to work hard, and good things will happen.
It’s that type of workmanship mentality that drives JHD’s programming and is incorporated into each of their sessions. The coaches, including Cameron, Court, and Devin Himpe, who was on the coaching staff for the bronze medal winning Canadian team at the 2019 Winter Universiade Games, are as dedicated a crew of hockey coaches as you will find, and you certainly won’t find them resting on their laurels. They are constantly looking for ways to improve as coaches.
“We’re always upgrading, and always going on the ice when there is some free ice time to try different things,” said Court. “We’re watching video too. There are all kinds of things that we are doing to be better at coaching.”
The JHD coaches expect the same effort out of the hockey players they work with. That’s something that is made clear in each session, and the coaches make sure that building that hard-working mentality is part of their coaching so that when players want to advance to the next level of hockey, they’ll have the tools to do so.
“Your time here needs to be efficient,” noted Court. “If you’re coming here and working with us, you work hard.”
“I try to inform the players that the steps they are about to take are very difficult steps,” added Cameron of working specifically with U-15 AAA players. “The jump from their U-15 level to the provincial U-18 level is a very difficult one. That’s an important conversation about how crucial the skills are, but how much more important their attitude is.”
The hard work from the JHD coaches comes off the ice too. Not only are they working to improve their coaching skills, but they commit to doing everything in their power to help each player succeed.
That work starts by building a relationship with an athlete, which comes from a lot of time spent on and off the ice. From there, they can work the with team that each player is on, or is striving to get on, to find out exactly what is best for their development.
“We really put in the effort to connect with any player that comes through our doors and help them achieve their goals,” noted Cameron. “Whether that’s a phone call to their team’s general manager to find out exactly what their expectations are, whether that’s watching a game and compiling some video for them, or sitting down and chatting with them; we do whatever it takes to build that relationship and help them.”
The JHD coaches have seen this year’s WHL draftees put in a lot of work to this point in their hockey careers, but they are even more excited to continue training with each player, and see them put in the work that allows them to make their junior teams and beyond. Watching that development and seeing players succeed is the best part of the job for Cameron, Court and the JHD team.
“We aren’t just a team of coaches,” said Court. “We’re people of trust. People trust our experiences to help them with their decisions. When the players are here working with JHD, the commitment level that is given to them by our team, with a pre-planned strategy for their skill development, is already in place. It’s now up to them to put in the work.”
Though Jets Hockey Development’s regular programing has been paused due to COVID-19, please visit https://www.bellmtsiceplex.ca/jets-hockey-development/ to find out more about all of their offerings that you can take advantage of once hockey programs are permitted to be up and running.
Social media is constantly presenting new avenues for people to connect, and that’s even truer now as we face the realities of physical distancing and spending a lot more time at home. As people strive to fill their time, many have turned to online strength and conditioning coaching and videos. One great place to find strength and conditioning videos is right from Focus Fitness. Check out the Focus Fitness YouTube page for daily videos to keep you fit in your own home.
Beyond Focus Fitness, there are is a lot of strength and conditioning content out there. Like anything in life – and online – there is always bad with the good and readers need to be cautious of inaccurate and untrustworthy information. The good news is there are also some absolutely amazing and credible people sharing their knowledge online as well. Here are, in my opinion, three strength coaches that you would benefit from following:
At some point we all have an “aha moment”, when someone flicks the switch and the light bulb goes on in your head, and suddenly everything makes sense. For me, this moment came almost 10 years ago while I was reading an e-book called The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual by Eric Cressey. He is known as both the “baseball” and the “shoulder” guy and while he is the industry leader in both these fields, his knowledge reaches far beyond that. He is extremely generous with the information he shares and everything he says will make you better. You can sign up for his free e-newsletter at ericcressey.com and follow him on Twitter @EricCressey and on Instagram ericcresey. I strongly suggest you do all three.
Jim Smith is one half of the force behind Diesel Strength and Conditioning along with Joe DeFranco. Smith’s free e-newsletter is my favourite read every week. He includes beneficial strength and conditioning information that is often accompanied by videos and pairs it with valuable life lessons. His delivery is always on point and the positive way you are left feeling after reading his work will have you ready to crush everything you do that day, both in and out of the gym. Check out the blog on dieselsc.com, sign up for his e-newsletter, and follow him on Twitter @dieselstrength and on Instagram smittydiesel.
Jason Ferruggia is the man behind the Renegade Army. Ferruggia’s mix of knowledge on training, business, life, and old school hip hop are top-notch. His website jasonferruggia.com will direct you to all the gems that he has to offer including his blog, newsletter, Twitter, Instagram and my personal favourite, his podcast appropriately named Renegade Radio. It’s one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard and covers everything from training, business, life, and music with incredible guests that will give you knowledge to improve your life.
The last several weeks have been a difficult adjustment for our community (and the world) as we have had to focus on staying safe at home. We know that Bell MTS Iceplex is an important part of your routine, as you are an important part of ours. Though we can’t be together, we are working to stay connected and provide you with a variety of tools and resources that can help you create new routines and stay active while we are physically distancing. We look forward to welcoming you back to Bell MTS Iceplex as soon as it is safe to gather again. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay safe at home so that we may continue to see Manitoba’s COVID-19 curve flattened. Bell MTS Iceplex sends a special thank you to the frontline workers in our community who are working so hard to keep us healthy and safe.
The Young Athlete Series is designed to work on all of the athletic attributes your kids would develop if they were playing sport right now. Young Athlete Series at Home will be focusing on balance, coordination, agility, proprioception, strength and conditioning
Exercise is powerful. For starters, there are the obvious physical benefits. Increased strength, bone density, cardiovascular capabilities, and energy can be achieved all while significantly decreasing the likelihood of numerous negative health conditions.
But the true power of exercise is found in its positive effect on our mental health and well-being.
Not to sound to overly dramatic here, but I believe working out saves my life on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong – I love my life, I have plenty to be grateful for. This statement is not negative, it’s positive. No matter what is going on in my life at any given time, when I complete the daily challenge of exercising, I feel better.
There is plenty of scientific evidence to tell us why this is so. Just google “mental benefits of exercise” and you will read about how physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, and how it can be a useful tool to combat depression and PTSD. Exercise does this by igniting changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise also releases endorphins – powerful chemicals in your brain that basically make you feel good. If I’m in a great mood, it gets better. If I’m going through a tough time, it gets better. Anything in between – you guessed it, it gets better.
But as anyone in the gym can tell you, it goes beyond the science. There is something that happens when you commit. Something powerful. I have had the privilege to work with many great people who have all experienced moments of significant adversity in their life. Time and time again I see exercise play a major role in helping them work through it.
Like most great things in life, it’s not easy but it is simple. Its not easy putting forth the effort each day to exercise. The conditions are sometimes not perfect, but it is simple: commit, work, feel better.
I know many people are going through a tough time right now. Schedules are off, our structure has been altered, stress is at an all time high and we are faced with the potential reality of having a new normal. I know this can be scary, but I promise you this: exercise and you will feel better. When you feel better you will be a better version of yourself. When you are a better version of yourself you have a positive effect on those around you. People need that, especially at a time like this.
There is a sign that is written above our door when you walk into Focus Fitness. It reads: I know we cannot be together in the gym right now – that’s ok. The door is figurative, but it is there. Step through it, feel better.
Focus Fitness has been committed to providing free exercise content to everyone in need. You can follow along through all our social media channels: Instagram: @focusfitnesstn, Facebook: @Focus Fitness TN, Twitter: @FocusFitnessTN , YouTube: Focus Fitness TN. Please share with anyone you know who you think could benefit. This is our way of helping people in the best way we know how.