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Game On: It Is A Privilege

The pandemic has gone on far longer than any of us had hoped. With no clear end in sight, and with sports seasons cancelled or on hold, this has extended the length of off-season training for many people. This hasn’t just affected pros and college players, but also recreational athletes who now find themselves in the gym for their primary source of exercise. The season is changing as well – we have less daylight, and the temperature is dropping to frigid lows. All of this combined might seem like reason to complain but remember that 90 percent of life is how we look at it and that our perception can quickly become our reality.

Having the opportunity to exercise and reap the mental, physical and emotional benefits of exercise is an amazingly positive experience. We cannot look at going to the gym as a chore; it is a celebration of what we can do, and we are all capable of doing amazing things. Part of this ‘gym as a chore’ mentality is perpetuated by social media posts that I assume are meant to be inspiring – talking about how the gym is a grind or you are preparing to go to war or something along those lines. Nonsense. Working a dead-end nine-to-five job is a grind, working to pay bills is a grind, life’s responsibilities can become a grind, and brave women and men who work jobs that put themselves in harm’s way are the ones going to war. Having the opportunity to go to the gym to better ourselves – that is a privilege. That is a ray of light that breaks up the monotony of the daily grind. It injects positivity into our lives and elevates our level of confidence. We should feel grateful that we have the ability to perform physical activity no matter what level we are starting at. We should feel grateful for where we are at and excitement for where we are going.

Use this time in a positive way. If our off-season is longer, when we finally do get back to playing again, we should be bigger, faster, stronger and in better shape than we have ever been. It can be a positive experience if we choose to make it one. Remember: training and being in the gym is not a grind – it is a privilege. Do not forget that.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen

JHD gives WHL players chance to make best of off-season with WHL Camp

“It’s been a very long and crazy offseason.”

Nobody would disagree with the opinion of hockey player Zak Smith, a 19-year-old Red Deer Rebel left winger from Austin, Man., and certainly no Western Hockey League (WHL) players like Smith would disagree with him.

Despite all that has transpired since the last time a puck dropped for a WHL game, players like Smith wouldn’t have made it to where they are – and won’t make it to where they want to go – without  capitalizing on an off-season like this by turning it from ‘long and crazy’ into ‘productive and developing’. That’s why Smith, along with 11 other WHL players and three WHL goalies from Manitoba are spending their extended off-season with Jets Hockey Development (JHD).

“We obviously don’t normally train with WHL players at this time of year,” said Dave Cameron, Head On-Ice Instructor and Program Manager with JHD. “But we looked at how we could help these players get the most out of their off-season, and what we could provide to make them as good as they can be. That led us to developing the WHL Camp.”

Though the fall WHL Camp is new for JHD, and the circumstances are far from normal, Cameron notes the goal of the camp is the same as any other off-season training program.

“We want them to feel like they are a better player when they go back to their regular season, whenever that may be.”

Smith had actually never skated with JHD prior to the WHL Camp. After the end of last season, Smith was looking for something new with regards to off-season training. He had heard plenty of good things about Cameron and the JHD team and already feels that he has been advancing his skills at the WHL Camp.

“The coaches at JHD have been nothing but excellent to work with,” noted Smith. “They truly want to make the players better. I like their coaching style because we are always working on different things to help our game grow. Dave is always wanting to work on little parts of our game that will help us get to the next level.”

Winnipegger Evan Toth, an 18-year-old defenceman who finished his first season in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen in 2019-20, has also had that improvement mindset during this crazy off-season. Toth worked with Cameron for years and had no doubt about the benefits of working with JHD’s experienced coaches at Bell MTS Iceplex to get the most out of his time away from regular season play.

“Two words: Dave Cameron,” said Toth when asked why he wanted to participate in the WHL Camp. “Dave has the unique ability to make everyone feel like their development is his top priority – not just with his words, but more importantly by his actions and the way he teaches the game. I believe that coaching will allow me to advance myself into a top role on the team where I can contribute and showcase my talent on a nightly basis.”

Toth and Smith aren’t the only players with a strong commitment to having a productive off-season. Some of the athletes in the camp have come from as far as Brandon, Beausejour, and Virden for the camp that ran twice per week in September, and three times a week in October and November – a schedule designed to help players build towards their teams’ training camps, which are scheduled for January.

“We have a mix of guys who have trained with us before, and some who are new to us,” said Cameron of the camp participants. “They’ve made a serious commitment to come out for training. We want to give these guys the tools to succeed and expose them to skills that will help them advance in their careers. I think the players are enjoying it and seeing the benefits of it.”

Listening to Smith and Toth rattle off the skills they’ve been working on and improving is a testament to that, and the fact that each player is coming away from sessions with different takeaways shows just how committed JHD is to that personalized experience and improving players in the areas they need to work on.

“The JHD coaches offer a unique targeted approach for each individual part of my game, not just physically but mentally as well,” said Toth. “I’ve worked on my hands in tight and getting off a quick shot from both the slot and the blueline, along with reinforcing my skating and defensive capabilities.”

“I have learned so much about new ways to create space and get open in the offensive zone,” added Smith. “Also, working on little things like getting your head up to find open guys and being able to make plays at a high pace.”

Though personalized development and treating each player as an individual with unique needs from others is a cornerstone of all JHD programming, that approach has been highlighted in the WHL Camp where the coaches are not only developing players in what they need to improve on, but based on what each of their respective WHL teams wants them to work on.

“It’s unique to see how each player works within their own team’s structure,” said Cameron. “Each of their own coaches gives each player different things to work on, so we’ve been trying to help them with those skills.”

Though there is so much uncertainty during this time, the JHD coaches are certain that the WHL Camp will show its benefits for the 15 WHL players whenever their season does start. The players, too, seem certain that thanks to the camp, they’ll be able to show their teams just how long, crazy, and productive their off-seasons have been.

For more information on Jets Hockey Development and the many different camps and training opportunities they offer, visit BellMTSIceplex.ca/JetsHockeyDevelopment.

Jets Hockey Development virtual presentations keep teams engaged with hockey on pause

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.”

 

To learn more about Jets Hockey Development, visit https://www.bellmtsiceplex.ca/jets-hockey-development/.

If you’re interested in booking a team Zoom call session with JHD for your hockey team, please email Dave Cameron at dcameron@tnse.com.

The Jets Hockey Development Starting Lineup

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.

 

It Is Never Over

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.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen