If you go to the Bell MTS Iceplex website and visit the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) page, the first line you’ll find in the description reads, “Jets Hockey Development is dedicated to providing every program participant the very best opportunity to develop as a hockey player and person.” That may be a simple statement, and it may be obvious. But it may be an understatement when you consider the success of some of the athletes in their programs.
At the end of this past summer, four female hockey players who train at the Iceplex were named to the Hockey Canada National Women’s Team Fall Festival roster. The list included goalie Kristen Campbell, as well as Halli Krzyzaniak, Brigette Lacquette, and Kati Tabin, who all play defence.
With the ultimate goal for these girls being playing for Team Canada at the Olympics, this is a big step for all of them in reaching that goal.
“Hockey Canada has a national program in non-Olympic years consisting of a larger roster of players, and players from that roster are called to compete at various tournaments like the Four Nations Cup or in the World Championships,” said Dave Cameron, Head On-ice Instructor with JHD. “In Olympic years, they trim that roster down. So these women would be in that eligible spot to be called to different tournaments in non-Olympic years. Eventually, they’re the ones who are being looked at for the Olympics.”
Being named to the Team Canada roster is a big step, though only the most recent one. Many developmental steps have been taken in getting to this point for these four women, many of which have have been made at Bell MTS Iceplex. Just as it says on the Iceplex website, and in the Jets Hockey Development name, development is key.
“That’s the goal – to help players continue to develop,” noted Cameron. “On the female side we’ve seen players go from prep school teams, to university teams, to continuing to play professionally, to getting opportunities to play with the national program. For us, that’s why we do this.”
For Hockey Canada though, player development must be specific.
“What Team Canada looks for from these players is to be really detailed and specific in the training they’re getting,” said Cameron. “That can be really detailed skating work, detailed passing and pass reception, or shooting drills for the forwards. And then they want to have situations that lead into things that they’re going to see in games, so that when they get into games, they’re really comfortable with things.”
Having high-level coaches who know exactly what is being required of these players to reach the highest level is a huge advantage. It’s tough to beat the tailored practices designed to focus on the exact skills and drills they need to improve on, making it no wonder these women keep coming back to the Iceplex to train.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with Dave over a long period of my career and I really value his input on my game,” said Krzyzaniak, who has also coached with JHD on a part-time basis. “The coaches at the Iceplex are very good at customizing sessions based on your needs and what you want to add to your skillset, which I think is part of what makes them so effective. Another thing is the passion and energy that they bring to the game, which helps you get through some tough sessions.”
Campbell, who currently plays at the University of Wisconsin and led the team to a national championship this past spring, has been training at the Iceplex for five years with JHD’s Manager of Goalie Development Andy Kollar and speaks just as highly of her experience training at the venue.
“Andy has been amazing in working with me on my game,” said Campbell. “He has such a calming presence and I find his personality allows me to learn better and perform better. We talk a lot about the mental side of the game during our training sessions and he has helped elevate my mental game. We always stay in touch while I’m at college too. Working one-on-one with Andy has allowed me to make adjustments to my game and hone in on details that were separating me from reaching the next level.”
The players may have a lot of confidence in the JHD coaches, but that’s rivalled by the amount of confidence their coaches have in them.
“I feel like Kristen is the next Olympic goalie,” said Kollar. “I feel that strongly of her skillset. Her crease movements, stance, and knowledge are amazing. The best reference I can make is that people say when Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits a baseball, it’s a different sound off the bat because he hits so hard. When Kristen skates and when she pushes off in her crease, it’s just a different sound on the ice. It’s so powerful and explosive, yet balanced and controlled.”
For Cameron, he knows how hard each of these players have worked, and it’s their knowledge of the process that gives him confidence.
“These players are great examples of when you stick with it, you follow the plan, and you trust the people that you’re with, great things can happen.”
But there’s one attribute that is consistent across all of these women – hard work.
“Kids can learn from the fact that every time Kristen comes on the ice, she’s there to work,” said Kollar. “She makes me work harder and it sets a great example for everybody else.”
“These women really show a lot of our other players what hard work looks like, what dedication looks like, and what attention to detail and positive attitudes look like,” said Cameron. “When they come, they’re willing to work and to be open to getting better. There’s no arrogance or anything like that. That stands out to the high school players and younger college players who get to skate with them on occasion, it stands out to their parents, and it’s really noticeable when these players come out for training.”
Training for sports has never been so popular and for good reason. By increasing the strength, power, speed, and efficiency with which our body moves we can effectively make ourselves better athletes.
That’s the good.
The bad is that people see this as an opportunity to make money and shamelessly push agendas that are not in the best interest of the athlete, but rather in the best interest of their bottom line. The fundamentals of strength and conditioning are not overly complicated. There is no magic program, magic exercises, short cuts or secret science. It is consistent, hard work every time; that’s it. If someone is trying to sell you a particular type of training that excludes other training modalities it is for their best interest, not yours. I remember taking a kettlebell certification course years ago. The whole weekend centered on trying to convince you that the only thing you needed in your whole gym was kettlebells and to basically throw everything else out. Can you imagine having a training facility where you train high-level and developmental athletes from a variety of sports and only give them one single type of training tool?
I get it; everyone has their own agenda and everyone is trying to make a living in the business. But as an athlete, these influences can get you in a training trap. They stifle learning and progress. In any sport, the best performers are the best athletes. To be a great athlete you need multiple techniques, disciplines and training stimuli. Tracking too many numbers can be another trap. Sets, reps, weight, distance, time are all very effective ways to track progress. Anything outside of this can be overkill. Make sure the data you use makes sense to you and is useable by you.
Remember the science doesn’t dictate how we perform; our effort and how we perform is what creates the science. Too much information can be a distraction. Focus on basic numbers for your feedback and you will be successful. Get in a good gym with a positive culture and atmosphere. Use a variety of simple, effective training techniques to help become the best athlete you can be. Keep it simple. Keep it consistent. Avoid traps and keep moving forward.
Until next time, Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
As we wrap up the summer development program and training camps are upon us our Jets Hockey Development team looks forward to getting back on the ice with teams and minor hockey association to improve the overall skill level of players. It will be a busy season for our professional coaches who are looking forward to working with the following teams,
AAA U15 Monarchs, Sharks, Warriors, Hawks
AAA U14 Monarchs, Sharks, Warriors, Hawks
AAA U17 Bruins, Thrashers, Wild
St Paul’s High School
Sturgeon Heights High School
Kelvin High School
U14 AA Wild Ringette
U16 AA Wild Ringette
Churchill Skills Academy
St James-Assiniboia Minor Hockey
Off the ice, we also have strength and conditioning team training available at Focus Fitness and Boardroom sessions with our professional coaches team.
Our Team Training sessions are a combination of team-building exercises along with strength and conditioning programs to help your team not only perform at their highest level but also build a cohesive team unit at the same time. Teams can book a team training session by contacting AJ Zeglen, Manager of High Performance Training at Focus Fitness.
Boardroom sessions allow teams to learn from our coaches in a formal learning environment in our conference room through video and group discussion. The more players learn and understand the game, the better they will be able to make decisions on the ice. During these sessions, all players will be engaged through answering questions, and recognition of situations using National Hockey League video clips. For more information and topics, visit www.bellmtsiceplex.ca/jhd-programs/boardroom-sessions/
At Jets Hockey Development we can elevate your game.
For Jets Hockey Development’s newest coach Venla Hovi, the growth process has always been a big part of her hockey career.
Growing up in Tampere, Finland, outdoor ice was her main field of play and boys were her main competition. Hovi has seen nothing but growth since then, as she climbed her way to the top of women’s hockey by gathering several medals for Team Finland in numerous Olympic Games and World Championships, along with a USports national championship while playing for the University of Manitoba Bisons and a Canadian Women’s Hockey League title with Calgary Inferno. But it’s been the process that has been most rewarding for Hovi.
“My highlight from my career is just the overall progress and the journey of growing as a person and getting to know myself more as an athlete,” said Hovi while reflecting on her hockey career.
Despite retiring from playing competitive hockey, that growth is not about to stop for Hovi. Taking on a coaching role with the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at the Bell MTS Iceplex is just the next stage of growth for her, even if she didn’t foresee it being her next career path.
“I coached at some camps and helped out at volunteer events in Finland when I played there,” said Hovi. “When I moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba, I got the chance to start coaching on the side. It was just easy to work around my hockey and school schedule so I started to get into it more. Even then I never really thought that this was going to be my possible career path. I just did it because I wanted to learn more and I enjoyed it.
“When I graduated and played in Calgary and started to look for jobs after retirement, I looked for jobs in different fields. Coaching was just one option, and I got the most opportunities there so I wanted to grab on to the chance.”
That chance resulted in Hovi joining JHD. Just a few weeks into her position, she’s looking forward to not only developing young hockey players but doing some development of her own.
“The learning process is important, and I want to get more comfortable on the ice,” Hovi noted.
It may sound odd for a hockey player with the experience that Hovi has to talk about “getting comfortable on the ice”, but she explained that playing hockey and coaching hockey are very different concepts.
“Coaching is really challenging and I love that. It’s something new, something fresh. It’s definitely a different perspective, and you really need to get to know your players. It’s not about yourself, it’s about other people. I think there is still a lot for me to figure out because I’m at the start of my career, but I love the challenge and seeing the kids have fun on the ice.”
Though the switch to coaching will bring changes and challenges in her life, there are aspects to being on the JHD team that have made Hovi feel right at home.
“My life, in a way, is still the same. I’m still always at the rink, I still have my stall in the dressing room even though it’s just for coaches. It’s like a little team we have there.”
Hovi will no doubt grow quickly in her role, and the JHD team certainly has plenty of experience for her to learn from. But the JHD team will also be learning from Hovi, and will be growing with her on board as she joins JHD as its first full-time female coach. Hovi knows that having both male and female coaches will make JHD programs even better, and not just because it may attract more girls to hockey.
“I really love it when there are more female coaches,” Hovi said. “Obviously we want to encourage girls to play, but I think the strength of our program is having the opportunity to have guys coaching girls, and myself coaching guys and the mix that we have. I think boys and girls can both learn a lot from each other.”
This June, walking through the hallway of the Bell MTS Iceplex during Winnipeg Jets Development Camp, I was reminded about how important the Hockey Canada experience is for players. In between sessions with the Jets, a former player from my first year with Team Canada (Team Black), now drafted by the Jets, came and struck up a conversation saying how much he loved the U17 camp and how important that time was for his development as a player.
Each year I have been invited to work with Hockey Canada’s U17 Development Program, there have been different goals and challenges that come up. This year’s camp, which ran from July 19-26, was challenging physically and mentally as players and coaches worked through seven days of practice, meetings, games, and testing to help players learn about doing things the “Canadian Way”.
We had an incredibly talented group of players from across Canada who quickly bonded over team-building exercises, grueling practices, and demanding days. It is hard to imagine that only one week earlier, most of these players had never met each other. To me, that is one of the best parts of the game of hockey. No matter where players are from, or what language they speak, players can bond over their love for the game.
Our job as coaches was to get to know players as quick as possible to help them work on deficiencies and learn more about playing at the highest level. The toughest part was our staff (consisting of a Director of Operations, Head Coach, two Assistant Coaches, four Camp Coaches, two Skills Coaches, Video Coach, Mental Performance Coach, three Therapists, and three Equipment Managers) had never worked together before. Communication started weeks before the event to try to get to know the coaching staff and illustrate my role to learn more about the coach’s vision and direction they wanted to take the team. Everything I plan as a skills coach is based on the coach’s direction and how he wants his team to play. Skill topics I teach are all carefully discussed to make sure that everything ties back into our team culture and team identity. Working together as a staff to make sure the kids have a great week is a huge part of the camp. Each night after the players went to sleep, the coaches carefully laid out themes for upcoming days to make sure the execution of practice was done to the highest standards.
Players learned new skills, new concepts, and talked about the game at a higher level than they had seen before. As coaches, we try to expose the players to the next level ofthe game so they can take these concepts back home with them to continue to work on through next season. Many of the players will play at the CHL level next season against bigger, stronger, and faster competition. They will face adversity that they may not be used to, and it is important that they can look back on situations like this week and continue to build confidence moving forward.
I am very fortunate to work with these players each summer to help in their development. These 112 players from across Canada come into camp as very good players. The constant message I try to help them learn is that they are very good players, but you have to get better. I try to remind them that attitude is everything at this age and every time they are on the ice, they must get better. I am already looking forward to November to see where our final team lands against the best competition in the world.