The annual Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup (WJCC) is always a special event for teams during the season to spend more time together and play in a tournament over the holidays. This is especially true for teams who travel to Winnipeg to participate. Traveling over 1,500 km to participate, Rankin Rock – Bantam A1 came to the Bell MTS Iceplex all the way from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
Being from an isolated community up north, each hockey season the team fundraises to travel and compete in one large tournament. This is a great opportunity for players to play against teams from different parts of the country and give players something to look forward to and work toward.
The location of the WJCC is perfect for the team, with the convenience of a direct flight from the Rankin Inlet Airport to the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, as well as being a great fit for players whose goal is to pursue hockey further and will likely find themselves in Manitoba to play at the next level.
Head Coach, David Clark had been to a few events in Winnipeg at the Bell MTS Iceplex including the annual Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Tournament and the knew that Manitoba has competitive hockey programs and teams to play against.
Coming into the tournament the players put in a lot of work to prepare but had realistic expectations.
The team won their opening game of the tournament 4-1 over the Winterhawks White and finished the round robin with confidence going 4-0. Rankin Rock continued their winning streak shutting out the Canucks in the semi-final.
The WJCC Championship Final on New Year’s Eve was a close match, tied scoreless throughout most of the game until Rankin scored with just under one minute to play in the third period and the win, 1-0. The WJCC Bantam A1 division proved to be the perfect level and event for the team who played in many close games and emerged as champions in this year’s tournament.
Hannah Siksik, parent and team manager shared the following thoughts on the team’s entire WJCC experience:
“The kids and parents were very excited to be able to participate in your event this year. Right from the start of the registration process through to the last game, the experience was so positive. The communication leading up to the event from your team was fantastic, and much appreciated, especially with our remote location, having details so well in advance that were clear and concise was very valuable for us in our planning.
Right from our arrival, our team felt very welcomed. The kids were grateful for the welcome bags, the warm reception from the officials and other teams in the tournament. The calibre of games was great and challenged our kids positively. The facility was outstanding, and for our kids to be able to play in a venue such as yours was an incredible experience, and one they will not forget.
Our kids look forward to the opportunity to come back to Winnipeg to play in this tournament again.”
WJCC tournament organizers were thrilled to have a team register all the way from Rankin Inlet and were excited to see the team play at the training facility of the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose.
As an added bonus, the team was rewarded for its tough competition with success on the scoreboard. As word spread throughout the Bell MTS Iceplex during the tournament there was a lot of encouragement from other players and fans cheering for the Rankin Rock team to succeed.
“As tournament organizers that’s the purpose, or home run – to facilitate and provide a great hockey experience for the kids from all over, always.” – Dean Court.
The Rankin Rock Bantam team hopes to attend the tournament once again next season to defend the title as well as Team Nunavut, with players from all over the territory, is also looking to come to Winnipeg to compete in other events held at Bell MTS Iceplex.
The atmosphere is much different when players walk into a rink on a practice day rather than a gameday. Players are understandably more excited to play in a game. On a game day, there are fans watching and cheering teams on and players get excited when they score a goal or make a great play that contributes to their team’s success. Conversely, at practice, the arena is often empty and players are left to create their own excitement. Players love the competition of games and the energy it brings, but the best players can bring that level of competition and energy to practice to really push their development.
By the numbers:
A regular NHL game is 60 minutes. The best defencemen play around 25 minutes per game and the high-level forwards get around 20-23 minutes a game. The average shift length for most players is around 45 – 55 seconds. In that time they are on the ice, studies have shown the actual amount of time that the players have the puck is very minimal. Hockey USA published a study at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics that showed the best players only had the puck for around 60 seconds in a game. Meaning they play the game without the puck, support the puck to get it back, make quick decisions when they have it and look to make positive plays to advance the puck and not turn it over.
In minor hockey, the game time is shorter and shift length is longer. Therefore, the actual amount of time a player is on the ice with effective ice time is much different. Due to the varying levels of skill and confidence, some players won’t touch the puck as much as other players. Players who are constantly throwing the puck away in a game are likely in a situation where they are panicking with the puck or don’t know where they should move or where their support is. This awareness is difficult to develop in games when players are under pressure and should be an area of focus during practice to allow players to learn before having to apply the skills.
Individual skills and concepts with the puck can be worked on and developed in practice to allow players to have more success in games. The best part of practice is that players can dedicate time on things they need to work on. In practice, players get more time with the puck and drills can be set up to allow players to work on receiving passes and supporting the puck.
Coaches can also design drills to teach timing and spacing and team systems such as offensive zone entries. Players can be free to learn, which means making mistakes and being corrected by coaches. Players should complete enough repetitions of a drill in practice in order to develop confidence in the skill or concept that is being worked on. The goal in practice should be to build enough confidence in each player’s individual skills, that the skills start to show up in games.
Shooting is an example of an individual skill that needs to be developed in practice, as many players will go through a single game without taking a shot on goal. Effective shooting practice can allow players to work on basics including mechanics, velocity, and accuracy, as well as build more advanced concepts like quick release shooting and shooting in stride. Players who have confidence in their shooting from practice will be the ones who shoot more in games.
As each player gets better in practice, the overall level of the team goes up in games!
Practice should be a time where players come to the rink with one goal in mind: to get better. This is where they can address the skills and concepts they need to work on and learn about game situations before those situations actually happen in games. Coaches have the opportunity to spend more time talking to players and providing feedback without the pressure of the game and players will be excited and energized when they see their own development taking place. And that’s the best part of my job as a skills coach; hearing about a player’s success from using a skill in a game that we spent time on in practice.
Originally published in Game On Magazine, Year 7/Edition 4
There are many benefits to strength training when it comes to athletics. The one that is probably the most celebrated in sport is the increase in performance. The development of more strength, speed, and power is usually the most recognizable benefit of getting into the gym and lifting weights. But if an athlete can’t stay healthy and is always out of the lineup, does it really matter how fast or powerful he/she is?
With the second half of the regular season upon us and playoffs approaching, it is vital that teams have all their players in the lineup if they are hoping for a deep run. It is no coincidence that over the last nine years, the Stanley Cup has been won on seven occasions by a team that has been in the top two in the NHL in the statistical category of fewest man-games lost due to injury. The only team to break that trend was the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016 and 2017). So, I guess when you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on your team you can find ways to beat the odds.
For the rest of us, the question is how do you keep yourself healthy in order to stay in the lineup and play your best hockey when it really counts? Easy answer: you strength train.
Strength training is the most proactive thing we can do to reduce injury. Most other treatment modalities are reactive, meaning they are used once an injury has already occurred. This helps reduce man games lost by getting players back onto the ice as soon as possible, which is very important. However, not being out of the lineup in the first place is even better.
In a physical game like hockey, some injuries are inevitable. But many injuries can be greatly reduced through consistent strength training. Hockey is a high-frequency sport, meaning players are on the ice a lot and there is plenty of repetition. This causes muscular imbalances and leads to movement restrictions that in turn put an athlete in a position where they are more likely to sustain soft tissue injuries like muscle pulls and strains. Strength training corrects these muscular imbalances.
While there is no guarantee that stepping in front of a frozen puck to block a shot is not going to hurt, strength training is the number one thing we can do to increase bone density. This can mean the difference between a bruise or a fracture.
So, while we all want to be bigger, stronger, and faster, a case can be made that the biggest advantage of strength training during the season is that it will simply help to keep you on the ice doing what you do best – playing hockey.
Until next time,
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
Originally published in Game On Magazine, Year 7/Edition 4
High level performers in the world of female hockey are no strangers to the Jets Hockey Development programs at Bell MTS Iceplex.
While JHD has the expertise to coach players of all ages and skill levels of hockey development, from learn to skate to adult, recreational, and the most elite levels of professional hockey, the JHD programs tailored to young female athletes continue to grow.
Following season’s end, and hopefully a few weeks off to rest and recover, players are ready to get back into the gym, and onto the ice with JHD’s Female College Summer Program in July and August. The program is specifically structured to have the players on the ice three times per week, in preparation for NCAA and other university sports leagues’ training camps.
Throughout the summer, the JHD team focuses on developing players’ individual skills to continually improve each time they step on the ice.
Kati Tabin is one such player who has trained with JHD’s professional coaches for many years and who continues to return to JHD to enhance her game.
JHD Head On Ice Instructor & Program Manager Dave Cameron has been working with Tabin since she was in Grade 8. Tabin then began complementing her on-ice work with off-ice high performance training at Focus Fitness while in high school as a defender with the Balmoral Hall Blazers.
She has always been an outstanding player, but it’s been her off-ice dedication that has made her an NCAA Division 1 leader and a member of Canada’s National Women’s Program.
Kati’s mom and dad, Heather and Darcy, got her on the ice early and she learned to skate at age four in Oak Bluff. She moved to Transcona in Grade 7 and played Stars A1 and Saints Double A and then enrolled at Balmoral Hall and played one year on the high school team before making Coach Gerry Wilson’s Blazers prep team in Grade 10.
Both her dad and her brother, Zac, were hockey players and she picked up the game quite naturally. She was a member of the JWHL All-Star Team and played in the JWHL All-Star game in 2014 in Washington, D.C. She was also part of Hockey Manitoba’s Program of Excellence and has long been a part of the Focus Fitness group at the BellMTS Iceplex.
Her work ethic and commitment to learning gave her the edge needed to sign and play with the Bobcats female hockey team at Quinnipiac University (ECAC) in Hamden, Connecticut, where she has just begun her fourth year.
“The most important part of my off-season training is just in general getting better,” said Tabin. “Getting faster, getting stronger, and getting more explosive are all so important.”
She emphasised that her nutrition also plays a big role.
“AJ Zeglen (Manager, High Performance Training at Focus Fitness) knows just about everything you need to know about fitness and nutrition, and I am so lucky I had him as a trainer over the past couple of years,” she said.
When Tabin returns to Winnipeg she continues to train in the gym at Focus Fitness and gets on the ice to skate with Cameron and the rest of the JHD team.
“When I come home I want to maintain what I’ve gained out at Quinnipiac and there is no better place to do that than at JHD. The skates are always so beneficial, I find that I learn something new every single skate that helps me become more efficient and effective on the ice.”
Last season was Tabin’s sophomore year, and her best with the Bobcats. She finished the year with 14 points in 36 games and had the second-best record on defence with 47 blocked shots.
Others are taking notice of Tabin’s game, as she has received invitations to play in elite events such as the Team Canada Fall Festival, hosted in Dawson Creek, BC in September, and Canada’s National Development Team Camp in Calgary in August, where she was also appointed to the Select Team.
Although in her final year at Quinnipiac, Tabin hopes to keep playing as long as she can and will continue to further her training with the goal of staying in North America to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League or travelling overseas to play professionally.
While her own drive and determination have been key, Tabin also credits JHD for the opportunities that continue to present themselves.
“In my opinion, JHD is one of the best programs in Winnipeg,” Tabin said. “The staff at Focus Fitness are well-educated and very welcoming. As for the on-ice part, the staff that help Dave are awesome. And Dave is truly the best. He has taught me so many valuable hockey skills. I truly wouldn’t be the hockey player I am today without his help.”
Female players can elevate their game through a variety of skill and age appropriate programs throughout the spring and summer months with Dave Cameron and Lee Stubbs, the JHD Head On-Ice Skills Instructors.
For more information or to register, visit bellmtsiceplex.ca.
JHD Female players to watch this season:
Logan Angers, Quinnipiac
Tess Bracken, Dartmouth
Kerigan Dowhy, Bemidji State
Mariah Gardner, Minnesota State
Kate MacKenzie, Quinnipiac
Meike Meilleur, Penn State
Erica Sandilands, Manhattanville
Kati Tabin, Quinnipiac
KK Thiessen, Mercyhurst
Brooke Anderson, York
Chelsea Court, Calgary
Shyan Elias, Saskatchewan
Kelsey McHolm, York
Holly Reuther, Calgary
Allison Sexton, Manitoba
Photos courtesy Hockey Canada and Rob Rasmussen/Quinnipiac University
The holiday hockey tournament has now become a permanent part of our Canadian holiday tradition, woven into our fabric, no different than opening presents or sharing family dinners. While these tournaments draw great teams to come together and compete for a trophy, it’s easy to get caught up and forget how truly fortunate we are to have the ability to have the great game of hockey in our lives.
Although we should try to keep perspective throughout the entire year, the holiday season always seems like a gentle nudge to pay particular attention to what’s important. We have the liberties and freedoms in this country that allow us to spend large parts of our lives devoted to playing games. We get to do this with the people we love: teammates, friends and family. The game will teach us many great lessons such as hard work, determination, team work, resiliency and commitment. But most of all it should teach us how to be thankful. Thankful for the experiences, the opportunities and the memories.
To all the teams, players and fans who have the opportunity to spend this holiday season being part of something they truly love, Happy Holidays from our Focus Fitness family to yours. Win or lose, make sure to take a second to appreciate just how lucky we are to have each other and to have the game.