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.