Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 2020 Tim Hortons Coaches Open House offered by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Usually, these open house sessions are held at Scotiabank Arena and involve sessions that take place within the actual arena bowl on the lower level. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, MLSE opted to host this year’s sessions virtually. Leafs In-Game Host, Danielle Emanuele, hosted the event live from inside Scotiabank Arena.
The Toronto Maple Leafs organization’s goal is to grow the game of hockey by inspiring and bringing new and exciting opportunities to the community. They do this through various programs catered to children, parents, coaches, and fans; one being the Tim Hortons Toronto Maple Leafs Coaches Open House. They understand the importance of hockey and how it has and continues to shape people on and off the ice. They also understand the commitments made by coaches themselves. Coaches who have the ability to impact a child’s life forever. Coaches who help grow the game and are committed to their teams, the community, and Canada’s favorite sport.
So let me take you through Day 1 of the 2-day virtual session!
A CONVERSATION WITH THE GM
Ron MacLean gave a nice intro to the program welcoming all the guests in attendance to his office at home. We got to sit down with him while he conducted an interview with Leafs GM, Kyle Dubas who joined in from his own home. Kyle discussed the important of coaching, his inspiration growing up, and what it means to him to have a solid coaching system within the organization. Kyle credits his grandfather, Walter, who was head coach of the Soo Greyhounds in 1964-65 – the second coach in team history. He would remain head coach of the Hounds through to the 1968-69 season. In his tenure, he led them to three consecutive championships between 1967 and 1969. Walter was Kyle’s inspiration to putting together the right coaching staff based on fundamentals and values. Kyle also went on to discuss his lifelong ties to the Soo. From being a stick boy and dressing attendant at the age of 11 to being named the GM from 2011 to 2014. He also touched base on some of the Leafs off-season moves, the failed expectations since he became GM in 2018, and the plans moving forward in building a championship team. Last week, Kyle Dubas turned 35, and is currently the youngest active GM in the NHL. Happy belated Birthday Kyle!
RINKSIDE REPORT + COACHING RESOURCES
After a short break, it was onto discussing some quick coaching techniques with Greg Schell, the Director of the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey School. Greg has been with the organization for over 20 years and is currently the Coordinate of Hockey Development. He’s been administering the hockey school for 8 years and is an elected member of the NHL’s Youth Development Advisory Board. He provided some quick development tips and tricks for kids to be able to do at home while away from the rinks. During the summer, MLSE offered complimentary skills and development videos over YouTube with a series called Camp at Home.
SIT DOWN WITH WENDEL CLARK
This was my favorite segment of Day 1. In game host, Scotty Willats, sat down with Leafs Alumnus, and my childhood favorite, Wendel Clark. The two discussed the importance of coaching and how important it is for coaches to ensure they make it a fun experience at the youth level. Everyone understands the importance of coaching from a young age. But a lot of pressure comes with kids when it comes to hockey and aspiring to make it to the NHL. Unfortunately, making it to the show is a lot harder than you’d imagine. In fact, a study conducted in 1991 by Jim Parcels, a former Peterborough Pete’s trainer, showed that out of 30,000 players studied, 48 were drafted by an NHL team, and 39 of those 48 actually signed contracts with a NHL team. Of those 39, 32 actually played in the NHL and only 15 of them played more than one full season. Finally, of that group of 15, only 6 played the minimum 400 games to qualify for the NHL Player Pension. This was 29 years ago, so you can imagine the competition today is so much more fierce and even with the addition of 7 teams to the NHL since, the chances are still very slim. As such, it is important for coaches to be realistic at the youth level to ensure the kids are learning the game and developing their skills while having fun – rather than trying to seek out the next Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, or Conor McDavid.
A MESSAGE FROM THE NHL COACHES ASSOCIATION
Next up, Lindsay Artkin, President of the NHLCA joined in to discuss the programs and primary objectives of the association. The NHLCA looks to help in the development of all hockey coaches from the youth level up to the highest levels of hockey. Together with the NHL coaches, they are committed to supporting coaches in their initiatives of guiding, motivating, and inspiring players of all ages. They offer a mentorship program, a female coaches development program, and a BIPOC program. Lindsay herself, is responsible for implementing the Association’s business strategy as well as developing and executing all marketing and communications initiatives.
COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS | RACE + EQUITY IN HOCKEY
The final segment on the day featured conversations with a three-person panel. First off, Jeff Scott, the VP of NHL Community Development & Growth. He has over 18 years of experience within sports and entertainment and has a passion for sports, philanthropy, and motivational speaking. He supports and creates the leagues mission and strategies which focus on changing the global conversation about hockey, making it the acknowledged standard for sports experiences that are inclusive, accessible, enjoyable, and community-friendly.
Olympic Medalist and PWHPA Athlete, Brigette Lacquette, joined in as well. She was selected to represent Canada’s National Women’s Silver-Medal winning team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea; making her the first First Nations athlete to play on Canada’s women’s Olympic hockey team. To honor her accomplishment, her stick was included in the diversity exhibit in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. Her success in hockey shows young Indigenous girls that they belong in sports, they can be successful in sports, and they too can achieve greatness. Brigette is a role model for the youth and has used her platform to visit schools and communities to speak about the determination and resilience that led her through her hockey career.
To conclude Day 1, former Toronto Argonauts linebacker, Orlando Bowen, MLSE Ambassador and Motivational Speaker was on to bring the day to a close. Orlando is the founder of One Voice One Team Youth Leadership Organization which inspires and teaches resilience, leadership, and teamwork to youth. He has been on hundreds of stages, in boardrooms, and in presentations across North and South America and has garnered numerous awards.