The goal of the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team has always been to provide professional hockey development for players of all ages and skill levels. That’s something they regularly do at hockey for all centre, but they don’t let geography stop them from growing their impact on players.
They regularly host players for training at the facility from around Manitoba, and even do satellite sessions away from hockey for all centre. But from Dec. 1-4, the JHD team traveled the farthest they’ve ever gone for training sessions by flying up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
They didn’t go alone though. The JHD coaches were part of a contingency that also included employees of the Project 11 mental wellness program who visited Rankin Inlet schools to share their message and lessons around mental health, and brought those lessons to the rink as well.
It wasn’t the first interaction JHD has had with players from the Nunavut town located more than 1,400 kilometres north of their home base in Winnipeg. Teams from Rankin Inlet have for several years been attending the Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup hosted at hockey for all centre over the holiday season, and players from the town have made trips down to Winnipeg in the summer to train with JHD for a week.
But this was a whole new experience.
“We were on the ice from early morning until late at night to work with as many kids as possible,” said Dean Court, Business & Amateur Hockey Development & Manager of Team Programs with JHD. “The people brought us breakfast and lunch and accommodated us with room and board. They were so gracious to us and showed so much gratitude to us for being there to work with the kids.”
David Clark, the recreational manager in Rankin Inlet who helped organize the weekend sessions with JHD, could feel the excitement around the town as well.
“The whole community gets excited about something like this,” Clark noted. “JHD had been looking to come up for four days and offer a ton of on-ice sessions with lots of kids. We had 200 kids altogether, and I’m just thrilled not only for our hockey association but our community and look forward to building this partnership for many years to come.”
The time on the ice wasn’t wasted either. The JHD team had the players running plenty of drills, including the goalies as JHD’s Manager of Goalie Development Andy Kollar was along on the trip.
But the sessions weren’t just designed for the players. It was important to the JHD team to have the local coaches involved too. That included having the coaches participate in the on-ice sessions and hear a presentation from the JHD coaches, as well as having Project 11 employees share the importance of being willing to listen to your athletes and how that can have a positive impact on and off the ice.
“When we have our team go out there, we have a plan in place,” said Court. “It’s age appropriate and already structured for the development of those players. We also did coach mentorship where we met with the coaches and did a presentation. We don’t just leave after all of that though. We partner with these coaches and work with them continually on the development of their players.”
That element is perhaps one of the most important for JHD. Their coaches can’t be there all the time, so it’s important to give high-quality hockey training knowledge to the local coaches who work with the players regularly.
Overall, it was a worthwhile weekend that left everybody excited to do more.
“It gives us another way to learn and grow,” said Clark of the connection with the JHD coaches. “We’re hoping to just see the relationship develop. Having that open line of communication and the support is huge for our volunteer coaches who are just trying to do their best for our players.”