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Andy Kollar cultivating goaltender excellence at the Ice Lab

A small room filled with hockey memorabilia serves as the headquarters for Andy Kollar, the maestro behind goaltender development at hockey for all centre’s Ice Lab.
Kollar points to a picture on the wall of him clad in North Dakota goalie gear.

“That one is me,” he says.

The photo takes him back to his four years as starting goalie in NCAA Division 1 hockey with the University of North Dakota, where his team won a National Championship in 2000 and was runner-up in 2001. After a couple of years playing in the UHL, ECHL and WHA2, Kollar returned to his hometown for a job that kept him close to the sport. Since 2014 year, he’s been leading the charge of developing the next generation of goaltenders at hockey for all centre.

“Growing up, I was either playing or coaching hockey, so when I was offered the position at hockey for all centre it was a no brainer of me.”

Just outside Kollar’s office, a specialized ice surface equipped with five goalie creases provides a versatile learning environment for trainees.

“I like to start all my goalie training with creating a beneficial stance because I believe the stance serves as the foundation for all aspects of goaltending, including movement and recovery,” explains Kollar.

“Everybody’s body functions differently; it’s my job to cater my training to each person to make sure they have the most effective stance.”

Goalies of all ages and skill levels can benefit from the personalized attention and detail of the Ice Lab’s private training sessions – which can be booked individually or in packages of five or ten. In addition, more intensive multi-day camps, like the ones offered each July, also incorporate tailored dryland training at hockey for all centre’s gym, Focus Fitness.

“I train people of all walks of life, from those who want to improve for their beer league game to eight-year-olds starting off and teenagers of all levels.”

Kollar delivers personalized feedback, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and extends his ear and his advice to players who want to discuss their challenges and triumphs.

“I have a goalie who told me they wanted to play college hockey, but later on I found out he was failing math. So, I told him he had to focus more on school until he got his grades up.”

His parents were very encouraging and got him a tutor and Kollar helped stress the importance of school coming first and wanting all his players to not only achieve success in hockey, but in life.

“He worked hard and got his grades up and graduated high school and now he is playing hockey for a D1 school with close to a 4.0. Those are the moments that I am really proud of when I coach.”

While humbly acknowledging he may not be an expert in mental health, Kollar knows the pressures that come with being a netminder and remains committed to creating a safe space for his players.

“I believe it’s important to keep an open dialogue with my players if they want to discuss a game they feel went badly or if they are failing a class,” I want them to know someone cares because when I played hockey it wasn’t something people talked about.”

“When you are in your crease, mentally you’re so isolated from the team it feels like you are alone when you let in a goal or mess up, but I want to make sure players don’t feel like they are alone.”

Registration is open now for spring and summer sessions – view a complete list of Ice Lab goalie lessons, please visit hockeyforallcentre.com.

Jets Hockey Development elevating players at every skill level

As the current season progresses and the excitement of on-ice action intensifies, the team at Jets Hockey Development (JHD) is already gearing up for spring and summer programs, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to guide players toward their next level of success both on and off the ice.

“Through our spring and summer programs, we aim to equip players with the essential skills and strategies needed to elevate their game,” said Dave Cameron, JHD’s Head On Ice Instructor & Program Manager. “Our focus on individual development ensures that each player receives tailored guidance, creating a pathway for them to excel and reach new heights in their hockey journey.”

JHD is committed to providing year-round support to players, teams, and coaches to ensure continuous improvement, not only through the regular season, but throughout the spring and summer as well. This year, JHD will introduce in-person video coaching sessions, offering players valuable feedback to enhance their understanding and proficiency in tactics, technique and movement.

“We continually aim to improve our offerings here at hockey for all centre, and every year, we evolve our JHD programming to best fit next year’s upcoming talent,” said Cameron.

JHD’s spring and summer programming caters to all ages and focuses, from forward, defence and goalie specific sessions to faceoffs and checking, and power skating and puck skills. In spring, the focus is on skill development, while the summer sessions prepare players for upcoming season tryouts emphasizing the fundamentals of offence and defence, puck control, edge work, positional play and real-game scenarios. JHD sessions are designed to foster player confidence during practice which can then be seamlessly applied during a game.

“I’m a big believer that any player can grow their skills and confidence with us,” he said. “And we can be as creative as possible to put programs together for a variety of age groups, from young beginners to older players who want to learn the game,” he said.

In anticipation of spring registration opening in late December, Cameron encourages players to embrace a forward-thinking approach. “Even as you immerse yourself in the present season, it’s never too early to set your sights on the next level. Envision your goals and focus on your development.”

For a complete list of spring and summer programs, visit hockeyforallcentre.com or email jhd@tnse.com.

Master of your fate, captain of your soul

I love hockey. I love everything about it. I love the skill, the toughness, the teamwork, and the heart. I love how, as Canadians, hockey is in our blood, and people around the world think of Canada synonymously with the game. I take great pride in and am very appreciative of working in such a great game. I love it.

One thing I do not love though, is the growing belief and culture that you have to pay to be great. Is there a monetary commitment to hockey that is on average higher than most other sports? Yes. Does this mean you have to remortgage your house to be the best? No. If you are a player who has aspirations of playing hockey at the next level, whatever that next level might be — AA, AAA, high school, junior, college, or pro — there will be a cost. You will pay for it in blood, sweat, commitment, and effort. If you do that, they will find you. I promise you.

The game of hockey has never been as globally accessible as it is now. There are cameras in almost every rink. I work with scouts and player development personnel who will tell you that if you are good, they will find you no matter where you are. If you do not have the financial means to go to the most expensive academy or train at the fanciest facility, do not worry. I promise you, those opportunities do not define success. There are lots of affordable resources out there to help you improve. Block out all the noise. Do not worry about where this person goes or what program or team other people are on. Focus strictly on what is under your control. The main thing being your own effort. Your effort is always 100 percent under your control at all times. It directly affects everything you do: training, eating, sleeping, preparation, practices, games — everything. Always give your best. Your best may look different from day to day, but whatever you have that day, give it. Your effort is the ultimate equalizer in the equation to being successful. If your financial situation does not afford you certain opportunities, eliminate the deficit by working as hard as you can every single chance you get.

At the end of the day, your effort is going to be a greater predictor of your success than anything else. If you are an athlete reading this right now and worried about the culture of “keeping up with the Joneses”, rip this article out and hang it on your wall as a reminder that all of that is just noise. Block it out by focusing on yourself. Do not let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. They are only speaking from their experience. Their experience is not your experience. Create your own. Like the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley states, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

 

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen

Ball Hockey For All

How the Winnipeg Jets are using ball hockey to engage various cultures in the sport

Chances are you will feel more welcome doing something or going somewhere new if you are shown that you are welcome. That’s the approach the Winnipeg Jets take in showing that the sport of hockey is for everyone – including cultures that have traditionally not been associated with the sport.

This has taken shape through special games over the past several seasons, starting with WASAC (Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre) Night in 2019, and now including Filipino Heritage Night and South Asian Heritage Night which started this past season. These games serve to show that all are welcome in hockey by celebrating what makes each of those specific cultures unique, including music, dance and food, and even by incorporating cultural art and symbolism in specially designed Jets logos.

While those elements are important in creating a welcoming space for various cultures, the efforts can’t stop with recognition at a hockey game one night a year – and they haven’t for the Winnipeg Jets and the larger True North organization. The team has engaged with Manitoba’s Indigenous community in a variety of ways, like hosting youth from northern and remote Indigenous communities during their WASAC and Follow Your Dreams weekend each year, visiting and collaborating with Indigenous owned and operated restaurant Feast, collaborating with the First Nations Family Advocate Office for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation programming, and more. This summer, the Jets are looking to build similar relationships within Manitoba’s Filipino and South Asian communities through ball hockey.

“If we want people to engage in hockey, we need to make it accessible to them,” said Ali Dewji, True North’s Coordinator of Multicultural Initiatives, who has been planning the ball hockey events. “For something to be accessible, you need to remove as many barriers as possible, which we’re trying to do with our ball hockey initiative.”

Those wanting to participate in the ball hockey events really just have to bring themselves. The Jets create the playing surface and bring all the equipment, from nets, to sticks and balls, and even t-shirt jerseys for participants.

Perhaps the most important barrier they’re eliminating is the need to be able to skate. With no ice, if a participant can run, they can play ball hockey.

The first ball hockey initiative the Jets put on was at the end of June as part of the Filipino Street Festival – Manitoba’s largest gathering of the Filipino community (though all are welcome of course). The festival, which returned in 2023 for the first time since the pandemic, has always included a parade and plenty of Filipino culture through musical and dance performances, along with lots of great food.

The addition of ball hockey was new for organizers.

“Basketball is the number one sport in the Philippines, and there aren’t really a lot of hockey rinks in the country, except for in one big mall,” said Ley Navarro, Filipino Street Festival Chairman.

But for Filipinos in Canada, the sport is becoming more and more popular thanks to how much Canada loves the game.

“The Filipino community is excited to have the Winnipeg Jets engaging with them,” said Navarro, speaking on both the ball hockey efforts and Filipino Heritage Night. “Hockey is so popular in Canada, and many in our community want to watch hockey. Traditionally, though, few have played. We see this as an opportunity to encourage young people to take up the game.”

And while hockey is an important focus for the Jets, it’s also an avenue to much greater goals.

“At first, it may just look like we’re teaching kids to play hockey, but what we’re really looking to do is promote inclusivity, diversity, and cultural understanding both within the sport and in our society in general,” noted Dewji. “Manitoba is a place that people of many cultures call home, and though we may each be different in our own way, we have plenty in common that is worth celebrating. A sport like hockey and some fun competition are great ways to break down those barriers.”

Bringing ball hockey to the Filipino Street Festival was just the start. The Jets ball hockey set-up will also be featured at the Treaty One 2023 Anishinaabe Days at Naawi-Oodena (formerly Kapyong Barracks) July 29 and 30, and at the Punjabi Community Health Services Manitoba Friends and Family event in late August.

Filipino Heritage Night, South Asian Heritage Night, and WASAC Night all return for the 2023-24 Winnipeg Jets season, among many other great promotional nights. Check out the full schedule of Jets promo games at WinnipegJets.com/PROMOS, and purchase your tickets now with Full, Half, or Quarter Season Ticket Memberships at Winnipeg Jets.com/TICKETS.

The Tryout before Tryouts

JHD Prep Camps give players the best chance to make their teams

The importance of a high-quality hockey camp to prepare players for their coming season isn’t lost on Jets Hockey Development (JHD) Head On-Ice Coaches Devin Himpe and Brett Wur. Both grew up outside of Winnipeg and wish they had access to the type of programming that JHD offers now.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so passionate about not only the skill development available through their JHD Prep Camps, but also about making their camps accessible to as many hockey players as they can by hosting camps at Gateway Community Centre and Selkirk Recreation Complex.

“Growing up in Selkirk, there weren’t a lot of options for hockey development camps in the town,” said Wur. “You would have to go to Winnipeg for that kind of camp. To be able to offer some skill instruction and help players move forward in their hockey careers from that area is special. And it’s not just kids from Selkirk who come – we get kids from Arborg, Riverton and other small towns where they normally don’t get the opportunity to have this kind of development.”

The same happens at Gateway, where players from the northern part of the city get an opportunity to interact with the JHD coaches, whereas they might not normally be able to make the trip to hockey for all centre.

Hockey players don’t just attend a skills camp simply because it’s close to them, though. There must be quality instruction that makes improvements in their game, and they have to enjoy it. JHD coaches are pros at making sure both happen for athletes in their camps by focusing on individual skills, but making sure players have the chance to apply those skills in game-like scenarios.

“When I was growing up, a lot of camps would be deemed a ‘power skating camp’ where all you’d do is skate for 60 minutes straight,” noted Himpe. “That’s good in that it gets your legs going and your lungs back in shape, but with our JHD programming, we try to get a puck on the athletes’ sticks as much as possible. We do power skating of course, but we don’t just skate for the whole session. We put players into game applications as quickly as we can so they get to work on the skills we’re teaching in a game situation.”

JHD’s Prep Camps at Gateway and Selkirk are similar in their goal of preparing players for their coming fall tryouts, but are structured slightly differently.

The camps at Gateway – running from Aug. 21 to 25 and Aug. 28 to Sept. – are for players ranging from U9 to U15 and each camp will feature two hour-long on-ice sessions per day. The first week will be a high-performance camp with the first session focused on power skating and puck skills and the second session putting those skills to the test in game situations. The second week will be more of a prep camp with focus on individual skills in both sessions.

Meanwhile, JHD will be running one week of sessions in Selkirk from Aug. 28 to 31 for U11 through U18 players including goalies. Those camps will include only one session per day, but like the Gateway programming, skating and puck skills and translating those skills to game situations will be the focus.

“Having sessions that focus on skating and puck skills is really valuable,” said Wur. “Skating fast is really important in the game today, but if you can’t handle the puck, it’s all for naught. Our programs build on themselves where the skating skills players learn is incorporated into the puck skills they learn. That correlation starts sinking in for players, and you can start to see them recognize that if they get to a certain spot on the ice, they have all these different options that they’ve learned through these camps.”

“This is a great opportunity for players to get back on the ice right before tryouts and get some exposure to some tempo again,” said Dave Cameron, Head On-Ice Instructor & Program Manager at JHD. “We’ve got a long list of players who are working in private sessions throughout the summer, but these are good camps for them to get back on the ice with other players and have competition again.”

Beyond just getting back to game pace, the camps provide young players a sort of “tryout before tryouts” giving athletes a place to finetune their skills without the fear of making a mistake, all the while building confidence for when it matters most.

“When kids get to camp, they don’t want to screw up. They’ll get maybe a few chances to show a skill, and if they don’t do well on one or two of them, then all of a sudden the pressure’s on and they might feel they didn’t get to display all the skill they have. When athletes work with JHD, they’re able to make a mistake, and that’s where we give them that confidence to make the mistakes and get better.”

Sign up now for JHD Prep Camps at Gateway Community Centre and Selkirk Recreation Complex by visiting hockeyforallcentre.com/JetsHockeyDevelopment.