Seemingly every hockey-loving Canadian kid dreams of making the NHL someday. Such an accomplishment doesn’t just happen, of course. You must work your way up from one level to the next until you finally reach that pinnacle, meaning that while those players keep that pro hockey goal in mind throughout their journey, they’re also working toward just making it to the next level.
That’s particularly true of players seeking to make it to the Junior level, and it’s the goal of the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at hockey for all centre to help as many players as possible make that jump through their Junior Prospects Program.
“The program is important because it starts to put like-minded players together who are all chasing the same goals,” said JHD’s Head On-Ice Instructor & Program Manager Dave Cameron of the Junior Prospects Program. “That’s a strong motivating factor when we look at it from a coaching perspective. There are no headaches, there are no questions – they’re all just trying to get to the Junior level. We know exactly where we want to start, and where we want to finish.”
Making the Junior level takes a lot of time and effort, and players hoping to make the jump really need to want it. Cameron doesn’t hesitate to make that clear to all the athletes who train with them in the Junior Prospects Program, as he did last summer for defenceman Sully Ross.
“During the camp, Dave challenged me by asking if I wanted to play Junior A or if I wanted to stick in AAA,” recalled Ross. “I came back the next skate and told him I would like to be a Junior player, and he said, ‘Would you like to be a Junior player, or do you want to be a Junior player?’ That really opened my eyes to wanting to be a Junior player. Ever since then, our connection and the way he pushes me has been brought up to a new level.”
The challenge worked, as Ross went on to play for the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) for the 2021-22 season, where he plans to return for the upcoming season as well.
There was, of course, much more than just ‘wanting’ to be a Junior player involved in taking that step. But the hard work started with that drive and desire and is what fuelled Ross to improve his game to the Junior level.
With JHD’s strong emphasis on individual skill development, Ross noted key developments in his game in perhaps the most important skill in today’s game – skating. For him, the way the coaches teach the skating fundamentals helped him keep up with the speedy Junior pace.
“It definitely helped with how they break down their skills into forward strides, the technique in your stride, and your turning and backwards skating. They push you to become better and give you feedback and teach you along the way as you’re learning new skills. That really helped bring everything into game situations and bringing it up to game speed.”
Even with a strong desire to make that big step to Junior hockey, Cameron notes that it’s common to have players participate in the Junior Prospects Program for more than one summer. That’s not to say some players haven’t been able to make the jump after one run of the program.
One such player is Carson Buydens, who starred for the Virden Oil Capitals of the MJHL in 2021-22. Though he was able to crack the team’s lineup, he still certainly found some challenges with the junior game.
“Everyone is bigger and stronger in junior,” noted Buydens. “You’re suddenly playing against 19 and 20-year-olds, so just working on things like puck protection and getting stronger on the ice is important. The Junior Prospects Program helped me gain confidence in those areas.”
That confidence showed, as Buydens did much more than just make the team. The centreman posted 27 goals and 53 points in 54 games during the regular season, leading all MJHL rookies in points, goals, powerplay goals, and game-winning goals, while placing second among rookies for points per game.
Clearly the work on skills like puck protection worked for him, which is why JHD puts such an emphasis on it at this level.
“At the NHL level, if a player puts the puck in the wrong spot, it’s gone,” said Cameron. “What we try to focus on is where a player’s weight is, where their body is, and where the puck is. Whatever they’re doing – whether they’re getting ready to shoot or ready to pass – the puck should always be in a protected position.”
The most important skill to possess at that age, though, is the willingness to learn and adapt. Cameron and his fellow JHD coaches see that in the players who join the program no matter what skill they’re working on.
“When players come with the right mindset to focus on themselves, it’s fun for us as coaches because we just get to communicate with them and give them the information that allows for changes. But they’re also open to correction. These guys all signed up for the program and recognize there are things they need to get better at.”
Do you want to be a Junior hockey player? Take your game to the next level by signing up for the Junior Prospects Program, or any other age or skill-appropriate program for you at BellMTSIceplex.ca/JetsHockeyDevelopment.
This article was originally published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine.
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Kozub/Point Shot Photography.
If you’ve been to a goalie training session at the Ice Lab at hockey for all centre, chances are you’ve heard Head Instructor of Goaltender Development Andy Kollar tell you that if you think you’re working hard enough, you’re not.
Many Ice Lab-trained goaltenders take that to heart, including 18-year-old Ty Brennan. It’s that kind of mentality that led Brennan to the NHL draft in early July.
It was at pick number 102 that Brennan got to hear his name called by the New Jersey Devils. The obvious elation of being drafted into the NHL was quickly followed by another surreal moment for the netminder – getting to meet one of his goaltending idols, Martin Brodeur, now a member of the Devils organization.
“Being drafted was a dream come true, and a huge moment for me and my family,” said Brennan as he recalled hearing his name on the second day of the draft on July 8. “My whole family was there, and my girlfriend was there to celebrate, which was really special. I think landing in New Jersey will be the best thing for me.
“Meeting Martin Brodeur was cool too. He’s a goalie I looked up to as a kid. That’s a moment I won’t forget.”
Brennan has been doing a lot more than dreaming to get to this point, of course, and that’s exactly what he’ll continue to do to try to follow in the steps of the likes of Brodeur.
Few people have seen the work Brennan has put in like Kollar has. He’s been working with Brennan for over seven years.
“Ty’s been a big goalie from an early age, but our goal has been to have him not play like a big goalie,” noted Kollar of their training strategy over the years. “We’ve really focused on his skating, making him a very athletic goalie, and ensuring he’s constantly in control in the crease.”
Though Kollar’s on-ice training sessions with Brennan are more infrequent now due to Brennan’s WHL home being in Prince George, BC, Brennan still carries many lessons he’s learned with Kollar on the Ice Lab’s 45-foot by 37-foot surface.
“Since I was a young kid, Andy has helped develop me to where I am today,” said Brennan. “He really helped me set goals of where I wanted to be. That started with goals every summer to get to the WHL, and over time, he’s really taught me to be a pro. There have been a lot of experiences where I thought back to what Andy has taught me.”
No doubt this summer has provided numerous of those moments. Shortly after being drafted, Brennan was off to the Devils’ development camp where he and other Devils prospects got to interact with members of the organization and get a taste of the pro experience.
“That was a really good week,” noted Brennan. “We got to be in that professional atmosphere for a week, and all the staff were there to help us all develop through the whole week. The coaches gave me lots to work on, and the guys were all supportive.”
Soon after, Brennan was on his way to the Team Canada World Junior camp. That week provided him with yet another great opportunity to learn more and meet new faces, and he left the week with even more to work on in his game.
And through all of it, he still maintains constant contact with Kollar.
“It’s really important to build relationships with the athletes we work with,” said Kollar. “You can have a great skillset, but if you’re mind isn’t in the right spot, it’s tough to do the work. We’re proud to be a part of the on-ice development for goalies like Ty when they’re in town, but we see it as equally important to stay a part of their off-ice progress when they move away to chase their hockey dreams.”
A stable mindset and a relentless work ethic will be the key for Brennan throughout the rest of the off-season and as he enters another season between the pipes with the Prince George Cougars. Just because he’s been drafted by an NHL team doesn’t mean he’s working hard enough.
You can be sure Kollar would be there to remind him that he can always work harder.
Though the goal for hockey players is to have their career trajectory constantly moving upwards, it’s not always a smooth line. At certain points in players’ careers, what’s required to keep moving forward isn’t so much a step as it is a jump.
That’s particularly true for players moving from U15 to U18, players transitioning from U18 to junior or college hockey, and players climbing from junior and college to the pro level. For the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at hockey for all centre, prepping players for those jumps through summer hockey camps and training sessions is a big part of their job.
Having spent plenty of time training junior and junior prospect players, Head On-ice Instructor & Program Manager of JHD Dave Cameron notes that the jump from U18 hockey to junior and college teams can provide some particular challenges for athletes.
“Players get faster, and the game gets faster,” noted Cameron. “You’re suddenly playing against players who are potentially 20 years old, so there’s a size and strength factor that’s different than you’ve ever seen before. As a young player making that jump, the age gap is just so big that you really have to be prepared to do things at another level than you’ve done them at before.”
It’s easy to only focus on skills like speed and strength as mentioned in Cameron’s observation of what’s needed at the junior level, but what can easily be lost is his note about being prepared. Developing that speed and strength doesn’t happen by chance – it’s done through consistent dedication to the game and a strong commitment to getting better.
JHD provides a place where players can do that preparing during the off-season, and one athlete who has spent countless hours preparing his game at the Iceplex – specifically the Iceplex’s Ice Lab goalie training facility – is goaltender Carson Cherepak. He’s currently starting goaltender for the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and in only his first year in the MJHL and second year of junior hockey, he took home this season’s Ed Belfour Top Goaltender award for the league.
“It’s a nice pat on the back and shows that I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction, but you want to win the league too,” Cherepak said, clearly focused on higher aspirations amid a first round MJHL playoff matchup between his Dauphin Kings and the Swan Valley Stampeders.
Getting to that point has been no cakewalk for Cherepak. That award is courtesy of years of training at the Ice Lab with Manager of Goalie Development Andy Kollar, including plenty of summer programs – from one-on-one sessions on the Ice Lab’s 45-foot by 37-foot specialized ice surface, to big ice sessions that have goalies honing their craft on regular-sized rinks.
From day one, Kollar has seen Cherepak’s determined work ethic and consistent forward focus. Early on, though, it felt like there was a lot of preparing without the reward. Cherepak didn’t make the cut at the AAA level until he was 16.
“It seemed like he was always getting cut but he was giving it everything he could,” said Kollar. “He kept pushing past the upset feelings to ask what he could do better to not get cut and be a better goalie. Even as he got older and he was getting better, he still wasn’t making the teams. But he kept working, and his play finally paid off – somebody finally noticed him and gave him a chance.”
Throughout those challenges, Cherepak kept that preparation mindset, using every cut as more fuel in his engine. When he did finally make that AAA roster at 16, he won goalie of the year for the Winnipeg AAA Hockey League and followed that up with a player of the year nod the next season. None of his success has taken that focus on preparation away from him though.
“A lot of the time when I do get to go to the Ice Lab, it’s fine tuning,” said Cherepak, noting that by playing in Dauphin, summers have become his only chance to train at the Ice Lab. “We know the areas that I need to improve on. Andy watches all my games, so if there’s something that we feel needs to be addressed, we’ll address it, but a lot of it is doing the stuff that we’ve been doing this whole time like puck tracking, puck handling, and rebound control – all the little things. It sounds basic, but that’s the stuff you have to be really good at to be elite.”
Cherepak will be entering this off-season of training at the Iceplex with his laser-like focus set on another jump – this time with hopes to make a Division 1 college team in the US.
Kollar knows how big a challenge that may be. But he’s seen Cherepak face his fair share of challenges already and push past them.
“Carson’s had a long road, but he hasn’t seen it as a struggle. He’s always thinking about where he can go, what he can do, and how he can do it. The quote we often use is, ‘Lazy people do little work and think they should be winning, but winners work as hard as possible and still worry if they’re being lazy.’”
That’s the mentality Cherepak will have, and it’s one that all hockey players need to make those jumps in their careers.
“Set your own training goals,” Cameron advised. “Don’t follow others because they’re doing something that works for them. Just look in the mirror and decide what you want to get better at and focus on those things as your career goes.”
Make the next jump in your game by joining Jets Hockey Development for one or more of their many training programs this summer. Find a full list of programs for players of all ages at BellMTSIceplex.ca.
Kristen Campbell – an Ice Lab trained goalie and current Team Canada Women’s Hockey Team member – still fondly remembers meeting Team Canada star Jennifer Botterill when she was in elementary school.
“I got to hold Jennifer’s Olympic gold medal, and that made me feel like I could make it to the Olympics one day,” said Campbell of the experience.
This past week, she was able to give that same opportunity to the next generation with two sessions at hockey for all centre titled “Relentless – Finding a Way to the Top”. The free sessions had young girls in particular clambering to see the now Olympic-level goaltender and hear her story. On May 11 Campbell held an open-to-the-public, seminar-style talk while the May 15 session was on-ice in the Iceplex’s Ice Lab goalie training facility where young goalies playing AAA or higher got to watch and interact with Campbell as she went through drills.
“It’s pretty special that young girls, and boys too, get to hold my medal and tell me that they want to go to the Olympics too. It’s a full-circle moment because that’s what fuelled me, and it’s just neat to come back here and see a lot of young goalies who are at the prep level or just starting out that are interested in the position. When I was starting out, I never had a female goaltending role model locally.”
Sunday’s on-ice session was unique for both Campbell and attendees. The participants got to sit right on the ice and watch Kristen hone her craft while asking questions along the way.
“I’ve never had people on the ice watching a session before,” noted Campbell. “It was cool to interact with them and ask them post-drill what they thought and get them working their hockey IQs too. As opposed to just sitting and watching, they got to be involved.”
Participant Laura Melizza took in as many lessons as she could from observing Campbell go through drills in the Ice Lab.
“You learn a lot from watching other people,” she noted. “It’s those little tips – like her hands are here but mine aren’t so maybe I should try that – and staying positive even if you aren’t playing – like telling players that a certain goalie doesn’t have the best glove or telling your teammates that you know they can do a certain move that they should try. Still being part of the team even if you’re not on the ice.”
Having trained with Campbell for the last eight years and having seen her progress, Jets Hockey Development’s Manager of Goalie Development at the Ice Lab Andy Kollar has been envisioning sessions like these for some time. To witness how engaged the players were in what Campbell was doing was an inspiration for him.
“Kristen is such a good role model and she’s someone who’s always giving back,” he said. “A lot of these girls need some light, something to look up to, something to strive for, and I feel like we have that right here. The girls were dialed in – nobody was saying a word because they were soaking up every second of it.”
It would have been hard not to, with the constant reminder of just how far Campbell has made it shown by her scarlet red, maple leaf emblazoned pads. The jersey she wore throughout the session though – a plain white Ice Lab jersey that any goalie training in the facility would wear – was, in contrast, a reminder of where she’s come from.
Kollar knows that if other young goalies take the mindset Kristen has taken throughout her development, they too can achieve the success she’s found through training at the Ice Lab.
“If you think you’re doing enough, you’re not. She lives and breathes that,” said Kollar. “I think these girls see that these drills aren’t as hard and complicated as you think every drill should be. Kristen’s still working on her stance and the smaller details of her game to get better.”
Developing female goaltenders will get the opportunity to interact with Campbell again this summer when she hosts her Kristen Campbell Female Goalie Camp at the Ice Lab from July 4-7. The camp is already sold out, but you can join the waitlist by clicking HERE.
Nov. 18, 2021 – With programming again in full swing following the pandemic pause and subsequent programming restrictions, hockey for all centre is pleased to recognize the recent naming partners of its four hockey arenas. The official practice facility of the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose is home to the Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) Arena, Subway Arena, Flynn Canada Arena and Manitoba Building Trades Arena.
hockey for all centre prides itself on not just catering to Manitoba’s hockey community, but to being an integral part of that community, and the facility’s arena naming partners share this same commitment.
ACU has been a partner of the Iceplex since 2010 while the Subway, Flynn Canada and Manitoba Building Trades Arenas were named just prior to the pandemic shutdown in early 2020.
“ACU is proud to partner with the Iceplex as they bring the Winnipeg community back together again,” said Kevin Sitka, President & CEO of Assiniboine Credit Union. “2022 promises to be an exciting year with their full schedule of exciting events and activities and we are very happy to support this longstanding local partnership.”
“Hockey is an integral part of our culture in Manitoba and also within our membership of more than 10,000 skilled trade workers,” said Tanya Palson, Director of Business Operations with Manitoba Building Trades. “This arena is an important contribution from our organization to the community, our members and their families, and we wanted to be a part of the Iceplex as a community space where our members spend a lot of their evenings and weekends.”
“We are very proud to join the True North family in supporting the community where we reside. Flynn has been a part of the community since 1978,” said Dave Sterling, Regional Vice President at Flynn Canada. “We were a small commercial roofing company back then, and now we’re across Canada. Flynn knows the value of strong roots and a vibrant community, and that’s why we are proud to support hockey for all centre.”
Paul Karam, Subway Franchisee from Winnipeg added, “our partnership with hockey for all centre promotes health, wellness and active lifestyles. We are proud to support the many athletes that use the facility and especially the Subway® rink. We want to wish everyone in the hockey community, the best of luck this season.”
hockey for all centre has been an important facility within the hockey community since its opening in 2010, catering to players of all ages and skill levels from Learn to Skate all the way to the pros. Recognized as a Hockey Canada Centre of Excellence, the Iceplex is focused on providing a premier hockey and overall experience for all players and spectators. Its four NHL-sized rinks provide upwards of 12,000 hours of ice time annually for team, league, and tournament play, minor hockey, Jets Hockey Development group and one-on-one sessions, as well for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose team and individual training.
“If you play hockey in Manitoba, you’ve most likely played hockey at hockey for all centre,” said General Manager David Sattler. “We are proud to provide a premier facility to Manitoba’s hockey community and be part of the development of the many players who have skated on our ice, but there is so much more to this sport and to the hockey experience. We are equally proud to be part of that hockey community and to be a place where memories are made and where friendships grow.”
A 17,000-plus-quare-foot two-level full-service facility with everything under one roof – Ice Lab dedicated goalie training facility, Focus Fitness high performance training centre, Jets Gear Pro Shop, conference facilities, 445-seat Press Box Restaurant & Sports Bar – hockey for all centre is the most versatile hockey facility in Manitoba, and an ideal venue for hosting tournaments of any size. The increased demand for ice time also makes the Iceplex one of the busiest hockey facilities in the province. The upcoming annual Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup presented by Boston Pizza in December and January will be the Iceplex’s largest tournament ever hosted with more than 220 participating teams – a growth of more than 100 teams since the last Challenge Cup held in 2019.
hockey for all centre is also home of the True North Youth Foundation’s Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy program and serves as home ice for 11 tenant teams.