Steve Bratt is a brand new coach at the North Shore Winter Club, charged with overseeing our peewee A2 team. Steve has a rich hockey background, though it’s a unique one.
In fact, if I had met Steve ten years ago, I’d probably be yelling in his face while he kicked me out of the room.
Anyways, we’re all cool now. I caught up with Steve to learn more about his background and his philosophies moving forward.
KC: Tell me about how you came to the club.
SB: It really started two years ago, I was with the major midget North Island Silvertips as an assistant coach, and then last year I was with the Langley Bantam A1 team as an assistant coach. I got associated with the club working with them as the program manager at Burnaby 8 Rinks. Things flowed from there, I told them I was interested in taking on a coaching role.
KC: You’re the program manager at 8 Rinks, so you obviously have plenty of experience in hockey.
SB: I’ve done everything it seems. I managed the U16 team representing the island, I instructed at the Okanagan Hockey School for my co-op. Obviously the coaching in Langley and Nanaimo. I got my education on Vancouver Island, a bachelor’s degree in tourism majoring in recreation and sport management.
KC: Why did you make the move to the mainland?
SB: I moved over to work at the Langley Events centre coordinating the facility and I quickly began scouting for the Langley Rivermen Junior A team. They hooked me up with the bantam A1 team. Prior to all that coaching I was an on-ice official reffing Junior A games.
KC: YOU’RE TERRIBLE. I mean, sorry, force of habit. What? You were a ref? Why did you get out of that?
SB: Really I took it as far as I could before the itch to coach came back. I was like, the next big thing in reffing at one point, if you can believe it.
KC: I cannot.
SB: I was reffing junior B at 16, the supervisors kept pumping my tires, telling me I had a future. And then all the supervisors switched and they gave me the boot, basically. If the supervisors don’t like you you’re in tough. So I took the positive out of that experience and I was happy to make the transition to coaching.
KC: Tell us more about your past in hockey, where you grew up, that sort of thing.
SB: I’m originally from Port Alberni, I played hockey all the way through bantam, but heading into midget I decided to go the refereeing route as I thought that was my next best route to the NHL. I was reffing friends, sometimes kids two years older than me who I knew from school. It was a tough spot, I was thrown into the fire, they don’t really do that anymore. The higher-ups of the reffing world lacked options and I took advantage of the opportunity.
KC: Wow. Are you happy you took that route? It’s all come back around to coaching I guess.
SB: Yeah I’d absolutely go through it again. I was in a rush, they rushed me, but for sure I was going to do it, it was my next best route to the NHL. I would have liked to play midget rep hockey, but that’s not how it worked out. It would have been nice to finish that off, but no regrets.
KC: Coaching the peewee A2 team, how has it been?
BC: It’s been really good, hold on one second, Sean is calling me, (Sean Ungemah is Steve’s manager with the peewees) I’ll get rid of him here. Anyways, we’re having a strong season. We’ve lost two tournaments in the finals, we’ve played with the best A2 teams around. We have a really tight team with a lot of heart. We’ve had some good rallying points this season and hopefully we’ll win that big game when it truly counts.
KC: Is it natural for them to be a tight-knit group? I know a lot of those kids are friends from previous seasons, but how much emphasis do you put on that bond?
SB: It was definitely a big priority for me coming in. We have a very deep lineup, anybody can go out there and be a game-changer, we can roll lines. We had a big rallying point doing our orientation camp over Thanksgiving. Our hashtag for our team is weoverme, that’s something we’ve built into them but they have to buy into that as well. We have a lot of good kids. We have 3 A’s and no C, we didn’t want to put one player above the rest and we have plenty of leaders without letters on.
KC: Who else is helping you out with the team?
SB: Obviously Sean has been a massive asset. My assistant coach, Aaron Klatt is running our dryland and doing skill-specific work on the ice. Shooting, powerskating, the finer points. Lots of dryland stuff. It’s been a big factor, doing the cool-downs and stretching stuff to help the kids take care of themselves. He takes care of all that. Other than that, it’s a cliche, but with all the extra work, it sure helps to have a supportive family and a very understanding girlfriend.
KC: Great stuff, especially for an ex-referee. I won’t hold it against you. What’s next for Steve, Aaron and the peewees?
SB: Our goals right now are to be at the top of flight 2, we’re 4 and 0 so far. We’ve got the Phoenix tournament coming up in mid-January, there are 3 or 4 flight 1 teams so that will be a big test.
KC: But the kids are up for it, it sounds like.
SB: Yep. We should do well, game by game, we have a busy couple weeks heading into December and then we’ll just keep rolling.