Jim Dinwoodie, the North Shore Winter Club’s Bantam A1 coach, believes in promoting creativity on the ice. However, if that creativity costs the team goals in the defensive zone, then there’s going to be problems.
In part 2 of my interview with Jim (read part 1) we talk about the transition to higher levels of hockey and what’s asked of players in order to seamlessly accomplish those transitions.
JD: I think at times I feel the game is played closer at the international stage. I take the Europeans and how they’re imitating us as flattery. Boy, just look at the last Olympics, there is a ton of talent. We could put two teams out there and play each other. At this level, in Bantam, the thought of trapping is offensive to me. D zone is one thing, structure in the d-zone, convincing guys that that area of the ice is where offense starts. When that seed plants then you’re ready to play at the next level. They buy in and trust that you can play that way and then the creativity will come.
KC: Players always ask about what they can do to get more ice time. The thing is, it’s never one thing. They can have a wicked shot or great hands, but it’s just about earning our trust to do the right things in the defensive zone. A good example of that, a player you coached, is Quinn Benjafield, who realized how he had to play against older players and now he’s in the western hockey league as a 16 year-old with the Kamloops Blazers. That’s a committed, intelligent player who bought in to what he needed to do to get to the next level, and it had nothing to do with scoring goals.
JD: We tell players, “this is what’s going to be asked of you.” Don Hay, he’s going to tell you to get a puck out. He’s going to ask you to get a puck in, and that’s important. If you don’t have an idea of what’s going to be asked of you at the next level, then you’re in trouble. I’m fiercely proud of this, I think our players are prepared for what’s going to come, that’s what our program is built on. They may not be ready mentally or physically or emotionally, but they’re going to know, like a player like Jansen Harkins, he knew what was going to be expected of him. For me, I know I’ve planted the right seeds. I think our development model encourages more creativity than most while still keeping that structure and defensive posture so players can build on themselves while building on what they’ll need defensively at the next level.
KC: And I can see it. Desi Burgart, Clint Colebourn, Ryan Pouliot, Kevin Wong; these guys play for me now, you can tell these players who came through here have confidence in who they are. It’s not always a straight line, but they’re on that path.
JD: Absolutely. I look at a guy like Desi Burgart. Des is such a success story. Halfway through our season it wasn’t sure which way he was going to go. And then the light went on and he realized what he needed to do to play more and at a higher level.
KC: Was he reckless? I’ve seen that kid headbutt the post multiple times this year.
JD: Haha, he had none of that. It was just starting to come. Not that he needs to play reckless, but that ferocity is what makes him great. He was just starting to really come on and then he broke his arm before provincials. I guarantee he would have been a drafted player before that injury. I think it happens for a reason and he’s where he should be, but watch out. He’s on a path and it’s because that light went on.
KC: These players get that message and then their path is up to them?
JD: Right. What I find special at this level is the hockey IQ, the environment that this creates, we don’t dumb down the message. This is what’s happening at a higher level of hockey, this is what you need, here’s how to get there.
KC: This is your path, this is what’s coming if you stay on that path. Look at how many guys have played major midget as 15 year-olds, 16 year-olds and 17 year-olds and then made the jump to junior hockey.
JD: I believe out of that team last year we have 7 or 8 who could have played major midget for sure, but I give credit to how they were brought up, what they do at the younger ages of hockey. The wildcard that doesn’t get mentioned enough is the big games these kids play in, the pressure to perform under the spotlight. The one thing the northeast zone or whoever else, they didn’t play in Quebec, they didn’t make it to a final four in atom. They haven’t played under the light, whereas our kids do. A lot of people say that we could just open the door with our teams, but it’s a path of preparation and a strong mentality they build over time, and then we give the tools to compete every day at our level.
KC: And it's all about competing, right?
JD: Oh yes. All of us. Everyone in hockey. Compete.
In part 3, Jim and I get a little fired up as we share a couple stories about playing beneath the light.