People like the North Shore Winter Club’s longtime midget coach and former player Duncan Vyner are easy to interview because you don’t need to ask too many questions. It’s like the opposite of a pull-start lawn mower - just push the ‘on’ button and let the machine do its thing.
When it comes to Vyner, to describe him as a machine is to describe him accurately. Not only does he have a demanding career with multiple moving parts (literally) and several dynamic personalities to manage, he’s also heavily invested in the midget hockey program at NSWC.
“It’s the same, coaching hockey and working in my business,” Vyner told me as both of us were driving a couple days ago (I’ve got a handy digital recorder, so it’s all handsfree, folks). “Everyone deserves to be treated like an individual.”
Kelvin: So you’re a busy guy, right?
Duncan: (Laughs) That’s true. I’m the manager of a logistics department of a lumber distribution company. I have to coordinate shipments, the better part of 9000 loads each year. We sell lumber to large chains, we’re a broker, so there are a lot of different people and moving pieces to manage.
That’s a pretty easy segue for me.
I suppose so, I’m good at directing traffic. The big thing is the communication skills that really transfer well to hockey. I have a sales floor of 30 guys and they all have their own personalities and characteristics. All of them want things at a different time but they’re using the same resources. You have to communicate differently with each guy and support each person in a unique way. It’s the same with hockey, I listen to as many coaches as I can, Mike Babcock is my favourite and he says every player is an individual. Communication is big for me, I always have an open communication policy with these kids. They’re 15 to 17 years old and it’s time for them to take responsibility for hockey and their life.
What’s your driving philosophy behind running your team?
I have a really simple mission statement. I was coached to do the right things but in the wrong way. Think back to when you were playing and you’d do something bad on the ice and go back to the bench and get chewed out. It was awful, but it wasn’t necessarily wrong. So you’d know what to do, but it didn’t make the experience fun.
I want to teach hockey the right way, with positive reinforcement. My philosophy has evolved over the last couple of years. These kids re 15 to 17 so it’s time to start educating them and treating them like young adults headed to university. They’re very self aware. That makes it easy. These parents want to be hands off and they want their sons to take responsibility. The age is really entertaining on and off the ice, plus I have a strong attachment to the midget program and it’s evolved. My favourite years in hockey were in midget, you’re the oldest kids in the club and you have responsibility that doesn’t exist in any other level. Bantam hockey is still a young age, in midget it’s a stepping stone into adulthood.
I couldn’t contain Duncan to just one post, so check back next week for part two of our interview.