Last week I checked in with the North Shore Winter Club’s long-serving midget coach Duncan Vyner. What started as a casual interview regarding Duncan’s coaching and life philosophies evolved into a deeper look at precisely what he believes his midget team needs to succeed. Here’s the second half of the interview.
Kelvin: What’s your plan of attack for the midget program this year?
Duncan: With myself and my assistant coach Mike Gauthier, we have a very focused plan of attack with regards to where we want to take this team and this program. It’s a proud tradition that’s had ups and downs, but ultimately we want to win titles and put banners on the wall. In Bantam and Peewee, those teams are going to win, in Midget you have a mixed bag of players with different levels of commitment, which is fine, so it takes a little bit to get everyone on the same page. I was that player, the 5th or 6th defenseman in Bantam A3, so I had a great opportunity to be one of the top players in midget. And then there are kids like Desi Burgart who was highly touted, spent a year in Midget and worked his ass off for his 15 year old season. Justin Wilson and Cole Demers did the same thing, and that’s what I did.
This is the age you either become a hockey player or a kid who plays hockey. Justin Wilson just wanted to play hockey with his older brother, he didn’t know he’d play for one year, then play major midget for you and Clint and then play junior hockey. There are younger kids who see these famous players who are going pro and no one gives them a second thought.
There’s a whole world of hockey out there.
And you don’t have to rush. Yeah, I coached Desi and Justin as 16 year-olds and they stepped in and played right away. And now they’re both playing junior and they didn’t rush.
At the club you see the first and second round picks, but people forget that from 16 to 18 you can grow six inches and put on 30 pounds. I talked to a couple atom coaches this year who are so excited to see how much kids can improve from year to year. At 16 and 17 I can teach them the nuances of the game. How do you read a neutral zone breakout? How do you forecheck? I love teaching those details and a lot of the time that’s the difference between making a team or not the following year.
Other than hockey, you’ve got a completely unique element to deal with given the fact these kids are getting ready to graduate and take the next step in their lives.
It’s a lot of personalities, for sure. The big thing with this age group is just that you have to be honest with them and treat them with respect. We support them and offer them an outlet, plus we teach them to take care of each other and treat each other with respect on the ice and in the dressing room. Work together, take care of your teammates. The culture of the team is stamped on them right away because we’re always fortunate to have returning players. Work for each other. As 15, 16, and 17 year old young men it’s time to become contributing citizens and honest, hard-working adults. These kids are too smart, you can’t BS them so we don’t try. They have to be responsible and we give them honesty in return.
You have kids from all walks of life hockey-wise, kids with different aspirations regarding hockey and school. What’s special about this year and how you guys are approaching it?
What’s different about this year is that I feel an obligation to the winter club to reinvigorate the program. Five years after I started coaching at the club and we have less than 35 kids signing up. This is an option for these bantam players, now they can sign up for midget and see what happens. Academies are a reality we have to deal with and that’s the dynamic we’re in. I care, I want to be here, this is the age group I want to coach.
There’s something to be said for continuity. Dinwoodie has proven results in bantam, I want to represent that for our midget program. How you work on your own game as an individual within your team means everything. Clint Colebourn, Desi, Justin, Cole, these are good players who spent a year in midget and moved up. It all comes down to what they want. It’s a cost-friendly option to play against bigger and heavier bodies and learn what it takes to be a hockey player and a citizen.
When it comes to being a productive citizen, it doesn’t matter if we’re framing the issue with hockey, school, or eventually a career. As you can clearly see, Duncan is a passionate, committed leader for this midget program, and it will be awesome to watch the program develop this season.