The game’s brightest coaching minds gathered in Oshawa on Saturday for the 4th annual OHL Coaches Conference, an event that was sold out a week in advance.
The event spearheaded by OHL Director of Hockey Development and Special Events Joe Birch included 85 coaches in attendance in addition to 16 OHL goaltending coaches and 16 other goaltending coaches from the minor hockey ranks.
Those participating heard from the likes of San Jose Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott, OHL head coaches Bob Jones (Oshawa Generals), Ryan Oulahen (Flint Firebirds) and Paul McFarland (Kingston Frontenacs) as well as Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds assistant Joe Cirella, Washington Capitals Skills and Skating Coach Dwayne Blais, sports psychologist Paul Dennis and OHL Director of Officiating Conrad Hache.
“It’s a privilege to be able to come and speak with all these coaches,” said Spott, who presented on Game Day approaches. “I can’t emphasize enough how important the Ontario Hockey League has been to my development as a coach.
“To work with the San Jose Sharks alongside OHL alumni in (head coach) Pete DeBoer and (assistant coach) Bob Boughner is really a testament to the great work this league has done in developing coaches for the next level.”
Spott, who along with DeBoer was a Mastercard Memorial Cup champion with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003, enjoys sharing knowledge and resources with aspiring coaches at all levels.
“As guys at the highest levels of the game, it’s our job to share information,” he said. “I’ve given my contact information to a number of guys here and hopefully I’ll hear from them and will be able to share some things down the road.
“Networking and bettering yourself as a coach is very important, and that happens in rooms like this.”
It wasn’t just minor hockey coaches in attendance on Saturday.
A few familiar faces from higher levels of the game were also present, among them Mississauga Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond.
“You have to stay on top of your systems and tactics,” said Richmond, who just returned from presenting at a coaches conference in Denmark earlier this week. “It’s always beneficial to get together in these types of environments to learn and soak up all of the information that you can.
“You’ve got to keep learning. As soon as you stop learning, you start losing.”
The day featured presentations on a wide range of subjects including ‘Coaching from a Referee’s Perspective,’ ‘Motivating Today’s Athlete,’ Forechecking Systems,’ ‘Skill Development within Practice,’ ‘Special Teams and Playoff Prep.,’ as well as ‘Defensive Zone Systems.’
“Coaching is coaching,” Richmond continued. “Guys like Spotter (Steve Spott), myself and the Bantam AAA coaches in this room all teach our players the same concepts, it’s just the way that those concepts are presented that is different. These coaches conferences are beneficial for everyone in attendance.”
Participating coaches each received three certification maintenance points towards their Hockey Canada coaching levels.