New focus on coach and player development

Teams from the Western Hockey League are going to want to draft bantams from Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey...

James Eccles

Teams from the Western Hockey League are going to want to draft bantams from Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey, and the midgets will be sought-after prospects for the major midget league.

That’s the goal of the association’s new director of hockey development James Eccles.

“My goals for this year … it’s not banners,” he said. “That’s not what we’re here for.”

Approaching the game with a “win now” attitude can actually hinder development, he asserts.

Rigid systems play is the enemy.

Eccles doesn’t want to see Maple Ridge produce checking drones, who are most adept at the dump-and-chase game, or clearing pucks off the glass.

“The trap has slowed our game down, and decreased the skills in our players,” said Eccles.

Hockey Canada has researched the issue, and acknowledged that Canadian prospects who are coached to win games, rather than develop skills, become “too robotic” in their play.

Rather, his focus is on developing skilled players.

The RMMHA kids who are just starting hockey for the first time this season, what does he want them to look like, when they hit bantam hockey some eight seasons from now?

“You’re going to see a fast, creative breed of hockey player.”

Eccles has done a lot of analysis of what has been happening in minor hockey here, and doesn’t see a need to reinvent the wheel.

“The children have great development occurring, but there’s room for more success,” he said.

Stick skills will be an area of focus. The association has many good coaches, and has put a lot of emphasis on skating. Now, more incorporation of skating with pucks will produce more skillful players.

Eccles is taking a page out of the European playbook, and has obtained two buckets of steel pucks. They are more than twice as heavy as vulcanized rubber pucks, but once the players get the traditional biscuit back on their sticks after using steel, they have a better feel for the puck.

Stick battling is another skill he would like to see emphasized, and this is especially important given that bodychecking is no longer allowed in hockey until the bantam age group.

He wants kids to fall in love with hockey the way he did, and their coaches did.

“They’ve got to come out, and then want more.”

Gone are the days when 14 kids stand in a lineup while one skates through cones. Today’s coaches keep the entire group busy at once, and Eccles takes it to the extremes.

“Kids need to move. Kids need to be energetic, and they need to be having fun.”

To that end, he promotes small-area games.

He is running three skill development sessions, free for players, each Saturday and Sunda, beginning at 6:45 a.m.  Players can sign up on the RMMHA website.

Each session has a maximum of 30 players, “or it’s a fish farm.”

“We work on fundamental skills that coaches don’t have time for, and we work on small-area games,” he said.

He said players who are in hockey for the first time and other late starters are some of the biggest beneficiaries. Kids who started the year at a place where they can just stand up on their skates are already skating and pushing the puck ahead of themselves.

“You get a lot of pride out of that,” he said.

The association has other opportunities for more ice time, and has goaltender development every Tuesday night.

About every three weeks, he will also be doing coaching development sessions. Each will have a theme for the skate, such as creating offence or developing defencemen.

Part of his job is evaluating coaches, and so far he has been impressed with their dedication.

“I’m the first one to defend those guys,” he said. “I’m criticized and critiqued too – that’s what happens when you become a coach.”

Eccles played minor hockey in Abbotsford, and donned the Ridge Meadows Flames jersey in 1996. After junior hockey, he played four seasons at Kent State University, then coached for three seasons in the NCAA at State University in New York.

His other coaching experience includes assistant with the BCHL Westside Warriors, major midget, and instructor for Hockey Canada Skills Academy for the Kelowna School District.

Asked whether his focus is on rep teams, Eccles said the goal is to improve everyone. By heightening the overall skill level of the youngest players coming into the association, the most outstanding players will rise.

“And the good outcomes will come – the Ws.”

He’s loving the job.

“I wake up in the morning, and I get to go play hockey with kids.”

Just Posted

Silent auction for Community Services in Maple Ridge

One of the largest in the community

Vice pres of Pitt Meadows Plumbing honoured at awards of excellence

Vancouver Regional Construction Association awarded Matthew Robinson Best Under 40

Traffic bylaw change gets final OK

Maple Ridge follows rest of B.C., not allowing biking on sidewalks

Non-profit Showcase at the ACT in Maple Ridge

A chance to see what work local non-profits do in the community

City buys land for park next to school

Maple Ridge acquires five acres on 108th Avenue

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read