James Eccles says his focus is on making hockey fun.

James Eccles says his focus is on making hockey fun.

Ridge hockey development guru gets two-year deal

James Eccles will continue his work with the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association.

With three seasons under his belt, and having worn out about a half dozen pairs of skates, James Eccles will continue his work with the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association.

The association has announced that Eccles will return as its director of hockey development for another season.

“Three years have already gone by, and it’s been tremendous,” said Eccles.

He views building a strong association like building a pyramid – you start with a big, solid base in order to reach great heights. So Eccles said he has put a lot of energy into the younger divisions, creating numerous opportunities for development, and helping to create an atmosphere where young players fall in love with the game. For him, having all registered kids return next year is the goal.

“As long as they’re having fun, that’s the No. 1 priority,” he said. “I don’t count success in banners. It’s in kids who say, ‘I love hockey.’”

It has been a rare day that goes by when Eccles is not out on the ice, offering a development session for a  group, or with one of the association’s 67 teams. His goal is to provide numerous opportunities for player and coach development, and because he’s on staff, the extra programs are free during the season.

He puts about 70 per cent of his time into the beginner age groups and C-level hockey, and about 30 per cent into the elite teams. Helping the association’s of A-level kids, and their pursuit of high performance programs or junior hockey, is also part of his mandate. And it never stops. He’ll soon be on the ice with midget players, helping them prepare for junior camps.

“If they have goals to achieve, we want to assist them in any way we can,” he said. “We need to get those players on their way.”

After three years, he said the association’s coaches are on the same page with their instruction. He has well established credibility – Eccles is on the coaches committee with B.C. Hockey, and offers workshops and clinics for coaches in that role.

“We’ve got a great coaching core now,” he said.

Minor Hockey president Scott Falconer said Eccles has a new two-year deal.

“James has done a phenomenal job for us, in the development of our athletes and coaching staff,” he said.

With 67 head coaches and at least two assistants on each team, having standards and consistency throughout the organization has been an important job, he said.

Falconer said over the next two to three seasons, the work that Eccles has done should really show on the ice.

The association is moving beyond volunteers in another area. Falconer noted that the organization is also interviewing for a paid administrative assistant, saying an organization the size of Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey is dealing with significant budgets, and “you’ve got to take that seriously.”