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Leading Canada's best
Arviat coach participates in national development camp

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arviat minor hockey coach Ryan O'Connor spent time behind the bench with some of the nation's top young hockey players earlier this month.

NNSL photo/graphic

Assistant coach Ryan O'Connor of Arviat gives his Team White players some encouragement during action against Team Red at Canada's national under17 development camp earlier this month in Calgary, Alta. - photo courtesy of James Emery/Hockey Canada Images

O'Connor was an assistant coach for Team White at the national under-17 development camp in Calgary, Alta.

A teacher by day, O'Connor had been working on the coach's certification program with the Hockey North Branch for the past 18 months.

In May of 2014 he undertook skill development and coach's training with Hockey Canada.

He applied to the under-17 program and was told he had been accepted into the summer program this past June.

O'Connor, 30, said the invitation was unexpected and it was awesome to find himself at the camp.

He said the level of play he witnessed was nothing short of world class.

"The level of dedication, professionalism and skill in these 16-year-old players blew me away," said O'Connor.

"The way they handled a gruelling eight-day camp, and their politeness and respect, was really something to see and be a part of.

"You'll see some of these guys at the world juniors in two years, and some of them will be drafted by NHL teams.

"They're the best of the best this country has in that age group, that's for sure."

O'Connor said the biggest thing he took away from the camp is that hockey instruction doesn't have to be complicated, even at the highest level.

He said the on-ice drills, team culture, team goals, and the vision of the coaches are all conveyed in ways easily understood.

"Everything they preach at the highest levels is kept very simple.

"It's all about working hard, not taking shifts off, basic drills that focus on skill development, and a slow development into team tactics and stuff like that.

"Even at the top Hockey Canada level, they really break everything down to simplify it as much as possible for the 16-year-old players who come into the program.

"A lot of it can be taken as it is, or even broken down a little bit further, to be used at the minor hockey levels and that's something I'm looking forward to doing this coming season."

O'Connor said the Hockey Canada coaching program is incredibly effective.

He said in reality, it's all one long-term development program.

"Essentially, what coaches are teaching in novice, atom, peewee and bantam is all building toward what they're going to do at the national level if they make it that far.

"To actually see it all come full circle - the stuff I teach as a coach trainer and the stuff I see coaches doing in minor hockey - was quite the experience.

"And to realize even at that level they have to break it down and simplify it for the top guys was a real eye-opener.

"That's what I'll take back to the ice this season, the attention to detail and, knowing how important the little things are at that level, making sure they're taught properly at the minor hockey level."

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