By Jaymie L. White
Special to Wreckhouse Press
PORT AUX BASQUES – On Tuesday, Mar. 29, Hockey NL announced the staff for the 2022 High Performance Program (HPP). Players on the Male U14, Male U15, Female U16, and Female U18 teams compete against provincial teams from Hockey NS, Hockey PEI, and Hockey NB, at the 2022 Atlantic Challenge Cup which will be held from Oct. 6-10 in Moncton, NB.
The goal of the program is to find the best players in each age category and, through extensive coaching and competition, help them continue through the program and give them the opportunity to compete with Team Canada in National and World competitions.
Among those chosen as staff members to help the athletes are four individuals from the Western region with high levels of knowledge and experience to help the teams meet and exceed their goals.
Jamie Brake, selected as head coach for the Male U14 team, was involved with the HPP for the last six years and this will be his second run as Head Coach. Previously he was an assistant coach, and under that title was able to attend the Canada Games in 2019.
“I’m extremely happy and humbled to be chosen again because I know they have a lot of people, obviously, who apply for these positions. I’ve been named Head Coach two years in a row, so obviously they liked what they saw in me and my dedication to the program and kids. So to be chosen is wonderful.”
Brake, who grew up in Burnt Islands, played minor hockey in Port aux Basques.
“I played minor hockey all my childhood and then I went to play junior hockey on the West coast, and I actually played senior hockey with the Corner Brook Royals, Port Aux Basques Mariners, and Deer Lake Red Wings, and through that I had some really good coaches and mentors throughout the years. And I just felt, when I started out about 15 years ago, that I wanted to give back and pass on my skills that I had learned through those people over the years.”
Brake said the program is not just about training on the ice, but off the ice as well, and involves kids whose skills are above and beyond other minor hockey programs.
“What I’m looking forward to most is seeing the kids perform well on the ice because it gives them an opportunity. Those tournaments are scouted by university and college coaches and junior teams, so I look forward to having them prepared as best as possible, both physically and mentally on the ice.”
Linda Massie of Port Aux Basques is another individual chosen as Head Coach of a team for 2022. As Head Coach of the Female U18 Canada Winter Games team, Massie is excited to prepare for the games taking place in Feb. 2023, and brings years of experience to the table.
“I started coaching with the High Performance Program in 2006, and I coached until 2011. Then I took a little break after I had my kids and I went back with the program in 2019. I actually went through the program as a player, and so when I went to university it just felt natural to try to get involved from a coaching standpoint.”
Massie said that due to COVID, everything was cancelled last year the day before they were supposed to leave, which was especially challenging for everyone.
“Everybody felt deflated and motivation has been kind of hard to come by. So now that it looks like things are opening up and it looks like we should have pretty smooth sailing to the games, I think everybody is just excited to get back and give it their all with their training and their preparation.”
Massie said the last few years have been difficult because of the pandemic, but everyone is feeling positive.
“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the ice with the girls, seeing how much they’ve improved, and really getting to connect with them and getting everybody prepared for the games.”
Emily Parsons, chosen as assistant coach for the Female U16 team, originally went through the HPP as a player, much the same as Massie.
“I got involved in 2012 until I graduated from the program in 2018, so I’ve been around for a while and I’m back again as a coach. My first time involved as a coach was last year. I was selected for the U16 group and then we went through the whole process and never got to go to the tournament because of COVID, but now I’m back again this year.”
Parsons said her experience last year was amazing, especially since it was her first year as a coach.
“I got to see the other side of things after going through the program as a player, and I loved watching all of the people at camp, but specially the girls in the U16 program. The athletes are phenomenal and it was so exciting to be part of it, the behind-the-scenes part of it that the players don’t see much at camp.”
As a young coach, Parsons has gotten the opportunity to learn from people who coached her when she went through the program, an invaluable learning experience, and this year she looks forward to going all the way to the competition.
“It was pretty disappointing when we didn’t get to go to the tournament (last year), but we obviously couldn’t control what happened. Our team, all the coaching staff from last year, we were really excited about the U16 team we had. It was a really hard decision to make the last few cuts to make the team, and then we had a regroup weekend before we went to the tournament. And the team just looked really great and we were excited to get to go up there and compete, so really looking forward to, this year, getting up there and showing all the talent we have here in Newfoundland.”
Jacob Hill, in his second year as trainer with the HPP, has been selected to train the Male U15 team in 2022. Last year, Hill was trainer for the Male U14 team and he said he’s going to have some of the same kids he trained previously.
“It’s pure elation. It’s great to be involved with hockey at any level, from the minor ranks to the highest ranks that we have in the province, so any opportunity I get to work with young athletes and hockey in general was always a pleasure for me.”
Hill said that last year had a lot of anxiety and worry surrounding the tournament due to COVID being such a huge factor, and it was disappointing for the players not to get the chance to achieve their final goal when the tournament was ultimately cancelled.
“The only thing stopping us now would be ourselves, if something were to go drastically wrong with our program or guidelines. Obviously COVID is still a risk. It’s something that is still very real and I’m sure that the province and the program takes it very seriously, not lightly at all. We’re excited to have the opportunity to do something like this again. So we’re still going to have the proper protocols and precautions in place to make sure, not only the staff, but most importantly, our players, are healthy and safe the entire time.”
Hill said every year brings new challenges and opportunities for everyone involved.
“With new players, and obviously, as players develop, their skillset can also change. So, you enter every year with a fresh mind, new slate, and you’re willing to take on any challenges or any opportunities that you may encounter during your experience. Last year was last year, this year is this year.”