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NICHOLAS MERCER: How one coach inspired me in minor hockey

Joe Hunt was a member of the CeeBees in the 1960s and an inspirational minor hockey coach in the 1990s.
Joe Hunt was a member of the CeeBees in the 1960s and an inspirational minor hockey coach in the 1990s. - Contributed

When you play sports, coaches come and coaches go.

As you move from sport to sport, age division to age division, old ones fade away and new ones appear.

Sometimes, you’ll see those faces and hear their words again. Sometimes, you won’t.

Getting cut from the peewee A team in the early 1990s in Harbour Grace might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to me.

At the time, it wasn’t a great feeling, but looking back I can see it was a blessing in disguise.

It was the first season I got to spend with Joe Hunt behind the bench.

A senior hockey legend in Harbour Grace, Joe knew the game in ways I couldn’t comprehend at the time.

Being a kid in the town at the time, you revered him for his time with the senior club and he was the skate sharpener at the rink. He took the edge off your blades at the just the right level.

He taught the things you needed to know to be able to think the game and learn from your mistakes.

Keep your head up, don’t try anything crazy with the puck at the blue line and watch your point man were constant lessons.

He preached patience and teamwork.

Joe had a calm demeanor that didn’t make you shrink at the sound of his voice. You didn’t feel like making a mistake was the end of the world, and winning wasn’t always the top priority.

I don’t remember him losing his cool or raising his voice. 

Joe made you want to play the game for the right reasons. He wanted you to play because it was fun and it provided young people with lessons that could help them in life.

Trying to prove you’re a winner doesn’t accomplish that and Joe knew it.

Sport is about competition, sportsmanship and learning to continue loving a game long after its done loving you.

Joe never coached with the maniacal drive to win that other coaches did. Player development and fostering a love for hockey was the key to any post-game speech.

Winning is a part of it, they’ll say, but truthfully, it has nothing to do with it. Winning in sports is a mechanism for ego.

As a coach, you hope that you leave your players in a better spot than they were in when you found them.

You hope you’ve inspired them to stick with the game long after their minor hockey games.

You hope the youth you’re coaching start to see the game less in terms of the number of tournaments you win and more of a passion.

Joe was that coach and I really should thank him for it.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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