In hockey, coaches teach players how to be good skaters and good shooters, and how to play the game.
They put lines together, argue with officials at times and encourage their players to have fun with the game.
However, there are some coaches who have the ability to be much more than the guy who fills out the scoresheet before the game and picks up the jerseys afterward.
Today marks the beginning of Minor Hockey Week in Canada and this year’s theme is “a good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.”
For Corner Brook native Brady Griffin-Hefford, that great coach is former Western Kings coach Angus Head of Corner Brook.
Griffin-Hefford, a former star in the Maritime Hockey League, played three seasons with the Western Kings of the provincial major midget hockey league with Head as his coach.
“He was just so easy to talk to and he understood what us kids we’re going through, especially going through high school,” Griffin-Hefford said earlier this week.
He credits Head for helping him mature as a person and has always appreciated the fact his coach believed in his ability and provided an atmosphere where he not only learned how to play the game, but learned how to be a good teammate and a good person away from the rink.
“He just treated everybody with respect and that’s just something I incorporate in my life … always giving people the benefit of the doubt and doing whatever you can to help somebody when they need it,” Griffin-Hefford said. “He was always somebody I could count on, for sure.”
Former Western Kings forward Jordan King considers Head to be one of the best coaches he had for a couple of reasons.
Head helped him mature into a man and was also available to chat when he or any other teammate was struggling with something, whether it was on the ice or away from the rink.
King doesn’t think he would have had the fun and success he had on the ice if it wasn’t for the genuine interest his coach had in him.
He remembers calling Head one year while playing at the Atlantic Challenge Cup with the provincial under-16 team. King was having a rough week and needed a pick-me-up heading into the bronze medal game.
Head, he said, gave him advice that provided a calming effect and he felt better after the call.
It was beneficial, as King scored two goals in that game.
For his part, Head said he always tried to ensure all players had an equal opportunity.
He encouraged them to play the game for fun and always remember there is more to life than the game.
He had coaches who had a positive influence on him as a young player and figured the least he could do was help his players find their way on and off the ice.
He admits he fielded lots of calls from players who needed a listening ear for one reason or another. Sometimes it was about hockey, but other times it was high school students dealing with a challenge in their lives that wasn't hockey-related.
“When somebody calls for help and they got a problem and they’re coming to you as a coach, then I guess you respond to it,” Head said.
He was happy to hear players spoke of him in a positive light, because it made him realize there was more to it than hockey.
He was a coach, a counsellor, a friend and somebody with a shoulder to cry on for players who called him coach.
Head is removed from the coaching circle in Corner Brook. Yet there are still strong bonds between him and many of the players who looked to him for guidance during the challenging times of those high school years.
He still gets calls from players asking for advice.
A hockey game is won by the team that scores the most goals, but everybody is a winner when a coach’s impact goes deeper than scoring goals and making pretty passes.
Every coach has a chance to shape the lives of young boys and girls in a meaningful way.