By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
When Brett Howden of the New York Rangers reflects on where he is in his career today, he said every one of his coaches helped along the way. But there is something special about three Manitoba coaches he had the year leading into the WHL.
Those coaches are Calvin Bugyik, Joey Moggach, and Steve Jacques.
Coaches Who Stand Out
When you think of a coach you know, there are probably lots of things that come to mind when someone asks you to describe them. For Brett, he remembers Calvin, Joey and Steve had a crucial balance between three qualities.
“They were calm, patient, yet they pushed us,” said Brett.
“They wanted us to get better every time we practiced and played. I remember there was a time where I wasn’t playing well and had to get pulled aside, and get told that I had to step up and play better, which really helped me get out of my comfort zone.”
Calvin, Joey and Steve were dedicated to their team in a way that went beyond winning games.
“For that year, obviously we were focused on trying to win a championship, but they were also trying to develop us,” said Brett.
In addition to focusing on developing skills on the ice, Brett said he also got lots of help with off ice skills, including learning how to be mentally strong during the ups and downs that come with the sport.
A Special Coach Trait
During National Coaches Week, coaches are recognized and celebrated for their positive impact on athletes and communities across the country. That means taking a moment to appreciate what makes a great coach.
And positivity is one trait Brett believes stands out.
“There’s going to be times where you have to be hard on your team, be the bad guy in a sense, where you have to push them to get to the next step. But at the same time, when things aren’t going right, it doesn’t help having a coach that’s negative all the time, that’s wearing you down mentally. So, for me, when times are tough, it’s having a coach that sees the positive side of things and gets the team to build up and gear up together and not fall apart.”
It comes as no surprise, after all the hard work and hours spent together at practices and games, that a coach can have a lasting impact on an athlete, even decades down the line.
Sometimes that lasting impression is not just about what the athlete learned and how they developed their game. It’s also about a sense of community at the end of the day when the competition is over and there’s nothing to do but look back on the experience as a whole.
“I remember our team with those three guys, we felt like we gelled even more because of them – they made it really feel like a family life feel at the rink, and it all started with them. They helped our team stay close,” he said.
Brett remembers during the playoffs that year that even though they lost in the finals, he has great memories playing with his team.
“We had so much fun,” he said.
For this NHLer, who was raised in Oakbank, Manitoba, hockey has always been a part of his life since he first put on skates before he was five years old. Saying #ThanksCoach to Calvin, Joey and Steve, and to all his coaches, means letting them know their time and effort never goes unnoticed.
“It’s a tough job, it takes a lot of dedication being a coach,” he said. “They put so much work, effort and time into making all these plans, these systems, going out to practices, and taking time with each player on the team.”