By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator



Understanding the magnitude of the national stage, Hockey Manitoba Executive Director, Peter Woods, is thrilled for the athletes and coaches who will represent the province at the Canada Games next year.

“I think it’s pretty exciting and it shows that you’ve reached a level of excellence there, that you get an opportunity to showcase your skills,” said Peter.

Peter has also coached at two Canada Games, his team winning bronze in 1991 and silver in 2007. 

Team Manitoba’s men’s and women’s teams will compete in 2023 during the first and second weeks, respectively, at the largest amateur multi-sport event in the country.


Sense of Community

There’s nothing quite like seeing your local sport community rally with provincial pride. The Canada Games taps into the spirit of what Team Toba represents.

“It is really actually huge [not only] for the female hockey community, but for the hockey community in general,” said Team Toba women’s hockey Head Coach Ashley Van Aggelen. “And it’s those messages from our hockey communities that help us stay motivated and engaged and dialed in, and remember we are there for a reason and a purpose, and we’re representing home – that’s one of the biggest things for us.”

From St. James, Winnipeg, Ashley played ringette until she was 11 and made the jump to hockey at age 12, playing through junior high, high school, and into university with the University of Manitoba Bisons. 

She started coaching for MWJHL Polar Ice and is now in her twelfth season with the Winnipeg Avros. She has been to two Canada Games in Halifax and Prince George. 

Taras McEwen, Head Coach for the men’s team, is originally from Saskatchewan and has been invested in hockey his whole life, whether it’s been as a player, coach, or scout across Western Canada.

The sport is also in the family. His dad has been in hockey his entire life, too, in the Western Canada Hockey League and now the NHL, and his uncle was with the LA Kings as a scout when they won two Stanley Cup titles.

He said he is no stranger to witnessing the dedication to hockey among the Herd.

“I grew up in Whitewood, which is close to the Manitoba border, so I knew some rural players in Manitoba and how important it is to them to play,” he said.

While Games are a chance to connect with your own province, it’s also an opportunity to connect with other Canadians and collect tools you may otherwise not have access to.

“The opportunity to meet athletes, to meet players and people throughout the country who have different perspectives on things, is something you can take [home] with you, “ said Peter.


Developing the Final Roster

While Ashley is looking to build a team of skilled athletes, there’s one thing that stands out above all when she considers characteristics in her final roster.

“They have to be a good teammate,” said Ashley. “And they have to be a good person. We’re looking to fill our program full of good people. It doesn’t matter how good of a hockey player you are –  if you’re not a good person, you’re not going to fit in the mould of what Toba represents.”

In addition, she’s looking for athletes who willing to push themselves to the next level.

Taras agrees, they want the best hockey players, but a part of that is buying into the “Team Toba way” and demonstrating a strong work ethic.

“It may be kind of cliche, but it’s so true,” said Taras. “That’ll be a big thing [too], what we’re looking at next year is who are the guys who are willing to accept different roles, who can take in what we are trying to teach as quickly as possible, so we can have some structure while we’re at the event.”



Putting In the Work

To get to Games, Ashley and Taras are working with their coaching staff to prep their teams to hit the ice and play for gold in 2023.

With athletes playing with their club teams throughout the year, they are dispersed across the province and have relatively limited time together. 

Selection camps, practices, exhibition games, scrimmages, on-ice testing, fitness testing, and team building will be key, along with some travel to play other teams in other provinces.

Because, as Ashley said, the Canada Games experience is a whole other identity from a national championship, the leadership throughout the fall and winter will be crucial.

“It’s really based around that family environment, making sure our team is cohesive. Coaches will need to keep in contact with players over next six months to keep them mentally engaged,” said Ashley.

Once the final selection is made, Taras said they’ll meet virtually for additional mental training to get ready for puck drop.

“There’s a lot of things that are out of our control with the event,” said Taras. “It’s such a big event. There’s so many other sports going on, the hotels, meals, and everything – we want to make sure we’re prepared for any situation that comes up and control what we can.”


An Experience Beyond the Ice

Peter said anytime you have an opportunity to build memories, you have to take advantage of it.

“I think you have to enjoy the moment, take the Games for what they are. Games go by very, very quickly,” said Peter.

It’s also important to be prepared for inevitable setbacks. 

“Make sure to put your best foot forward. Don’t worry about mistakes. How you react to those mistakes is what matters,” said Peter.

Taras said the biggest thing, in the end, is to have fun and come out of it with a positive experience. 

“We’re going to do the hard work leading up to it and enjoy ourselves to the end,” said Taras.

Ashley is very excited about this team, and finds herself getting more excited going from one camp to the next.

“I think you’ll see a very fast-paced, puck-skilled, high hockey IQ team this year. In the past, we’ve had very good hockey teams – very, very good hockey teams. This year, I think we possess all three of those characteristics. I think that we’re going to be quick, we’re going to be able to move the puck at the proper pace, and I think these girls are really bought in and understand hockey, which is going to help us be successful.”


Follow the Team Toba Hockey Journey

Follow Hockey Manitoba on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, or visit their website to learn more.

Be sure to also follow Ashley and Taras’ teams and the rest of Team Toba on Instagram – your official source of Team Toba updates leading up to the Canada Games in PEI.