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Photo: Ryan Sawatzky

Convo with the Coach | Kelvin Cech

Over 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Kelvin Cech – Head Coach, Winkler Flyers

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

KC: I grew up in rural Alberta, just outside Edmonton. I played minor hockey, basically like every other kid from around there. Once that was over, I went to school in Edmonton and played a little bit of college hockey, which is a bit mis-leading… I watched the team play from the bench more than I actually played. Those were the years my coach Jim MacLean told me I was a better coach than a player, in no uncertain terms. So, I wrapped up my playing career and got into coaching as school was wrapping up. And here we are now.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

KC: I actually started working at hockey academy’s right when I was done, so I did a lot of skill development as I was finishing my degree. I coached U13 and U15 then I moved from Edmonton to Vancouver and coached major midget for four years. I then went and got an assistant job with the University of British Columbia and that lead me to Winkler last year.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

KC: I remember it really well. I made a point to make sure that I internalized that moment. When I first left Edmonton, my dad got me a cake that said “The Journey Continues”, which is a little bit of a joke because I don’t think either of us had heard of Winkler, Manitoba before I interviewed for the job there. So, after I got that cake, I actually got it tattooed on my arm. So, when I was standing on the bench for the first game, I had my thumb on the tattoo on my arm. I was listening to the anthem in Winkler and it was just a cool experience. Afterwards, I went to the office after a loss against Paul Dyck’s Steinbach Pistons and my parents were in the office waiting for me. I didn’t know they were coming. It was a cool experience and one I’ll never forget.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

KC: I gravitate towards whatever the players like or dislike. We do a lot of back-checking drills but they dislike those for obvious reasons, but we keep doing them because they’re important. My favorite is a game we call 3-zone-hockey. So, what happens is, it’s 3 on 3 in each zone. The puck is always going in the same direction for each team. So, three guys try to pass from the defensive zone into the neutral zone, the neutral zone guys try and pass into the offensive zone and then the other teams going in reverse. We do that whenever we have time, it takes a lot of time. The guys rotate and the guys love it. I’ve done this before with other teams and it didn’t go off as well, so I didn’t like it so much but with this Flyers team, the last year and a half, that’s our favorite.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

KC: There’s two. The first getting Jaden Townsend. He was in Swan Valley for basically his whole career until he was traded out of province. We still believe and I still bring it up with him, I think Swan would have won that game 7 against Portage a couple years back if ‘Towney’ was playing but he had a broken leg. Getting him back in Manitoba, he would eventually become our captain and that was enormous. He still helps out with the coaching, would come to games when we had games and he’s just an incredible human being. As far as trades go, it was a really steep price to pay but getting Garrett Szeremley to come home, we got him from Waywayseecappo. He’s from Morden and he’s had a huge impact on our team. He says some weird stuff and he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

KC: I’ve been thinking about this. There’s been a lot of people who’ve helped along the way but recently, it be Sven Butenschon, who I spent three years with at UBC as his assistant coach. The biggest thing was the confidence he gave me that I could do this professionally. Sven played 17 years of professional hockey. He didn’t like talking about it much but as we got closer of the years, I got some cool stories. He played for some amazing coaches and had experiences all over the world playing. He was so down to earth, treated the players great and he gave me the confidence to come to Winkler and run a Junior A program.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

KC: Griffen Leonard. Griffen is another kid that was a guy who was close to everyone while he was here in Winkler. He’s a positive, passionate kid. Fantastic leader. The guys all loved him, looked up to him. He was the guy that wasn’t afraid to push other players as well. He doubled his point totals every year in Winkler. Last year, in my first year, after Christmas he really took off, he really realized how effective he could be all over the ice. He was on power play and penalty kill, big faceoff guy, too. Now he’s down south going to school. He was a funny guy, worked his butt off, set a great example and was the glue that held that team together.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

KC: The obvious answer for me would be my hometown Edmonton Oilers. It would be a lot of fun to coach that kind of top end talent in McDavid and Draisaitl. But, that’s a bit of a copout, that might be a little too easy, so I’ll go with my new adoptive hometown team, the Winnipeg Jets. I’ve heard some awesome stories about Blake Wheeler and his leadership from a couple of Jets coaches over the years. Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey, the leadership they show, it just sounds like a great organization to work for.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

KC: I’ve talked a lot about this with Kevin Pauls, who does our broadcasting and he’s really talented but he wants details. I like that he pushes me on that. I like talking about the game and I do probably talk too much. But the question I like the least is how could you lose four in a row while leading in all the games and why are you still on a four-game losing streak. If he’s asking questions like that, then things are not going well. It’s not his fault but those are the kinds of questions that are not fun to answer.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

KC: First and foremost, it’s the people I’ve been surrounded by since day one. My general manager Jeff Jeanson who reached out and gave me the opportunity to come here. Him and I along with head scout Mike McAulay, our overall vision is pretty aligned, doesn’t mean we don’t argue every other week but we still keep encouraging each other to have our opinions and we’re not always going to agree but, those two for sure. Kerry Wilson, our trainer who’s done basically 99% of jobs you can do for a Junior A hockey team. For me, it’s all about the people I get to work with on a daily basis.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

KC: This was a tough question to answer. I was in my first-year last year and it’s obviously very busy so I’m either in the rink or at my house. Now, I’m just stuck in my house. So, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the community. The thing I love best is just how loud it gets in the rink. I remember well, Everett Bestland scored one of the nicest goals you’ve ever seen in your life, last year. He burnt a kid in the neutral zone, it was such an impressive move and the crowd reacted so much… I think they were louder on the move then when he went down and scored. That and how loud the crowd gets when there is a fight. People in Winkler love their physical hockey.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

KC: If you polled everyone in our dressing room, I think they’d all say the same guy. Jackson Arpin. Second year player for us, he’s 19, he came in last year at maybe 160 lbs, tall kid and he put in a lot of work over the summer. I think he added 30lbs of muscle. He doesn’t have the flashy stats, which is usually what gets the attention in this day and age, but he’s such an important two-way player for us, always on the right side of the puck and he may actually be to coachable. He’s come in and earned a letter as an Assistant Captain. He’s a special player and special person. I wish that everyone would give him the attention like he gets from our dressing room.