David Johnson has been out of the coaching game for a few years, but don’t let that fool you.
Johnson was tabbed as the new head coach of the Northeast B.C. and Yukon Midget Trackers last week and backed by his expansive career as a head coach with the Oceanside Generals of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and a few more recent years as an assistant with the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League, he’s ready for this new challenge.
“Just an opportunity that came out of the blue and really excited me. Just to get back to more of the grassroots, working with younger kids. Got a great vibe from the interview with the board, what they are trying to accomplish and what they are trying to do,” Johnson told the Alaska Highway News in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“The challenge excited me. There’s only so many jobs in hockey and to get an opportunity to get back into the game was really completely unexpected, but really exciting.”
With over 20 years behind the bench in some capacity or another Johnson feels that he’s ready to take over a Trackers program in transition and prepare the young players for a future in junior hockey.
“Coaching at this age of kid there’s so many different components and I think one of the real areas I’m going to be able to offer something different is really helping the kids understand what it takes to play at the next level,” he said.
“Your identity as a 15-year-old midget player is one thing, but if you’re going to be a first year player in the BCHL as a 17-year-old you’re not going to play that same role. You need to learn how to play the game, in a different role until you earn the opportunity to be that original player.”
Along with that developmental goal, the longtime hockey man and hockey parent himself hopes to tackle one of the areas biggest problems— talent leaving their home in the north.
“Hockey at the bantam and midget level has changed so much, the landscape is completely different with the academies and options for kids… trying to implement that model to allow kids to not leave,” he said. “I always tell kids enjoy being the big fish in the little pond, don’t be in a rush to be the little fish in the big pond… I really believe athlete’s confidence is such a major component in their ability to be successful.”
To further ensure talent in the north is fully exploited, the Trackers will also take part in the Hockey Canada Skills Academy, a program where high school students received a physical education credit in exchange for spending a period of time each week on the ice. The Scholastic Educational Option the team is offering plans to increase the teams practice to game ratio to 3:1.
Last year the Trackers finished with their second best regular season record at 18-9-5 record in the Northern Alberta Midget Hockey League.
Johnson will be introduced to prospective players and try and get a feel for what next season will bring on Aug. 16 in Dawson Creek at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 17 in Fort St. John at 7:30 p.m. at the Energetic Learning Campus.
The Trackers will also begin their first training camp on Aug. 26 in Taylor.