The importance of having a Western representative in the provincial bantam AAA hockey league isn’t just about wins and losses for new coach Brad Penney.
Sure, one of the major goals is to teach players skills that would allow them to reach a higher level in the game, but it’s also about those vital off-ice lessons.
“Some of the most important things is we want to teach kids what the real world is like,” said Penney. “We want to teach them about respect, what hard work means, and what it’s going to take to be successful in life.”
Following a 2016-17 season in which the Western Kings won the provincial bantam AAA league title, the team surprisingly folded last year and sat out the season.
A lack of player interest was cited after a tryout session only had 18 players show up.
Penney is confident that won’t be the case this time around. He said there were issues securing a coach for last year’s team, which caused uncertainty, and the lack of success for the Western club in the provincial peewee AAA league may have soured some parents and players on the entire initiative.
“We’re really committed to make sure this team works,” Penney said. “We think the Western region has players out there capable of playing in this division.”
He said having a bantam AAA option is imperative for players who have any aspirations of hockey taking them places in the future, whether it be locally with the major midget Kings, or even with prep schools or varsity teams.
“We’re going to have fun with it,” he said. “But we take it seriously.”
Originally from Victoria — B.C., Penney jokes, because it’s “behind Carbonear” — the new coach grew up playing the game in the Harbour Grace minor hockey system. He’s been living in Massey Drive for the past 16 years.
He’s coached within the atom division of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association and was an assistant coach with the peewee AAA team last year. He also serves as an assistant coach with the Impact Hockey travel team.
His son Ryder, who played two seasons of peewee AAA, is now bantam-aged, so Penney decided the timing seemed right to step up behind the bench when it was decided to resuscitate the bantam AAA club.
The team will hold an ID camp at the Corner Brook Civic Centre from July 24-26, which is essentially a way to gauge what the interest level will be and gives the parents a chance to meet the coach and ask a few questions. No player evaluations will occur, but there will be a few on-ice sessions.
Official team tryouts will go ahead at the civic centre on the weekend of Aug. 17-19. The final roster, which will consist of 15 skaters, two goalies, and possibly some alternate players, will likely be selected within the following week.
A season kickoff tournament is slated for Sept. 13-15 in Conception Bay South, so the quicker the group is finalized, the better for Penney and the rest of the coaching staff.
Penney said he’s hoping to see at least 30 kids out to the ID camp, to demonstrate the players believe in the program as much as he does.
“I do believe any kid who’s played in the AAA program over the last few years has improved,” he said. “Without a shadow of a doubt.”
Western Bantam AAA Kings
ID Camp — July 24-26
Tryouts — Aug. 17-19