CALGARY, Alta. - As the Canadian Junior Hockey League teams await the opportunity to return to the ice, member clubs are patiently preparing away from the rink in hopeful anticipation of a season.
After a highly successful 2019-20 regular campaign, the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League were among those left wondering what could have been after the playoffs were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under head coach and assistant general manager Adam Manah, Sherwood Park had a tremendous run heading towards the AJHL postseason.
The Crusaders racked up a league-best 49 victories, against just nine defeats for a 98-point run.
Their on-ice prowess also saw them tabbed No. 1 overall in the final CJHL Top 20 Rankings for 2019-20.
After joining the team as an assistant back in 2015-16, he went on to assume the role of head coach the following season.
In his tenure, Sherwood Park has produced a record of 152-78-7-1 over the past four years, including back-to-back 40-plus-win efforts.
With the latest CJHL Coach?s Perspective, Manah offers his insights on practicing and playing in the CJHL.
BIO: The 33-year-old Edmonton, Alta., product is an alumnus of the CJHL, playing four seasons at forward, in the AJHL, with both the Fort Saskatchewan Traders and Fort McMurray Oil Barons. He had been selected to serve as an assistant coach for Team Canada West at the since-cancelled World Junior A Challenge that was to have been held last month in Cornwall, Ont. ? A pair of Manah?s players from last season were the first two CJHL players chosen in the 2020 NHL Draft. Defenceman Michael Benning went to the Florida Panthers while forward Carter Savoie was tabbed by the Edmonton Oilers. Both competed in the 2020 CJHL Prospects Game. Current Sherwood Park centre Ty Mueller was one of 16 CJHL skaters named to NHL Central Scouting?s initial Players to Watch List, which is a prelude to the 2021 NHL Draft.
FAVOURITE PRACTICE DRILL: We do not think we would necessarily narrow it down to one or two favourite drills.
We have a wide variety of drills that tie into our specific theme of practice for that particular day.
With Sherwood Park, we focus on a lot of skill work (skating, puck control, passing, shooting) and then progress to break down the skills, habits, and details incorporated into our structure.
A lot of pride is taken in developing our players and by breaking things down and making it as simple as possible. It helps us with the bigger picture.
We cannot skip from step A to step D without progressing to B and C first.
It's a process on a daily basis in practice and we focus on every aspect of the game.
Our players have bought into that mentality and we must explain why we are doing these things in practice. They are shown how they relate, to not only our structure, but game-like situations most importantly.
It is our responsibility as a coaching staff to bring high energy to the rink every day.
The expectation is contagious with our players. They bring a tremendous work ethic to the rink, desire to get better every day and the players have a lot of joy when they step on the ice.
ADVICE ON PLAYING IN THE CJHL: Some advice we can give players looking to play in the CJHL is to do your background homework on the potential teams that have shown interest in you.
Make sure you will have the opportunity to play and develop, but also research how that organization moves players on to the NCAA, or other higher levels.
Whether that be personal connections with schools, putting together individual highlight packages that the team sends out to promote their players and which team shows the most interest in having you there (i.e., phone calls, texts, etc.).
Lastly, there is so much competition for jobs. Do not take it for granted. Be sure to put in the work on and off the ice in wanting to improve every single day.
If you don't, someone else will. Do not let someone take your job.
Work hard, earn your spot and you will get rewarded for it.
NEXT UP: Mark Jooris, Head Coach/GM: Burlington Cougars (OJHL)