Winning on the ice only adds to the enriching experience of competing with your peers said junior Red Hawks hockey coach Jason Morissette.
This was his response to questions related to his juniors team winning the Saints Spring Classic Hockey Tournament on March 21.
Morissette said the success came from enjoying the experience.
“Any sport where they’re having fun it usually translates over to more success right? That’s how I look at it” he said.
The annual tournament included 16 teams with a roster of only Grade 9s and 10s. Morissette said the junior Hawks team enables some of the students (who don’t make or try out for the varsity team) to gain first-hand knowledge of high school hockey.
With scores of 9-2 over St. Thomas 1-0 over Norwood and 4-0 over St. Mary’s the tournament title wasn’t really in doubt except for the second game against Norwood.
Morissette said his team was challenged by a strong performance by the Norwood goalie and inspired play by a physical opponent.
“[Their goalie] just seemed to be really on his game. The other [reason] was Norwood saw us play the first game and I think they were really up to play us because they knew we did really well. We had a good squad. I definitely think they were eager to play us. They definitely came out to do that and they played pretty good defensively” he said.
He adds after only four practices to prepare for the tournament his team was still adjusting to one another which led to a lot of solo scoring efforts. The Hawks roster included players who had played for a variety of teams whether it was the varsity school team the province’s best midget Highland Storm team to AAA team in Lindsay and one even from Sturgeon Lake. Much of the team had played minor hockey together years before.
“They know each other … when you haven’t played in a couple of years it just doesn’t happen. It takes some games” he said.
When the team played the tournament final things started to click for the Hawks who took on a far more relaxed approach which resulted in better puck movement and a greater attention to team play Morissette said.
Before coaching the juniors Morissette helped Ron Yake coach the varsity team.
He sees value in high school competition for student athletes.
“You’re representing your school. You’re representing your community. I find there is a degree of respect to it. You’re still following your school credo” he said.
School teams offer a unique experience for students. Unlike minor hockey when players are driven by parents or drive themselves to games school hockey brings players together.
“You ride the bus together. They go to a restaurant afterwards … as a team and we ride home together as a team” he said. “A lot of them enjoy that. It’s a different experience.”
Morissette attended HHSS and played for Yake and his father Paul on the school hockey team from 1989 to 1991.
There were players he remembers playing with who went on to play in university here in Canada and in the States in the OHL and some are still in the community now.
“They always talk fondly of their time playing … the biggest thing they said was they found it to be a lot of fun” he said.
There is growth and a test of character which builds resiliency when it comes to high school hockey. In high school varsity hockey a Grade 10 can be playing with a fifth-year student who is 19. Minor hockey is organized according to age groups.
“I think it will help your playing development but it also helps … you learn from those guys too” he said.
These athletes need to be commended for not just the success in the game but in how they manage their time he said.
“I don’t know if people really realize how busy our youth are and with the things they do” he said.
This includes their efforts to fit in practices for the high school team their club team and then also manage to complete school work.
He had a message for the Grade 9 players who didn’t make the team this year: make sure you come out next year.
“I like and support the kids put themselves out there. A lot of kids get nervous about maybe not making it … the experience of doing these things does build resiliency in kids. I tell them: make sure you come out next season” he said.
He adds even NBA great Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team in his first year. Now he is regarded as the greatest player of all time.