By Scott Billeck
Doug Sinclair is ready for the challenge. Of course, when you take over one of Manitoba’s most elite hockey programs, you’d better be ready.
Hockey Manitoba’s Program of Excellence (POE) frings together the best young players in the province and the ongoing goal for Hockey Manitoba is as much player development, as it is provincial representation at national events. National events like the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge being held in Calgary this year. The U-16 age group will also be part of the Canada Winter Games which will take place in 2015.
Heading up the Team Manitoba U-16 team is Sinclair, a former professional hockey player and current assistant coach with the Winnipeg Thrashers Midget AAA team. Sinclair also serves as the Manitoba scout for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL.
He has seen a lot during his playing, coaching and scouting careers and feels he has a lot to offer to Team Manitoba.
“For me personally, when I played, I always appreciated the guys who understood game by game situations,” said Sinclair. “I always appreciated when coaches identified the guys who were going that particular night. I always said I would bring anything forward as a coach that I liked from coaches when I was a player, taking a player’s perspective.
“Communication is huge. Getting to find out what the players are all about. In today’s game you can’t coach every player the same. Everyone is a little different. I’m an open-minded coach. I want to find out what their personalities are like and bring a positive attitude. Having been in the trenches as a player a few times, I think that helps you as a coach as well.”
Sinclair has been a part of the Hockey Manitoba Program of Excellence for the past three seasons, twice as an assistant, and this year as head coach. He sees a lot of good in the program, both in terms of development and overall notoriety across Canada.
“It’s a first kind of identification for players,” said Sinclair. “It’s the first true gauge of a provincial all-star team. It’s the foreground for moving forward with the Under-17s, Under-18s and the World Junior program. There are a lot of scouts and GMs here, and Hockey Canada will know these players by the end.”
This year Hockey Manitoba will employ some new player development monitoring techniques with the implementation of personal fitness testing.
“For the first time we’re doing some fitness testing here,” says Sinclair. “It can be hard to track all the on ice development come summer time with all the guys doing their own personal things.
“But we actually implemented a fitness test this year where we are going to give the results to the players and they can work towards the two or three tests we did and then come summer camp we can redo the tests and see if they improved at all on their scores.”
Two camps have already taken place, including the Top-40 camp from May 9-12. The next camp is the Prep Camp which is the final camp and includes about 26 players. It can be a tough process to dwindle the lineup down to 20 players says Sinclair.
“In these situations, you got to make some tough decisions,” he said. “Last year wasn’t quite as deep, but this year a couple of guys didn’t get invited to the Top 40 that could have been”
The outlook looks good going into the Western Challenge Cup according to Sinclair, with all things pointing towards a golden fall.
“We want to win Gold, we want to win the tournament obviously,” he said. “This year we’re competitive, we have more depth and more talent than the previous couple of years. This is the best group of forwards I have seen in the past three or four years in Manitoba so we will have a good shot. We project to do well.”
The next camp, the U-16 Prep Camp goes August 14-17 in Winnipeg with the final 26 players looking to impress and make the final 20 man roster. The Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup goes from October 31 to November 3 in Calgary with provincial teams from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.