When it comes to a legacy team like the Red Deer Midget ‘AAA’ Optimist Chiefs, expectations were high for the 150 athletes who tried for the team over the last week.
This past weekend the 2012 and 2013 National ‘AAA’ champions began their try-outs at the Red Deer Arena. Over the course of the past six days, head coach Brandin Cote and his assistant coaches whittled down the massive amount of hopefuls in hopes of finding the top talent for their team.
The top 30 players will take to the ice Sept. 10th for their chance to play in the team’s annual Black & White Game. From there coaching staff will select a final 28 players to go to the Strathmore Exhibition Tournament, with the final roster being set around the third week of September.
Cote, who is now in his second season coaching the team following the retirement of long-time coach Doug Quinn, said it’s not just a player’s skill coaches are looking at. Attitude, determination, willingness to learn and a team spirit all play a part as well.
“At any level a player’s attitude can be the most important part of their game,” said Cote. “You have to want to be the best, want to be successful, and you have to want and understand what it takes to win.
“At the end of the day, hockey is a game you’re supposed to enjoy – when you enjoy it and bring a positive attitude to the rink every day great things happen.”
With high expectations from the community following past team successes, Cote said it can be intimidating for players to join the team – however, it also makes the pride of playing for such a high level team much greater and adds to the team’s continuous winning culture.
“The community really embraces this team and this program – the kids take a lot of pride in the institution that is the Red Deer Midget ‘AAA’ Optimist Chiefs and so do we as coaches,” he said.
“Team success is the most important thing, teaching a team to work together and not just work toward their individual goals is huge and if you can do that with a team, then winning tends to fall right into place and take care of itself.
“To coach a winning team, and be a winning team, it means the having the consistency to come down to the rink everyday and have the willingness to put in the work and prepare for what it’s going to take.”
While Coach Cote and the Chiefs didn’t have the season he had hoped for last year, he is encouraged by their goaltending situation this year. He hopes to see the defense with more depth than it had last year adding the team has a solid group of forwards making their way up.
“Skill-wise we are there, so now we need to bring it all together and focus on who wants to be a team player and commit to getting better.”
Cote himself is no stranger to the national stage.
Prior to joining the Chiefs as head coach, Cote played for a number of junior hockey teams across North America and Europe during his minor pro career. Following his days as on the ice as a player he spent time as an assistant coach for the Red Deer College Kings and Queens before taking over the Senior ‘A’ Bentley Generals where he rallied the team to become the 2012 Allan Cup champions.
The young coach, 34, said last season was a bit of an eye opener for him as he transitioned from coaching men to men in the making. With an age range of 15- to 18-year-olds on his team, the coach found he was going to be playing a slightly different role.
“The teaching aspect of being a coach plays a much larger role at this level – you really have to be there for your players and be there to hold them accountable while at the same time being there for them when they need it,” said Cote who can be found off ice as a teacher at St. Patrick’s Community School.
“At this age it’s a big thing for them to be playing for a team like this and it can land them with a lot of pressure on their shoulders at a young age and as a coach part of your job is also to help alleviate some of that for them.”