Boys will be boys
Cougars men’s hockey team take their notorious Vancouver trip
Halfway through his first season behind the Cougars bench and men’s hockey, head coach Todd Johnson is starting to get settled in.
“I think the first part was a little bit more stressful and hectic, just trying to get into the swing of things, but you know, now I’m used to the daily grind, and I know what we have to do on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s been great for myself and my family.”
What makes the season even better for Johnson is a hockey team that has responded quickly to having new blood behind the bench, posting their best record in more than a decade at 7-7-2 heading into the Christmas break.
“I think they’ve been working hard,” Johnson said. “I think when you look at other teams in our league, they have a lot more skill than we do, and I think for the most part we’ve competed with every team that we’ve played against, and give all the credit to the guys. They’ve bought in to what we’re trying to do and they’ve been working really hard at the systems, and they’ve been working hard in the gym, and that’s all you can ask for as a first-year coach.”
The team has also started to come together off the ice as well, something Johnson attributes to their early-season trip to Alaska for a pair of exhibition games.
“Even though it was an extremely long trip with the travel that we took, I thought that trip really brought our team together,” Johnson said. “You kind of look at every day and you’ve got guys coming in, they’re working out together, and they leave and they do things outside of the rink together. I think that’s what you want, and that’s what you demand from the team.”
“Their time to have some fun is Saturday night, and I believe they do that just as hard as they’re playing Friday and Saturday.” – Todd Johnson
Johnson did say that he understands the needs for university students to have some time for off-ice debauchery.
“There’s a time and a place obviously,” Johnson answered the question with a laugh. “The university life, you know, you don’t want to stifle it, because you want guys to experience what university is about. There’s a time and a place, and I believe our guys have picked their times well … Friday and Saturday we’ve competed really hard, and their time to have some fun is Saturday night, and I believe they do that just as hard as they’re playing Friday and Saturday.”
Despite the Cougars closing out the first half of their season in B.C. – a trip that is notorious for getting players suspended – Johnson wasn’t concerned about team discipline.
“For the most part, the guys are men. You can’t put too many restrictions on them,” he said. “They know the importance of these two hockey games, and really it comes down to them, and it’s up to them whether they want to be committed to Friday and Saturday or if they want to go out.”
During the trip, the team lost 3-0 on Friday night to UBC, but bounced back on Saturday with a 3-0 win of their own.
One can only guess at what kind of partying then took place, but with the team sitting at .500 heading into the Christmas break, it’s fairly safe to say that it was excessive.
For Johnson, it’s now time to start gearing up for the second half of the season.
“It will be a little more difficult because we are on the road a little bit more,” he said, of what’s in store for the team after the break. “You can’t say whether we’re going to have the exact same record second half, but if the effort is there and we keep improving on the systems that we have in place, I can’t see why we couldn’t kind of mimic what we’ve done in the first half.”
Photo by Emily Wright