It didn’t take Mike Reid very long to find a new project within the world of the East Kootenay hockey scene.
Having announced he was stepping away from his role as general manager of the KIJHL’s Kimberley Dynamiters after the 2015-16 season concluded, Reid is now moving into the role of head coach and general manager of the Cranbrook Midget AA hockey program, intent on reclaiming and revitalizing an outfit that has seen tough times in recent years.
“You can [develop as a hockey player] coming through a smaller centre like Cranbrook, you don’t have to move,” Reid said Monday afternoon. “That’s been the biggest issue. We’ve probably lost over a dozen kids who move to Lethbridge or some of these academies. At the end of the day, I strongly feel that — other than the one per cent that might need to move away — these kids can all achieve their goals out of this area by coming through a properly run midget program.
“Our biggest thing will be getting the kids here and help them adopt that hockey lifestyle that [former Dynamiters coach] Jerry Bancks talks about. You adopt it at a young age in order to achieve your goals. That lifestyle is a commitment to your fitness, a commitment to your community, commitment to academics. Those things come through and when you’re 17 or 18, opportunities will arise for these kids.”
Reid’s first order of duty is to host an information session and begin recruitment for players interested in committing to the hockey lifestyle he is preaching. Under Reid’s direction, the first information meeting for the program will be held Thursday, April 21 (7 p.m.) upstairs at the Memorial Arena in Cranbrook. The meeting is intended for interested players born in the years 1999, 2000 or 2001, hailing from both Cranbrook and Kimberley.
Additionally, the refreshed program is expected to affiliate with the KIJHL’s Kimberley Dynamiters in an effort to provide access to more hockey resources and create a more free-flowing developmental pipeline.
This is simply the first step in a long process that Reid has mapped out as he works towards restoring the Cranbrook Midget AA program to competitive status. In 2015-16, the Cranbrook Midget AA Knights went 0-13-0, being outscored by a combined margin of 92-17 in the process after beginning the season in the South Central Alberta Hockey League (SCAHL) before being forced to pull out of the league for a variety of reasons.
“Right now, it’s not cool to play midget [hockey] in Cranbrook,” Reid said. “We’ve got to make it cool, again, to play midget [hockey] in Cranbrook. By affiliating ourselves with the Dynamiters and giving these kids an opportunity through that league, whether it be the Dynamiters or other organizations, it will make it cool to be a part of the midget program again.”
While the aim is to affiliate with the Dynamiters, Reid said players will not be obligated or bound to play Junior B hockey for the Kimberley-based squad should they wish to pursue other avenues, be that within the KIJHL or elsewhere.
“I’m going to run it as a Midget AAA program with expectations that would be the same as if you went to Lethbridge,” Reid said. “The only thing I can’t offer to these families and these kids is the level of competition of AAA. I can’t say we’re going to play against Lethbridge AAA teams or Calgary AAA teams. We’re not going to be in that, but what I can offer is the structure, practices, fitness and off-ice [lessons].
“I’m a big believer, now that I’ve been involved in junior hockey, that the 15- through 16-year-old years are pretty tough, especially coming out of a small centre. But if you commit yourself off the ice as much as you commit yourself on the ice, to get bigger, stronger and you’re more committed than the guy beside you, you’ll be able to achieve your goals.”
As far as Reid is concerned, the expectation is to be continually preparing, developing and moving local hockey players from midget on to the next level, equipped with the skills and knowledge required to keep advancing their careers and lives.
Reid believes there is a myth within minor hockey that suggests an aspiring player’s career is done if passed over at the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. As far as he is concerned, there remains ample opportunity to pursue the WHL, Junior A and various college routes (NCAA, ACHA, CIS and other Canadian colleges) well after a player goes undrafted, should that be the case.
“These are the late bloomers, these are the guys that are going to have to come through the backdoor to get into Junior A or the WHL or off to university,” Reid said. “But it truly is attainable, though the program needs to be run a certain way and there needs to be more commitment.”
For starters, Reid will make his pitch to Cranbrook and Kimberley-based players still in the area. From there, he intends on reaching out to players who have left the area to play in places like Lethbridge or at other hockey-based academies, with the hopes of bringing them home to hone their skills in their own backyard right here in the East Kootenay.
“The first year is going to be tough, we’re going to rebuild the program and we’re going to be young,” Reid said. “But I think once we do that, we can make it cool to be a part of this program again.”
Reid has committed to the program for a minimum of three years, stressing continued and consistent mentorship as key to aiding the turnaround in an effort to set up East Kootenay midget hockey players for success.
While the rest of his staff will be put in place later this summer, Reid stressed the affiliation with the Dynamiters program will help provide additional mentorship from the new coaching staff as well as former coach Bancks.
The revamped Cranbrook Midget AA program is expected to rejoin the SCAHL.