Twenty-six athletes were selected in January to represent Canada as members of the NextGEN program. Roughly between the ages of 16-21, these players could potentially become Canada’s future Olympic hopefuls. They depart this week on a 10-day training tour to Chula Vista, California.
In addition to the 26 players, the team will also feature coaching staff representing three major hockey hubs in Canada: Alberta, Ontario and BC. Alongside national team coach, Steph Andrews, a number of assistant coaches will be working with the athletes on strategy, skill and structure. They include Andrea Gibson, Peter Taylor, Krista Thompson and Simone Brown.
According to Andrews, it makes a big difference to be able to bring coaching staff in from across the country to work with the young athletes.
“It’s great to have them coming in from the three major hubs,” she said. “It’s really good to have them working with the players. The coaches can also bring this experience back to their provincial programs.”
Although there will be no official international matches during this training tour, Andrews said the opportunity to tour and get 10 days of quality training together will prepare the team for hosting Chile in the summer.
The venue, Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Centre, is a state of the art training facility near San Diego, California. It is home to several US national sport federations and offers an elite training environment for athletes. The Chula Vista training centre is a common destination for touring and international teams of many sports.
The senior national team will join the NextGEN athletes in Chula Vista on February 13 and play a few test scrimmages against the NextGEN squad while the two teams overlap. Andrews said these scrimmages provide the opportunity for the young athletes to get a taste of the speed and skill of the senior international game.
“The players will get good exposure and experience with those games,” she said. “It sets some of the older NextGEN players up to potentially transition well into the senior team soon.”
According to Andrews, these kind of training tours have multiple goals and can offer valuable training opportunities for the young athletes.
“Not only will this help prepare them for their summer series against Chile, it will just be another great chance to work on skills and strategy,” she said. “And these are skills and tactics they can bring with them back to their daily training environment and forward with them in their career.”