As Selection Camp progresses in Red Deer, it’s the small things that really matter to Andre Tourigny, Team Canada’s head coach. As someone who values accountability, the bench boss made that clear Thursday morning as Team White hit the ice at 11:30amMT.
Being an OHL head coach, Tourigny has molded the expectation of being on-time, whether it be game days or practices. SportChek Selection Camp has proven no different unless a player is absent while waiting for test results. With Team Red scheduled to hit the ice at Westerner Park Centrium at 9:30amMT, a couple of bodies seemed to be missing with two empty holes in Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens.
While at the time, there was no reason given as to why they missed practice with the rest of their cohort, Tourigny told the media after that both players had treatment, hence skipping morning skate. However, as Tourigny gathered Team White right on schedule, the two forwards appeared, suited up, stick in hand.
It was moments later when the three had a chat, which saw the coach fist bump both, however, send them away. With communication key through Selection Camp, sitting them was his form of consequence, but serving as a lesson for the the rest of the group.
As they took in the duration from the stands, Tourigny gathered Team White upon conclusion to fill them in. As cited by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, those players were told the two were given a choice, he would let them partake, or they could sit and take the hit.
While participating would go against Tourigny’s values, both were understanding, took their sticks and turned for the exits. Seeing the two head off after talking, the coach said to the group it showed how much they care. Not only for being on-time, but for following the guidelines set out by team management.
After practice concluded, Tourigny spoke with the media, where he further explained the situation at hand.
“The reality is, Dylan and Kirby had treatment with our therapist, but I was not aware, so they arrived tight, which we explained to the guys that practice starts on time, and if you’re not there, you’re late, but in reality, it’s because they had treatment, so I talked to them and said we have a situation. I said if I let you go on the ice, what kind of message does that send to the group? Kirby answered. He said, you know what, we’ll show we’re loose. I said do we wanna send that message? Both of them said no. So that moment, I said we have two choices. I said I can let you in, you’re going in and we deal with it, or you take the hit and we send a strong message to the team, but it’s you taking the hit. And both of them said we’ll take the hit, we wanna do what’s right. So I fist bumped them and said thank you guys and that was the end of the story. They went out, and at the end of the practice, I think what’s super important for me to talk to the team and to explain to them, to the rest of the players who didn’t know about the situation, first of all, if you have treatment, you make sure you make us aware because that’s possible you’re late on the ice, but it’s a matter of communication, and the second thing, the most important thing, is making sure the credit goes back to those guys, to how much they care and how much they want that team to do the right thing and play the right way, and take leadership and be accountable for their actions, so I don’t think you can have a stronger message from stronger guys than those two leaders, who took the hit today to send a strong message to the rest of the team, so I think it gives them a lot of credit and a lot of respect for what they did.”Andre Tourigny on Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach
Tourigny re-iterated after that neither of the forwards, in his mind, are players who would traditionally have such issues moving forward. “Absolutely not, no, I coached those guys before, and like I said, it was not a heated conversation. They had treatment, they told me, “Hey Bear, we had treatment and didn’t wanna be late,” and I said I understand that, but the point is more about when you start to have two sets of rules on the team, now you start to create confusion. What if the next day, the guy is excused or his reason is not as good? So now you start to judge. I always say in a team, if the rule has feeling, now you’re in trouble. The rule cannot have feeling and we addressed that with the team before they knew it and there was no hard feelings, I talked to them before, I talked to them after, it’s just a matter of making sure this team is run the right way, and I think that starts with your leaders, and when your leaders like Dacher and Cozy are on-board like that, I think that is strong and that shows how much they care for the team.”
That message translated so far that aside from the backstops, Brett Brochu and Dylan Garand, the two forwards were the first to take the ice for the late session. When goalie coach Jason Labarbera asked with a smile why the two were out early, Cozens said with assurance, “Not taking any chances.”
With such characteristics on display, Team Canada’s bench boss said discussing their integrity, “Players take accountability and they set the standard for the rest of their teammates, I think that showed a lot of humility and a lot of courage and they showed how resilient those guys are willing to be for our team to perform and to strive in the same values, so I think when you let those guys lead, good things happen.”
For Tourigny, it’s not the first time he has likened such events to his method and teaching style, as such characteristics he sees as a hallmark, and this will be honoured and rewarded in the long-term. Of course, only time will tell to see how well it was received and if the lesson paid off.