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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner - Part 1

This interview was conducted by email and I want to again thank Coach Sumner and Ian Henry at the Tbirds for giving me... and you guys... the time to sit down and chat about the season. Without further delay, let's jump right into this thing.

Hunnex - After the final game was played Saturday, what kind of things are you doing to wrap up the season? and what are your plans for this off-season?

Sumner - It all happens pretty quickly when the season ends. We have to get high school players home quickly because of school enrollment back home. They can’t afford to miss many days during the transfer time because it’s already fairly late in the school year. So the school guys are a priority to meet with and get going because of that reason. We had a few guys that were under contract with NHL teams and those guys were called up to NHL affiliates in the American Hockey League. - Hickey to Manchester, O’Brien to Binghamton, and Scott to Toronto. We had one on one meetings with all players which took place over Sunday and Monday.

My plans for this off-season include hopefully getting moved closer to the new rink. We all know that the market is very slow which is why I throw in the hopefully. I have been trying to sell my house in Woodinville for about a year already with no success. I spend a lot of time at the rink and I have a wife and 2 young sons at home. Time has become so valuable for me, my family already pays a huge price with the nature of my work and I can’t afford to spend what can often add up to being multiple hours a day commuting. I’m away often and it’s not unusual to work seven days a week throughout hockey season so my need to be closer is a necessity. It will allow me to be a better dad and husband at home and a better coach at the rink.

The immediate future involves scouting. Russ and I will be away the better part of April to see the year end tournaments in preparation for the upcoming Bantam Draft. It starts this Thursday. We will meet up with our Director of Player Personnel, Colin Alexander this weekend in Kamloops for the annual Bantam Tournament up there. From there the rest of the month is packed with similar weekends. Colin has seen these players all year and runs our draft but I think it’s valuable to have a good handle on the player pool.

It’s kind of late in the game but I would like to get a hockey school up and running this summer. Depending on ice availability, it could run at some point in July. It’s a little bit early in the summer to run a hockey camp but that’s when the ice may be and I would like to do my part at growing hockey in the area and I think this would be a good way to do so. I know I can put on a quality camp.

The remainder of the off-season will be filled with player meetings, recruiting and planning.

H - What kind of goals had you set for the team that you either did or did not achieve this season? Was the season an overall disappointment with the 1st round playoff exit? Obviously you can't be satisfied by losing in the 1st round, but are there things you can take away from the season that you can be pretty happy and/or proud about?

S - We always have goals going into the season but this season was highly unusual because of the new arena and the schedule that we had because of that. So I had adjusted goals in my mind. We were on the road for all but 8 games in the first half. I wanted to play .500 or better on the road in the first half and a minimal .750 at home for those 8 games.

We didn’t reach those road goals which made for huge ground to make up in the second half. We had a poor start to our season. I believe we had 2 wins in our first 10 or 12 games. We had key players who weren’t at their best in the first half and we needed to be at our best to succeed with the many challenges the first half presented. We were in a situation where all was new – city, school, billets, teammates, practice rink with no dressing room or training facility, and an unprecedented road schedule.

Looking back at it now, we had players that were new to our team that I really couldn’t get to know well enough until we got into the new rink. That’s when access to the players changed drastically. We had meeting rooms, training rooms, lounge areas, a weight room, and the players generally loved being there so they were always around. I could have made and did make meetings in the first half but overall we didn’t have a place to be so the guys didn’t hang around at the rink much so access to the players was about a two hour time frame per day.

A first round exit is always disappointing, any exit comes with disappointment. The season had its share of disappointments including our first half and losing in the first round but there were also positives that helped balance out some of the negatives. Our second half was good for the most part and many players developed into what we had envisioned. It all balances out to being a little above average which our record reflected. Looking ahead, we all want to be better than that.

H - I tend to think that you are a pretty even-keeled coach, never allowing yourself or the players to get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. Can you talk a little bit about the situation at the end of Game 5 that made you upset? (without getting fined by the league?)

S - There were mistakes made by many, myself included. I’ll keep it brief. It was a non-judgment call yet judgment was factored into the explanation. As a coach you are always looking to gain your team an advantage, I was looking to do that. The only way to compound the situation was to penalize our team which is what ended up happening. I was told later that it was assessed when I hit my hand on the boards. We were behind at the time and I ended up making it even tougher on our team. I always want to help my team win not hinder our chances. Overall it was a regrettable situation that I will learn from and move on.


Part 2 coming on Friday... As I ask Coach about the much talked about Power Play unit. Stay tuned.


Mick White said...

This is good.... looking fwd to the next part.

4thebirds said...

Thanks Tyler! And coach Rob! It's always interesting to read what a coaches thoughts are. We see things very one sided as a fan, so it's good to see that other side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tyler. Great to get the Coach's perspective on what was expected and what was fulfilled. Appreciate you and Coach Sumner taking the time to do that for us. Looking forward to the next installment.


stbird said...

This is really cool. Glad Sumner would take the time to answer. Can't wait for the rest. You have the greatest blog, and dedication to it than any other whl blog I have seen. Thanks.

Stephanie Boen said...

Very nice job. Looking forward to part 2.

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