Jr. Kings’ Tier I coaching dynamic gets results
When it comes to Tier I coaching staffs, few compliment each other better than those within the Los Angeles Jr. Kings organization.
After all, when you bring together a handful of some of the most revered professional youth hockey coaches in all of North America, along with a few individuals who’ve sustained longevity and success toiling in the NHL, it’s hard not to imagine a rich developmental experience for the players within the program.
“I think what’s so unique – and what ultimately benefits our student-athletes, on and off the ice – is that we’ve been able to successfully pool these coaching and playing resources to architect one of the most experienced and knowledgeable staffs out there,” said Jr. Kings executive director Kelly Sorensen. “Not many programs have that luxury, and it’s paying dividends on a number of levels.”
The coaching cast includes Jaro Modry, who played over 700 games in the NHL. He serves as head coach of the Jr. Kings’ 16U Minor team with Jack Bowkus assisting.
Nelson Emerson, who also dressed in well over 700 NHL games, assists Shawn Pitcher, head coach of the Bantam Major 01 team, while Glen Murray, who played over 1,000 NHL games, assists Jeff Turcotte, head coach of the Pee Wee Major 03 team.
Modry also assists Igor Nikulin, head coach of the Pee Wee Minor 04 team.
Not to mention Jamie Storr, another NHL vet with over 200 games under his belt, and Nick Vachon, who also dressed in the NHL, are also coaching teams within the Jr. Kings’ Tier I program; Storr is the head coach of the Bantam Minor 02 squad, and Vachon an assistant on the club’s 18U and 16U Major teams.
Bowkus, Nikulin, Pitcher and Turcotte are widely considered a few of the best in the business when it comes to their coaching craft. All have guided a number of teams to promise on the local, regional and national stages over the last few decades in Southern California while in the process helping develop countless players for higher levels of the game, including the NHL.
“They’re all gifted mentors, gifted leaders,” said Sorensen. “And their resumes speak for themselves.”
“Those guys have been the face of California hockey for the past two decades, and the Jr. Kings are definitely lucky to have their experience,” Emerson added. “They’re no doubt the leaders on our teams; they’ve seen everything in hockey, both locally and nationally.”
What fuels the developmental formula even more is the fact that Emerson serves as the Los Angeles Kings’ director of player development, and Murray is a player development coach with the NHL club.
Pitcher considers Emerson’s experience, both as a player and now mentoring young, high-end prospects, invaluable when it comes to sharing his wisdom amongst the Jr. Kings program.
“Obviously, he has so much knowledge,” said Pitcher. “You’re always learning as a coach, and he’s around the big team all the time, so he brings so much to the table.”
Bowkus, who also serves as head coach of the Jr. Kings’ 16U Major squad, agrees having that NHL influence on the ice and in the locker room is a definite asset.
“It’s huge,” said Bowkus. “You can always go to them for advice, and we can use their experiences as a pro, both as coaches and players – not only on the ice, but off it, too; how you should handle yourself.”
And having that presence, coupled with professional youth coaches who’ve been perfecting their trades for years, is a recipe for success.
“They’re very passionate about the game, obviously, and the knowledge, experience and detail they bring is second to none,” Pitcher said of the NHL contingent. “The kids have a great deal of respect for those guys, too. They listen; they’re very attentive.”
Having that dynamic permeate throughout the Jr. Kings’ Tier I program is a major score for the entire organization, says Bowkus.
“Their knowledge of the game and their experience in the game is such an asset for us,” said Bowkus. “As a program, we’re very fortunate to be able to utilize their experiences to help shape and develop our coaches and kids.”
“The NHL guys who are helping in the organization have seen basically everything in hockey,” Emerson added, “and everything involved in teaching, playing and coaching revolves around one important concept: Respect the game.
“Together, we help each other make sure that’s a priority.”
– Brian McDonough