Mitch Love of Quesnel has been named assistant coach for Hockey Canada’s national men’s under-17 team and the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Love, an assistant coach with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League is in his fifth year behind the bench, after starting his tenure in 2011. Love said he was excited when he heard the news about being selected as part of the coaching staff.
“The first thing that comes to your mind is what an honour it’s to get asked by Hockey Canada, whether it’s as a player, support staff or a coach,” Love said.
“The second thing is the opportunity to work with other quality people in the coaching industry.”
With Everett he mainly focuses on the defense, where he has helped them become one of the top defensive teams in the WHL and will continue that with Hockey Canada. He decided to get involved with coaching after sustaining a hip injury which forced him to retire early.
Although, his playing career was done he still wanted to be a part of the game and decided coaching would be a great avenue.
Love says his strength as a coach is he communicates well with his players.
“I would say I’m a good communicator and I’m fairly honest in my assessment with the players,” Love said.
He says there will be a huge adjustment from coaching in the WHL to the under-17 team.
“I think it’s a big difference because these kids are coming from midget or bantam hockey programs across Canada and aren’t overly familiar with how things work at a junior hockey level,” Love said.
“The second thing that is probably even more important is you have to get to know these kids as soon as possible because they have to trust you and I’ve to trust them, in order to get what we want to accomplish which is to win a gold medal.”
He adds the playing style will be quite different from his team in Everett to the under-17 team.
“Hockey Canada has a certain curriculum they’ve put in place for all their teams,” Love said.
“Through the coaches that are involved you can tweak things here and there, but there is a certain way they expect their programs to go about business and we will follow that to a tee. Where there is a little wiggle room like special teams, will put our heads together as a coaching staff and come up with a game plan for that.”
He will not be the only representative from Quesnel to be coaching at the under-17 tournament.
Ryan Marsh an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oil Kings will also be part of the coaching staff.
“Ryan and I grew up in Quesnel and we both left at a young age to pursue hockey,” Love said.
“Rocky Thompson our head coach at one point spent the first 10 years of his life in the minor hockey system in Quesnel, before him and his family moved on to White Court, Alta., so it’s a pretty unique staff.”
“We’re all kind of WHL grass rooted guys that spent some time in the league as player and now coaches. We’re really looking forward to working with each other and being successful.”
Love adds the Quesnel Minor Hockey system was influential helping shape his career.
“In a small town setting like Quesnel you tend to play for a lot of hockey dad’s over the years,” Love said.
“I’ve had some really good coaches who harped on the work ethic that needs to be put in place and not only for hockey, but for whatever you do in life.”
“I think that’s one thing I can take out of growing up in a small town like Quesnel.”
During his playing days he played with the Silvertips from 2003-2005, where he was part of the western conference championship team in 2003-04 and was named captain in his final junior season.
Although, he only played two years with Everett he made a lasting impact, as he still ranks fifth in club history in career penalty minutes. After finishing his junior career he signed a free agent NHL contract with the Colorado Avalanche at the end of the 2004-05 season and went on to have a six year professional career, mostly playing in the American Hockey League with the Houston Aeros. There he played 278 AHL games over five seasons and led the league in fighting majors in 2008-09 and set a Houston record with 34. Love finished his playing career in 2010-11 with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs of the Central Hockey League.
In his professional career he collected 900 penalty minutes and 30 points in 325 games.