Andre Lefebvre and his Landworks Gulls will be Nova Scotia’s representative at the Irving Oil Challenge Cup Atlantic Bantam AAA Championships, taking place in Moncton from April 7-10. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with Andre in Midget, and coaching against him in the Nova Scotia Major Bantam Hockey League when he was with Halifax in the inaugural season. He’s the epitome of what Hockey Nova Scotia is striving for in how they handle player development. Players under him have seen positive results, and Hockey NS along with Hockey Canada have taken notice of his achievements. Andre was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for me heading into the tournament.
You’ve been involved in major bantam since its inception, with two different teams I believe. Can you summarize your career in the league, your position with Moncton, and any other thing you’d like people to know you do for hockey?
Yes, I started coaching in this league in the 1st year of the league with Halifax, moved to Major Midget for 2 seasons, back to Halifax major bantam and then for the last 2 years, I’ve been with the Gulls. I am also currently the Head Scout of the Valley Wildcats of the MHL and NS Scout of the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, so I’m in the rinks a bit. I am also involved with the HNS High performance program and am currently the Head Coach of the upcoming Male U15 program.
What do you like most about coaching the bantam age group?
The bantam age group is a great age to coach at, as we have the opportunity to put in place the building blocks needed for young players to not only take to the next levels (High School, Major Midget), but we can really help them and teach life lessons that they can use as they get older in their “everyday” lives. The players come into our program as children from minor hockey and leave our program as young adults and it’s really fun to watch them grow up. The league is patterned after the NS Major Midget league and we find that they need to learn how to prepare themselves for Major level hockey, and this translates very well into preparing them for High School, and the challenges they will face.
Having been involved in high level programs, how do you feel Nova Scotia players are developing compared to other provinces?
A: I really feel that our development programs have been 2nd to none over the last 7-8 years and there have been large steps taken at National Competitions to prove this. I was involved last spring as Asst. Coach with the NS U16s (Canada Games team) that played at the QMJHL Gold Cup in Blainville Que. where we lost the Gold medal game in a shootout to a very strong Que. team and I can honestly say that the team was very well prepared and that’s a credit to Jim Midgley and his staff who oversaw the team for 3 years leading up to the Canada Games. The players had been developed properly and were on an even playing level with the best from the rest of the country.
Now that it’s been 5 or 6 years, do you think the NSMBHL in general is serving the purpose it was formed for? Is the change benefitting the average Nova Scotia Bantam player?
I feel that the league has really given the players the competition and the exposure that was intended way back when it was first organized. It is not uncommon to have scouts from the QMJHL & US and CAN Prep schools at most regular season games, let alone tournaments and playoffs/provincials.
It is becoming more the normal occurrence where players finish their bantam careers off and have multiple opportunities waiting for them, and is becoming known for producing talent. For the average bantam player in NS, they are exposed to lots of practice time, major tournaments and fantastic coaching all around the province, so I would say that the NSMBHL is doing a great job for everyone involved. As well, there are some great coaches around who have gotten opportunities to move up to higher leagues and that benefits everyone.
Anything in particular you want people to know about this year’s team?
As far as the 2015-2016 Gulls go, we have great depth on our team this season and the players have really bonded together well, as was shown this past weekend in North Sydney. The group is very committed and works very hard in practices and we pride ourselves on working hard on the “little details” of the game. As well, our players have taken a lot of pride in their roles within our hockey club, and we feel that it has translated into great team efforts this season. We have had a lot of fun this season and one thing the coaching staff has stressed, is “we need to stop and look around to take in all the experiences, and to enjoy what we are doing on a daily basis”. It’s been a lot of fun going to the rink this season for everyone.
The Gulls Irving Oil Challenge Cup schedule is:
Thursday April 7 – 4:00pm vs. PEI
Friday April 8 – 10:00am vs. NB, 4:00pm vs. NFLD
Saturday April 9 – 12:00pm vs. HOST
Bronze medal game Sunday April 10 at 9:00 am, Gold medal game at 12:00pm
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