Gagnon set to pilot Bantam AAA Red Wings
Darryl Gagnon played for the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings for three seasons. Supplied
The Camrose Bantam AAA Red Wings will have a new bench boss this season.
Daryl Gagnon was announced as the new head coach of the program on Aug.15. Gagnon, a native of Quensel, B.C., played hockey for his hometown junior A team, the Millionaires for three years. He then headed east and played for the Portage College Voyageurs in the Alberta College Association Conference. Gagnon transferred to the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings for three years, winning the ACAC Championship in 2011-12.
Following his playing days, Gagnon coached minor hockey in Camrose. He started coaching midget AA and the last two seasons he’s been coaching midget AAA. After landing a summer student job with Camrose County during his playing days he’s stayed in the Rose City.
“It’s a hockey hotbed here,” he said. “There’s a lot of good talent that comes through Camrose. I made a lot of good friends playing with the Vikings and coaching here now. I’ve made a home of it and can’t see myself leaving any time soon.”
Gagnon started out as a forward but was moved to a defenceman where he became a defence-first player. Due to that, Gagnon’s coaching philosophy makes sure things in the defensive end are taken care of, but will allow his players the freedom to play offensively.
“The game has so much skill these days you really don’t want to hold kids back,” he said. “Definitely take care of your own end first, and let them have that freedom in the offensive zone and let that skill take over.”
Gagnon says young players today are more skilled than ever.
“Kids these days are really skilled, you can see just how much the game has changed,” he said. “Back in the day it was go hit, go stick up for your teammates, dump and chase and a lot of that. Now it’s more of a puck possession game, you want to have the puck on your stick as much as you can.”
For AAA players at the bantam level, it is a special year because there is always that potential to get selected during the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft.
“Drafting is obviously a bonus, whenever a kid can get drafted the work starts after that. My plan is to develop these kids to the best of my ability and their abilities,” Gagnon said.
“Whether it’s getting them ready for minor midget next year or another year of bantam with me. Taking strides in the right direction to where their end goal is going to be. My main thing is developing players, obviously winning is nice too.”
Gagnon says when he played his coach told him to do something he did it. He says kids today usually want a reason as to why they’re doing a drill.
“There’s more of a why question involved it’s ‘ok yeah we’re doing this, but why are we doing this?’” he said. “When you’re coaching you got to be able to tell them ‘this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it.’”
Ultimately, Gagnon says the best thing about coaching is seeing how kids develop.
“Honestly my favourite part of the game is when a couple years down the road you see these kids, where they’ve gotten to and the success they’ve had, that’s what makes it enjoyable,” he said.