Rob Klovance: A lot of people at Vancouver Minor wonder: What ended the hockey career of a guy who skates so well?
Johnny Mahovlich: I was with the Corpus Christi Ice Rays for three months when I was 19, but then I got my ninth concussion. I was out for a couple of months, had to spend all my time in a dark room and that sort of thing. It was really depressing. I had to call it quits after that.
RK: The good news is that you turned to coaching. How long did that take?
JM: I'd been coaching since I was 16. Starting in my first year of junior, I'd come back in the summer and I'd coach - I've technically been coaching for 10 years now - and I turned to it full time after that ninth concussion.
RK: What drew you to coaching and skills instruction?
JM: A few coaches I had inspired me. I've had negative coaches and a lot of positive ones. There were a couple who just stood out. I liked what they did, how they made me feel, and how they had the ability to make me play a lot better.
RK: What is your coaching style?
JM: I like to teach discipline and hard work, but I like to do it in a fun setting. It should be fun to work hard. It's fun to be exhausted after practice, because you know you're getting better.
RK: How are the kids at Van Minor responding to that sort of hard work?
JM: At my skating camps, the kids are still keen to come back even though sometimes they're so exhausted they can hardly walk. But I also want to teach them manners. At some associations, I see kids talking back to adults. I want Vancouver Minor to be the most respected association, where no one is embarrassing the association."
RK: How are we different from some of the private clubs?
JM: Winter clubs are more "Win! Win! Win!". I want to bring family to our club, like each player feels important. I don't want it where the third line's not playing. My philosophy as a coach is that you're only as strong as your weakest player. When you make your weakest player stronger, your whole team is automatically elevated."
RK: How do you know that's the right approach?
JM: Parents seem to really like me, because I roll the lines. If you do that, all the kids are happy, they're developing and want to come to the rink."
RK: What's your focus with H1 to H4, and with house league players?
JM: "We had a slow start to getting our clinics going this year, but now we're getting great turnouts for house league kids, and their skating is looking excellent. I just did a clinic for atom and peewee house kids, and almost every kid remembered the things I taught them the last year. So while last year was focussed on skating technique, I felt after that clinic that we're now ready to move on to skating with the puck at full speed. I feel the progression, the three-year plan I had with the association, is on track now.
RK: What's your message to the kids, and in part to the parents, on skill development?
JM: What you put into it is what you're going to get out of it. if you go 100%, in three or four weeks you're going to see a huge difference. But if you do 80%, it's going to take you eight weeks. That's why I'm tough on the kids, forcing them to work, forcing them to keep moving.
RK: The clinics the kids at Van Minor are getting for free at the House level, or for a modest fee at the rep level, are equivalent to some very costly training elsewhere. Do you think parents understand this?
JM: A lot of parents feel they have to leave Vancouver Minor to get proper training. I don't want that. I was born and raised in Vancouver, on Grant and First, and I moved to Burnaby Winter Club because I thought there wasn't proper training in Vancouver. So when a Vancouver kid does make it in hockey, Van Minor never gets credit. But we produce a lot of great players, and Milan Lucic is one of them. There's no reason for a Vancouver kid to have to leave. We do have the training, and our costs aren't high - it's fair. We'll train the kids with discipline and help them realize that hard work is fun.