International Ice Hockey Federation

Lisa Haley takes the reins

Lisa Haley takes the reins

Canada’s coach happily starts from scratch

Published 07.01.2016 18:58 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Lisa Haley takes the reins
Lisa Haley was an assistant coach at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, pictured with player Rebecca Johnston. Photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images
The IIHF has implemented a U18 tournament for women for nine years now, and every year Hockey Canada has had a new face behind the bench for the event.

This year, the head coaching job goes to Lisa Haley, a veteran of 14 years at St. Mary’s in Halifax and currently midway through her fifth year with the Ryerson Rams in Toronto.

“Every year Hockey Canada takes a look at the opportunities available, and this year they offered me the opportunity to work at the U18 in this role,” Haley explained after Canada’s final practice before the WW18 opens in St. Catharines tomorrow. “It’s something I haven’t done with Hockey Canada before, but I always enjoy working with this age group. It’s a role I was very interested in.”

Haley took control of the team with a good news/bad news welcome. The good news? It’s the U18, so the pressure of the senior WW isn’t quite as intense. The bad news? With only three returning players, Haley had to select 17 skaters and two goaltenders from a large and deep talent pool. In other words, the team is pretty much hers entirely.

“The U18 age group is especially challenging because it’s their first time into the program,” she explained. “There’s a pretty steep learning curve, so we try to maximize our time together. We had them in May for strengthening and conditioning, and we had an opportunity to play the U.S. in August as well to get a good look at the players and establish our systems. We’ve also had a great week leading up to today. Yes, it’s a new team, only a few have been here before, but it’s a clean canvas and we can paint the picture that we want. Hopefully, it turns out pretty.”

So what material does Haley use for paint? What is a “Lisa Haley team” anyhow?

“Good question,” she said, with a quiet laugh. “Without a doubt, speed is really important. We want players who can skate. Hockey IQ is something that goes with it. In a short-term event, players have to demonstrate quickly that they can play the system, play as a group of five, play the defensive side of the game. We want individual puck skills and shooting. All of these are important factors.”

And there’s more puck philosophy from Canada’s newest head coach, who is actually not new at all. Haley started working with Hockey Canada in 2004 with the U22 team and has often been an assistant coach at the senior level, most significantly in Sochi in 2014.

“In the female game, strength is a bigger issue than size,” Haley continued. “If you can play the game strong, you don’t have to have the size. Up front, the ability to put the puck in the net is a huge asset. The defensive side of the game is easier to coach, but goals are at a premium in a short event like this. We think our forwards have a knack for scoring, and we’re confident we’re four lines deep in this side of the game.”

As for adding specific names to the game sheets after considering dozens of names, Haley is democratic and focused on her team, not any other.

“The first thing is, we don’t just worry about the Americans,” she stated. “The parity at this level is improving every year. Teams are playing better together, and it’s more of a challenge every year. Honestly, though, we want teams to worry about us; we don’t want to worry about them. If we’re executing, we feel like that’s our key to success.”

There are differences between the U18 and senior team, to be sure, but Hockey Canada tries to minimize these by keeping the coaching philosophies and whatever else it can similar to make the transition as seamless as possible.

“We have a lot of continuity from our U18 team to the senior teams, the systems, how we want the game to be played on both sides of the puck,” Haley continued. “All of the coaches are in constant communication throughout the summer to make sure we’re all playing the same systems and trying to make the parts interchangeable regardless of the age group. What the U18s lack in experience, they make up for in energy and enthusiasm.”

And for Haley, it’s an added bonus and pleasure to have Gina Kingsbury as an assistant coach. Kingsbury played in two Olympics (both gold) and six WW (three gold, three silver) during the first decade of the 21st century.

“Gina is a full-time employee with Hockey Canada as director of player development, from the skills side. She’s had a great playing career, and Hockey Canada does a great job of using their player alumna wherever possible. Gina is coaching with the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL, so it was a natural progression that she’d join us. We’re lucky to have her for the tournament.”


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