By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
Around the time Mark Dregas first got into coaching, Dan Sauvé was standing on skates for the first time. Though the co-coaches of the Louis-Riel sports-study hockey program may have a bit of an age disparity, it simply means double the devotion for their players.
Dregas draws on 25+ years of coaching and teaching experience across many settings, including the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, Jr. ‘A’ hockey, and his long-time home at Louis-Riel, while Sauvé is one of the region’s rising coaching minds – at 29, the youngest head coach and general manager in the Central Canada Hockey League with the Rockland Nationals.
“We have coaches here at our school who coach Jr. ‘A’ – I think that’s amazing,” highlights Louis-Riel sports-study hockey player Nadia Fournier, also an Ottawa Lady 67’s Intermediate ‘AA’ forward. “It gives us the perspective of what it’s like at that level.”
Dregas and Sauvé both spend their afternoons on ice with members of the Louis-Riel hockey program, and they agree that the key ingredient for success in hockey has never changed over the decades – hard work.
“Hockey is very competitive. If you’re not doing everything 100% in terms of your off-ice conditioning, somebody else will be,” signals Sauvé, once an offensively-talented defenceman who scored nearly a point-per-game with the Cumberland Jr. ‘A’ Grads and also the Gatineau Olympiques.
“You have to love practicing just as much as you love playing,” echoes Dregas, who started coaching relatively young himself, inspired by his friend, Guy Lalonde – a long-time Olympiques assistant who started under Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien.
The coaching pair focus on the unglamorous work behind the scenes to prepare their student-athletes for bigger stages. There’s no work on team concepts like the powerplay or defensive systems while on ice with Louis-Riel, it’s like a year-long summer camp focused on individual skill development.
“Seeing kids get better and seeing them happy when they tell us they went from House ‘A’ to Rep ‘B’ or from Rep ‘B’ to ‘A’ or ‘AA’ – that’s a extremely rewarding for us,” underlines Dregas, a uOttawa biochemistry grad and NCCP Level 4-certified coach.
Dregas has led numerous Rebelles teams to Franco-Ontario and OFSAA medals in the past, but it’s player progress that he and Sauvé celebrate most. There are many stories of students reaching high levels – current Vancouver Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson getting drafted #3 overall out of high school is the biggest – but the daily devotion provides lasting benefits for all participants.
“We’ve got kids that are really good hockey players, we’ve got kids that are average hockey players, but the key thing for us is that they’re all here because they want to improve,” underlines Sauvé, an NCCP High Performance 1-certified coach. “There are a lot of really, really great kids in the program that are always pushing each other. And what’s even more important for us than all that is that we’re developing good people.”