Duluth, Minn. – It was an action-packed day two of the 2021 Level 5 Coaches Symposium on Friday. Beginning at 8 a.m., the attendees were greeted with a full day of presentations, breakout rooms and fun, interactive activities.
Don Granato, head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, and John Hynes, head coach of the Nashville Predators, began the day with impressive presentations. Granato talked about the importance of helping maximize players' future success.
“Our players in this country are developed in a great way to earn an opportunity,” said Granato. “Now it’s the opportunity for them to seize it. We’re developing these players to seize the opportunity to have a great life, and hockey is a great part of that.”
Hynes piggy-backed off of that topic and spoke about developing a team culture and identity.
“Creating a good culture on and off the ice is important,” Hynes said. “That translates to development.”
One of the highlights of the day came, once again, with influence from the “State of Hockey,” as four female Division I coaches in Minnesota took the stage for a roundtable discussion.
Laura Bellamy (Associate Head Coach, University of Minnesota Duluth), Bethany Brausen (assistant coach, University of St. Thomas), Molly Engstrom (assistant coach, St. Cloud State University) and Amber Fryklund (assistant professor – human performance, sport & health, Bemidji State University) engaged the audience for a fun conversation.
“Girls hockey has come such a long way,” said Fryklund. “Just seeing how girls hockey has changed from when I was playing and now seeing the growth in coaching as well has been huge.”
Bellamy echoed those sentiments from Fryklund.
“When we bring recruits in and ask them who their favorite players are, they often say someone from the U.S. Women’s National Team where it used to be NHL guys,” she said. “It’s great to see.”
All of the members of the discussion had impressive playing careers that transitioned into coaching. But perhaps nobody had a more interesting story than Engstrom.
“I played professionally until I was 35,” she said. “And the last couple of years, I was both a player and a coach, so that was a unique situation. It was really cool to be a part of both sides, but it helped me jump right into coaching after I was done playing.”
The central theme from all of the coaches was just how much the game has grown on the women’s side.
“Its speed, its strength, its skill, goaltending has gotten so much better. It’s been great to see the growth of the [women’s] game over the past decade,” said Bellamy.
“The opportunities that girls have to develop their skills is awesome,” said Fryklund. “You see so much development with these players right now.”
On Saturday, events kick off at 8am again with opening remarks from USA Hockey President, Mike Trimboli. They will also hear from U.S. Olympic Men’s Head Coach Mike Sullivan, three-time Olympic medalist, Natalie Darwitz, and others as the Level 5 Coaches Symposium rolls on.