After spending over a decade building the men’s hockey program from the ground up, Brett Gibson has become one of the most respected coaches at the university level. Nationally, Hockey Canada has noticed Gibson, giving him opportunities he used to dream of.
Now a frequent face in all-star teams, Gibson has been chosen to help guide some of the country’s most promising teenagers in their development. Most recently, he has been asked to help Hockey Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November, which will take place in Dawson Creek, B.C. The Challenge serves as one of the first showcases for the world’s young talent.
Gibson will be behind the bench for Team White, one of three Canadian teams that will feature at the tournament along with Team Red and Team Black. He will be joining Eric Landry — the head coach of the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL — as assistants to head coach Ryan Oulahen, who also leads the Flint Firebirds of the OHL.
The staff will be responsible for ensuring their players develop according to the Hockey Canada “train-to-train” model, as Gibson recently explained to The Journal after returning from a week of professional coaching development.
Now a familiar figure in the Hockey Canada ranks, Gibson first began representing Canada three years ago as an assistant coach for the U Sports national team. Due to the amount of travel needed for these positions, trips to Windsor and Thunder Bay for OUA play have become small excursions for Gibson. In 2016, Gibson was named head coach for Canada’s U Sports team, bringing him to Almaty, Kazakhstan for this past season’s FISU Winter Universiade.
Describing his excitement when picked for the national program, Gibson said it was something he’s been chasing for a while. “I always wanted to coach with Hockey Canada. I’m privileged every day getting to work with them,” he said.
When asked about what he brings to the Hockey Canada ranks, Gibson summarized it in one word — experience. Approaching his 12th season at the helm of the men’s hockey team, Gibson isn’t short on time spent behind the bench. He said “a lot of the coaches are still nearer to the beginning of their careers,” meaning his role includes not only the development of younger players, but also coaches as well.
Further, Gibson mentioned how the program has also helped with his job at Queen’s. He compared the start of a Gaels’ season to a cup filled with ideas. Over the course of a season, this cup starts to empty as Gibson tries to throw off opponents with new line-ups and strategies. “The cup [is] pretty full, and [the Hockey Canada program] refills it with ideas,” he said, helping to keep the Gaels’ opponents on edge in every game throughout the season. The recent development camp with the national program was no different for Gibson, providing ideas for both the tournament and the upcoming Gaels season.
Considering his growing reputation at the national level, one could speculate whether Gibson would consider a permanent role with Hockey Canada. He made clear despite his passion for his current part-time role, his dedication to the Queen’s men’s hockey program comes first.
“I love the level,” he said of the university competition, adding, “I keep coming back to the fact that I love where I am in my hockey career — I love where our program is at.” Fuelled by the current strength of the team, Gibson noted how he is driven by the team’s clear ability, as demonstrated this past season by qualifying for and competing at the national championships.
With time until the U-17 Challenge selection camp in July, Gibson will be working to make sure that the Gaels will be ready when the season opens to defend their OUA title and return to the national level themselves.
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