Aside from a rare absence from the playoffs last season, Queen’s Men’s hockey has been no stranger to success in recent history.
A constant on the bench has been Head Coach Brett Gibson.
The Journal sat down with Gibson to discuss his philosophy surrounding coaching, the challenges of being a U SPORTS coach, and his aspirations for his team’s future.
With Gibson entering his 18th season at the helm, the Gaels look to return to form as a force to be reckoned within Ontario University Athletics (OUA). Seeing as Gibson has been a beloved figure in Gaels hockey for over a decade, The Journal asked about his philosophy behind coaching.
“It’s a partnership, and if you get ‘em a part of that partnership, you can get them to do great things,” Gibson said in an interview with The Journal.
While Gibson’s coaching philosophy has evolved over time, the importance of maintaining a positive connection between player and coach has remained crucial.
His coaching style brings student-athletes to the focal point.
Gibson invests lots of time in establishing connections with potential players. Aimed to set a smooth transition into university academics and athletics, this begins at the recruitment process.
“It’s a relationship about finding out what their goals are. Not just in hockey, but in their academics and in life,” he said.
Gibson attributed much of his development to his mentors.
“My two early mentors were always Jim Hulton, who’s now the GM and head coach of the Charlottetown [Islanders], and obviously Kirk Muller, who’s now [with the Calgary Flames], were my mentors early on and then my kind of track through Hockey Canada for five years,” he said.
He explained one of the biggest challenges new players transitioning into U Sports face is balancing academics with athletics. One of his responsibilities as a coach entails ensuring players don’t waiver from academic or athletic responsibilities.
He also emphasized a commitment towards personal growth, stating that he has been taking part in various coaching clinics which helped expand his knowledge for coaching and hockey.
Reflecting on the Gaels most recent season, Gibson acknowledged the team struggled in goal-scoring, inconsistent goaltending, and injuries all contributed to a lackluster end of year. Despite this, he made it clear that his disappointment was directed at the results, not his players.
Ahead of the upcoming season, Gibson shared some of his plans for improvement.
“We needed to get more goal scoring, which I’m gonna be announcing in the next couple weeks,” Gibson said, referring to the next wave of promising recruits.
With promising recruits on the horizon, Gibson is both confident and excited that future announcements will address the gaps left from their previous season and equip Gaels to come back stronger with the hard-working, high-IQ identity the Gaels are known for.
Recruitment is a year-round endeavor for Gibson, and he approaches it with meticulous attention. Having built connections with coaches and general managers cross the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Gibson strives to make Queen’s an attractive destination for talented student-athletes.
When scouting potential recruits, Gibson places strong emphasis on character, work ethic, and skating ability. He seeks individuals who are driven towards personal growth while still prioritizing team goals, those who battle hard on the ice, and those who demonstrate high hockey IQ as well as skill.
When asked about players to watch out for this season, Gibson highlighted Jacob Paquette, a player he described as “one of the best defencemen in the country.”
Gibson wants people to know that while a large part of playing university hockey is getting a degree, players can further improve at this level. He pointed to Paquette as an excellent example of a player with NHL interest.
When asked how fans and students can contribute to the Gael’s success, Gibson urged them to attend home games.
“It’s physical, it’s fast. If students got out to see us, not just at the Carr-Harris, but just a regular Friday night. I think there’d be high entertainment value.”
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