“It’s about personal development.”
That’s the first thing Allan Andrews says when asked about Spring Hockey. Spring Hockey has been under the microscope for years. Many hockey affascinato’s and purists shout its praise, others question its value and dread the thought of it.
What is the true value of Spring Hockey? Is it a money grab? Is it all about winning? Is it for everyone?
Allan Andrews has heard it all.
In the Beginning
Over five decades of memories come flooding back when you ask Allan Andrews about his involvement in the game of hockey. Andrews resume in the game is extensive, check that, it’s down right legendary.
Nevertheless, Andrews has always felt the need to give back to the game. The long time educator and coach knew something was missing when Island teams weren’t competing with those from other provinces. “Our kids couldn’t compete with mainland teams.”
“We just didn’t have the training to compete with the Halifax’s and Moncton’s, so that’s when we started Spring Hockey.”
“The very reason for starting Spring Hockey was so the kids at that time could get competition.”
Those early years of the program proved to be very impactful. “Twenty-two of those boys strictly from PEI either got drafted or played in the National Hockey League,” explained Andrews.
Many other players that attended Andrews Summer Camps and Spring programs have also gone on to Prep Schools, received scholarships, and went on to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Allan Andrews didn’t start Spring Hockey to win, he created the program to compete there is the big difference between the two.
The common thread over his five decades in the sport is his passion and unwavering commitment to see youth grow and develop.
It’s evident Andrews wants players to win off the ice, to win in life.
“Personal development is at the forefront of all our programs. We want kids to believe that they can do something great with their lives.”
The long time teacher had piloted and implemented several mentoring programs during his years in education. The transition to the sport of hockey was seamless.
“When I went to develop the program I used a similar concept, where we have demonstrators and junior instructors, they all work up through the system and become coaches.”
Andrews also implemented a strong reading and writing element to the program to encourage the growth of communication skills and confidence in that area.
The Andrews Hockey mission statement for their Spring Program is clear: 1) Personal development, 2) Skill development, 3) Winning
“If our coaches get away from that then we don’t keep them,” Andrews said.
“Our coaches roll the lines, we don’t have specific power play units, we don’t shorten the bench at any time. The kids come and they have a good experience and the parents love it, and we certainly don’t over charge,” stressed Andrews.
Ask any coach, educator or mentor why they love their job and they will probably say the same thing, ‘because it’s so rewarding.’
So what does it mean to Allan Andrews to see so many former players having success? “It means a lot, but it doesn’t mean that I developed them, it just means we had a little part to play.”
Andrews programs have had some incredible players come and go over the years.
“It’s wonderful, I love seeing Nathan, Sidney and Sean Kuraly and all those guys, beyond their hockey they are all good people and they are all doing great things.”
From NHL stars of the game to the next generation coming through Andrews has always channelled a message from one of his former mentors at the University of New Brunswick when it comes to teaching and developing. “Dr. John Meaghar always said, ‘kids will achieve for you or in spite of you.’”
“I always felt it would be better to have kids do it for me, rather than against me.”
In his 70’s Andrews still loves to coach, motivate and inspire.
“The players all like me, as old as I am,” he said.
“They do what I ask of them and if they don’t we hold them accountable. If players stay on too long in our program they sit a shift. If players don’t move the puck, they sit a shift. There’s not much room for carrying the puck anymore, the puck as to move, so if someone is in a better spot and if the player is being selfish, they will sit.”
Shift length is a critical part of the game and often times over looked in some minor hockey associations. Andrews feels compelled to address that issue in their Spring programs. “A lot of the players do it on their own now,” Andrews said of sitting a shift.
“They know they did wrong. It’s selfish to stay on longer, but the players have to realize that it will hurt their future.”
“Our shifts are only twenty to forty seconds, so it’s not a huge penalty to sit a shift, but they understand that it’s a team, and that’s what they are going to be faced with in life, they are going to be part of team at some point.”
Call it a misconception or a preconceived notion; Spring Hockey in general has always had its share of bad press over the years.
So what would Allan Andrews say to the parent sitting on the fence, looking at Spring Hockey as a potential money grab, but feeling obligated to put their child in it? “They should check the program out and check out what the values are, and what really happens.”
“I’m aware of what happens in Spring Hockey,” Andrews said.
Andrews strongly believes parents with concerns have to do their homework. “Our purpose might be different than some. We don’t allow our staff to curse or yell and scream at kids, some people think they have to have that in order for kids to develop.”
“We always try to get great people,” Andrews said of their coaches.
The True Value
The game of hockey like no other can teach valuable life lessons.
Allan Andrews has embraced that moniker for the past forty years with the creation of his Hockey Schools and Spring Hockey Programs. “If all we did was to teach hockey schools and have teams to compete, we wouldn’t do it.”
“It’s personal development, if you don’t have personal development than you’re not teaching kids values.”
Andrews has received many awards and personal accolades over the years for his involvement in the game. To him that’s not what the true value of his work is all about, in all honesty, he finds that quite embarrassing.
“I don’t think about those things, there’s so many people out there that have worked so much harder than me over the years.”
“The last thing I want is to have any attention drawn to me, I’m very much at home on the ice coaching kids.”
“If kids move on after and do something great with their lives and reach out and help others that’s what’s important.”
Andrews is proud of the programs longevity and commitment to developing quality people and players.
“I think what we are doing has value, based on the feedback we have received. I’m sure there are better schools and spring programs than what we have and maybe some that have just started that aren’t as good or some that have started for the wrong reasons,” Andrews said.
“If you do it for making money, than you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
“It’s hard work, but there’s value in it, the same as when I was teaching. I’ve always enjoyed seeing kids develop and watching them grow and learn.”
There’s more than just winning when it comes to the game of hockey and for that matter Spring Hockey.
The misconceptions and potential controversy surrounding Spring Hockey will continue especially if people are in it for the wrong reasons.