Bouchard Preaches Engagement, Investment On First Day Of Training CampOct 5, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
IRVINE, Calif. – Gulls Camp kicked off at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena, a fast-paced hour-long session which officially introduced the players to the style of their new head coach, Joel Bouchard.
“A lot of pace,” Bouchard explained. “It's still a training camp even though those guys have been together, we're now regrouping some guys that are young players, some guys that are knocking at the NHL door, so a good job today to get the pace up and start digging more into some principles we want to have this year. It's not a magic trick; it isn't going to happen overnight. I like the engagement. I like the way guys invested in today.”
Those two words – engagement and investment – are key to Bouchard’s program. Hired by the Anaheim Ducks this summer, the former Laval Rocket bench boss helped develop a pipeline to provide the Montreal Canadiens with players who contributed to the team’s success. It’s the engagement and investment from the players that drew Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray to bring Bouchard to San Diego.
“It’s not only Laval, it’s the teams he had in Montreal in junior playing in Blainville,” he explained shortly after the hiring. “I think he developed his junior players very well too to take the next step to play in the American (Hockey) League. You look at his players, his players are all over the leagues. All you have to do is just look at the Montreal Canadiens. Younger players when they come up how they played. And they contributed. That says it all. They came from Laval over the last few years to Montreal and they contributed immediately. And that’s what development is. It’s getting them ready for the next step and that’s what we saw with Joel…They were contributing, they all contribute.”
The Gulls’ head coach didn’t expect – nor see – perfection on the first day of camp. He did, however, see a group willing to buy in.
“It's always fun,” Bouchard said. “And you know what, the engagement was there. They're not going to be perfect; nobody was. I sure wasn't a perfect hockey player, I can guarantee you that much. As long as guys invest.
“To be a pro hockey player, there is no university of hockey. You don't go to university and sit on the bench and be a hockey player. We have to push them. We know it's going to come with some failing, but as long as they invest and keep getting better, I'm going to have fun with it.”
One of those players is veteran defenseman Trevor Carrick. The second-year Gull is adjusting to the transition from Anaheim Ducks camp and leaning into an early leadership role.
“Another young team with talent, so just trying to be a leader down there, help those guys out and play that hard, physical game,” he explained. “If those young guys need anything, I can be there for them.”
The defenseman recorded 1-11=12 in 39 games with the Gulls last season and added a goal in three postseason contests. He’s excited to return to a more normal season, as players can share rooms without masks and gather away from the rink.
“That makes a huge difference,” Carrick explained. “Come to the rink and not having to get tested every day. It's nice; you get to spend a little more time with the guys outside the rink and get to know them better and enjoy what California gets to offer.”
The frenetic pace of camp will only increase throughout the week. San Diego opens its preseason schedule on Thursday against the Ontario Reign, a two-game series which sees the teams play their annual exhibition matchup at Honda Center on Monday, October 11.
It’s an opportunity for Bouchard to continue to challenge his players, providing the tools to continue the development and momentum from Ducks camp.
“You have to take them out of their comfort zone, you have to give them solutions to problems. Hockey is all about finding solutions. You're playing against better, bigger guys that are paid for a living. I think that any level of coach, as you go up, is to give tools and solutions to the playoffs so they can perform. Obviously, you have some younger players in the AHL, so there's a lot of growing to do, but it's never going to change. They need to be coached. It's our job as a coach to give them as much information as possible without overloading them, but it's still to push them to be better.”