Former Canuck Clair enjoying success behind the bench
For the first few years of his coaching career, the word win was not in Mickey Clair’s vocabulary.
The former Niagara Falls Canucks and Brock Badgers defenceman began coaching six years ago when his son Quinlan started to play hockey, but wins and losses were the furthest thing from his mind.
“From tyke to major atom, we didn’t use the word win, ever,” said Clair, who currently coaches the minor peewee AA Falcons in the Garden City Minor Hockey Association. “It was all about the process, about the development, and making them better.”
Clair, who won a Sutherland Cup in his final season with the Canucks in 1998, was determined to develop his players.
“It was total fair play. Every kid played in situation. We just rolled the lines and if they worked, they played,” he said.
Clair’s philosophy began to work over time. His teams took their lumps at the lower levels, but this season things have turned around.
“Progressively every year from a win/loss perspective, we got a little bit better,” he said. “We had a good record this year. It’s come along, but we still have a long way to go.”
Clair’s stance on winning versus development softened this season as the players moved into peewee.
“One thing I have learned the most is competitive kids want to win. It’s not just the parents. These kids want to see results,” he said. “Maybe I waited a little too late to introduce that, but I felt was important to develop.”
Clair feels it’s crucial to reward players who put in extra work. He has worked extensively with Sara Bauer and speaks highly of her program.
“This year, kids put in extra time and were starting to say we want to win. They were driving the competitive mentality,” he said. “If they are going to go and put in the extra time and see their level jump, why bother if it’s just going to be the same.”
Clair’s introduction to coaching came when he joined the Canucks for two seasons as an assistant coach following his time at Brock. He also worked with former Canuck Rich Vrataric at various hockey camps.
He gives a huge amount of credit to former Canucks coach Terry Masterson and ex-Brock coach Murray Nystrom.
“Terry’s motivational abilities were second to none,” Clair smiled. “He protected his players like no one else and his pre-game speeches were unreal. He cared for his players.
“Murray was very good with the X’s and O’s. I’ve take a lot from both of them. Those guys were awesome.”
Clair, who works as an analyst/buyer at Henry Schein Canada, loves seeing his players succeed, on and off the ice.
“It’s really gratifying to see when the kids get it. That’s one of the best feelings. Having kids come up to you afterwards and having kids want to play for you is an awesome feeling.
“You are setting these kids up to be good hockey players but also good human beings and do the right things in life.”
And being able to coach Quinlan is the icing on the cake.
“The benefit of coaching your kid is you get to see your him in that atmosphere all the time. From a selfish standpoint, it is awesome.”
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