For the love of the game
When the Pelham Panthers approached Mark Barrick about taking over as head coach and general manager of the Golden Horseshoe club, the long time bench boss couldn’t find a reason why he shouldn’t take the job.
Barrick has a long and varied background in coaching and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
“It seemed like a good fit. I love the challenge of a building a good program and it’s not the first time I’ve walked down that path,” Barrick said. “It’s something that’s in your blood, it really is. I like being at the rink. I like helping the players move on to where they aspire to go. I believe in the development thing.”
Barrick said he quickly formed a relationship with Panthers co-owners Tim Toffolo and Harry Powell.
“I can’t say enough about my relationship with Tim and Harry,” Barrick said. “We’ve made some mistakes together and figured it out.”
Barrick, who last coached the Lincoln Mavericks of the Greater Metro Hockey League until the team folded last season, admitted he missed everything about coaching.
“It’s where I seem to belong at times,” said Barrick, a 55-year-old St. Catharines native. “It’s a passion. You feel it. You eat it, you sleep it and not just during hockey season. It’s 12 months out of the year. It’s every day, seven days a week, 12 months a year to a certain degree. If you want to be successful you have to be.
“You miss it if you truly believe in it and care about it and are there for the right reasons.”
Barrick is perhaps best known for his time behind the bench with the St. Catharines Falcons.
During three stints with the Falcons (1988-93), (2001-03) and (2008-09) Barrick complied a standout record of 491-299-158-20-14. He also coached in Port Colborne, served as a scout for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL covering the Niagara Region and Western New York, and also coached AAA with the Niagara North Stars organization where he coached current Peterborough Petes goalie Dylan Wells.
“There was a point where I was involved with the Falcons for the better part of five decades off and on,” he said.
Through all those games and all those players over the years, Barrick has seen enormous change in the game.
“There’s a lot of things that are different but it’s still the game of hockey,” he said. “Players are different. Mentalities are different. Officiating is different. How the whole game is viewed and looked at. There are things that happened 20 years ago if they happened now you would be suspended for life. I think of some of the battles that we had with the Falls, not only would the coach be suspended for life and ownership would be fined thousands.”
Barrick fondly remembers a time when players would play for nothing more than the thrill of competing for a team at the junior level.
“There was a difference in the maturity level. Now, there is a sense or air of entitlement. What are you going to give me to play as opposed to we played for a jacket. In all the years I was with St. Catharines or Port Colborne, we never paid players that I was aware of,” he said. “We helped out with school, sticks and equipment. It was all part of the junior experience.
“Now, you hear this guy is getting this much to play and players understand that. I’m not blaming the players. If I was 19 and someone said I’m going give you $1,000 a week to play junior B hockey, I guess I would be playing for you.”
Barrick also believes junior B should be a stepping stone of development, something that isn’t always the case.
“It’s about moving kids on. Yes, we are here to win. Winning breeds winning but we’re also here for those kids to move on. We’re a stepping stone to help develop players further. We have to be.”
With so many changes, Barrick is still a firm believer in the old saying that hard work matters the most.
“It’s a different game at some levels but if all things are equal, the team that works harder wins. I argue that with anyone, anytime,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the best talent that wins, it’s the best team that wins.
“You’re only as good as your weakest link.”
Barrick, general manager of the St. Catharines SC Sports Store, has had to adapt right along with the game in order survive for so long.
“I’m loud. I always have been,” he smiled. “You will always hear me at at arena. I’m loud and passionate and I care about it. Some in today’s society find that a little intimidating. I have to change and adapt and do some things, but I still believe in the hard work of a hockey club and being committed to it.”
The Panthers, who upset the Falcons in St. Catharines recently, are off to a 4-9 start with a young roster filled with 16 and 17-year-olds. The Panthers are home to Welland Friday and the Falcons Sunday at 3 p.m.