Otters extend Wolfe
In the midst of something bad, Wes Wolfe recently got some good news.
The 30-year-old Niagara Falls native was given a two-year extension to continue as an assistant coach with the Erie Otters running through the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League season.
“It’s very exciting obviously, No. 1, to continue to have the opportunity to work at my dream job which is coach in the Ontario Hockey League,” said Wolfe, who now resides in St. Catharines.
Wolfe, who joined the Otters four years ago, appreciates the security in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which caused the cancellation of the OHL season in March and has clouded the future of all sports.
“I think having some certainty in a time of uncertainty is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have,” he said. “It speaks to the quality of people in our organization, starting with our owner (Jim Waters) and then (general manager) Dave (Brown). They empower their people and they respect their people.
“It was obviously very touching to be able to have the opportunity to be able to continue to do that.”
The Otters also extended head coach Chris Hartsburg and associate coach B.J. Adams.
“Coaching can no longer be measured solely on wins and losses, as development on and off the ice at the OHL level has become imperative, and I appreciate the diligent efforts all three coaches have put forth each day in the past three seasons,” Brown said. “Their execution of the development plan for our players, while sticking to our organizational goals and objectives will no doubt return the organization to prominence.
“Coaching isn’t just about X’s and O’s. Coaching includes mentoring, nurturing, and parenting while sneaking in their systems and expectations, all the while trying to develop the player’s skill level. I think this staff does an exceptional job of executing this daily, and I look forward to working with our coaches as we continue to work towards our next major organizational accomplishment.”
Wolfe joined the Otters after having served as coach of both the St. Catharines Falcons and Pelham Pirates in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“It’s funny, because signing the extension kind of gave me the opportunity to reflect on how quick time has passed,” Wolfe said. “The first season in itself was a whirlwind to make that championship run and then the last three years the day-to-day of it seems long because the season is such a grind but then it happens so fast, here we are halfway through the competitive cycle of building a team. The young guys who weren’t even on that championship team are over-agers in the blink of an eye.”
Wolfe continues to assist players on the ice with dedicated skill development programs and has taken the lead in working with local schools to deliver positive, life skills messages through presentations involving Otters player participation. He has been instrumental in revamping the team’s analytic and video components through his background in analytical data systems that has further advanced the team’s player development philosophy.
Wolfe feels his role as evolved since 2016.
“As an organization, we’re constantly evolving the tools we use,” he said. “The industry has continued to go through different shifts. The integration of analytics was cutting edge and part of why I think I got hired was my experience in dealing with some of that stuff where a lot of teams in our league hadn’t necessarily made that step yet. Four years later, that is just a regular part of everyone’s job.
“I have certainly taken on different projects and roles trying to learn different tools. One thing I’ve always tried to do is be adaptable and fit the needs of the team, whatever that looks like. It’s something that changes every year.”
Wolfe said he’s keeping busy doing Zoom calls with the Otters hockey operations staff twice a week and re-evaluating some of the tools they use. In June, the team will begin conducting weekly on-line team meetings with an emphasis on character development using guest speakers from Otter alumni.
While the start of training camp is uncertain, Wolfe said the Otters are planning on a normal off-season.
“All we can do is plan as though we are going back,” he said. “You don’t know how quickly things will evolve. No one has a crystal ball and no one knows what return to play will look like. As quickly as the virus became prominent, it could disappear. We don’t know and we don’t have control over that.”
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