Full field enjoys hockey camp

Ever since he was named head coach for the newest American Hockey League team in the form of the Des Moines Stars a few months ago, every day has felt like Christmas for Dave Allison.
“Well, it’s been like Boxing Day this past week, but this is Christmas,” said Allison.
The reason why he was feeling tired as if it was Boxing Day, and not energetic like how one is on Christmas, was because of the work involved in the AA Developmental Hockey Camp, which wrapped up its seventh year here last week.
Allison had the look of fatigue in his eye.
He didn’t have to hold the camp, which attracted about 90 players ranging in age from eight to 15. He could have used the time he set aside to organize the school towards preparing for the start of a fast-approaching AHL season.
But he had made a commitment—and stuck by his word.
“We had made a commitment way before I got the job with Dallas [Des Moines is affiliated with the Dallas Stars] and it just wasn’t fair to the people that had planned to come down here, so we wanted to follow through on our commitments,” he said.
And that he did by putting on a camp that saw a number of well-qualified instructors, including himself and others like Shane Victor, who is heavily involved with the development of girls’ hockey in Minnesota, O.J. Kennett (coach of the Red Lake Falls team), Brent Tookenay (former Bemidji State University player and general manager of the Borderland Thunder), Sean Taggart (Muskie assistant coach), Greg Madill (former Thunder assistant coach), and Todd Knott (head coach of Fargo-Moorhead with the North American Hockey League).
Also included on that list were some former Thunder players, like Tyler Barker, Derek Fisher, David Gooch, Ian Lockman, and Steven Sus. Its Allison’s hopes the coaching assignment will help those players open their eyes to how difficult the position really is and thus garner a new appreciation for it.
“You’re trying to show them that coaching is a difficult job, and you’re trying to give them a look from the other side and that when people are talking to you, they are trying to help you,” said Allison.
“And when you don’t listen or pay attention, or just don’t have a passion to be there, that it can be a real pain in the butt,” he added, smiling.
That message was received by players like Barker and Fisher, who wholeheartedly agreed with Allison’s line of thinking.
“You’re trying to get the most of the kids and you’ve really got to think and be on your toes to figure out what to say and when to say it,” said Fisher, who wore a Thunder uniform for three years but next will be playing at Parry Sound for its junior team.
“It’s difficult getting their attention sometimes, but actually the girls aren’t too bad at all. They actually listen pretty well,” noted Barker, a member of the Thunder for two years who will be with the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this coming season.
Allison agreed the girls’ are easier to coach than boys because of their stronger trait of attentiveness.
“Girls’ hockey is wonderful sport right now,” he said. “I don’t think there is the delusion of winning at all costs in women’s hockey. I think that they’ve got great skills and are very receptive and very respectful, and are wonderful to work with.
“They come with smiles on their faces and truly enjoy the camaraderie,” Allison added.
So you feel the boys could take a page from the girls?
“They should,” Allison replied. “Everybody has got to take a step back every so often. The game is about skills and I think we put the horse before the cart way too often.”
When Allison talks, people listen because the man knows what he’s talking about. He’s been involved with hockey since he was a child and it has encompassed a great part of his life since he first laced up his skates.
He’s coached in the National Hockey League, albeit for a short time, but there aren’t many who can say they actually reached that level. He has made a number of stops in his hockey career, and is always willing to share an honest opinion.
And for that, you have to respect him.
“What I found living here for a while is that the game has become too personal and instead of just playing or practising for the enjoyment of it, we’ve really started to put too much focus on systems and winning,” said Allison.
“Hopefully we can get back to developing skills.”
Skill development has been one of, if not, the main focuses for Allison during his coaching career. Be it the Borderland Thunder, the Des Moines Stars, or Ottawa Senators, he always has preached three things and did so at last week’s camp, which may be the last one he will run for some time considering the demands of his new job.
Those three aspects are 1). work hard, 2). work smart, and 3). work together. Allison says if you do those, then you can be successful in life.
“They’re applicable at every age level and endeavour that you’re part of,” he said.
“Another big thing that we’re trying to get across to the players is to have respect for each other,” Allison added after a pause. “And with the younger kids, you’re just trying to make sure they don’t run into each other in a lot of ways.”
That kind of mentality has been reached by his players, as evident by a statement made by Fisher when asked if being part of the camp is helping him get in shape for the upcoming season.
“Any time you’re on the ice, you should be getting better as long as you’re willing to get better,” said Fisher.
“I’m so proud of Dave,” added Fisher when asked what he thought of Allison’s hiring in the AHL. “And as of right now, he’s the best coach that I will ever have.
“He’s so smart and he knows how to get the best out of all the players.”
That’s exactly what Allison will be hoping to do in Des Moines. He also is feeling pretty good about being back with professional hockey.
“I’ve got the best job in hockey,” he remarked. “Under all of the circumstances, this is the best place for me and I couldn’t be more appreciative and pleased to be where I am.”