Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Manning the Brockville Braves bench will be Jesse Winchester’s first big head coaching gig.
The 33-year-old looks at his new opportunity as the club’s ownership “taking a chance” on him. Co-owner Dustin Traylen probably isn’t looking at it like that right now as he was beaming when watching Winchester work with groups of high school students at the Memorial Centre.
Braves management got their man, bringing him into the Brockville fold as the organization’s U18 coach near the end of last season before announcing him as the Jr. A club’s head coach.
Traylen and other co-owner Hani Greiss are enthusiastic about Winchester, but did Winchester want the Braves? When deciding on whether to take the job or not, the former Ottawa Senators player focused less on if the kind of approaches taken by himself and the owners would mesh. Instead he shined a light on the ultimate goal shared by both sides.
“We both want to see kids move on, be successful and enjoy their experience in hockey – I think that’s No. 1 – and I want to win. I think anybody who owns a team wants to see that too,” said Winchester, who is also the development coach for the Brockville International Hockey Academy and will be the bench boss for the organization’s Central Development Hockey League team. “(Traylen) who is also the Braves general manager) has trusted me with the hockey side of it and I’m thankful for that, to have the freedom to implement my ideas and my approach. I think we make a good team.”
Winchester was able to watch a few Braves games before the Jr. A club was ousted from the first round of the playoffs while he was still coaching the U18 team.
He noted the Braves have some good pieces in place for next season and it’s going to be about developing those pieces if the club wants to reach the next level.
Winchester, just three seasons removed from playing in the NHL, is still young and has never been a head coach at the Jr. A level, but there is someone from his past he plans to emulate.
Winchester played just one season under Paul MacLean during his time with the Senators, but it was enough to resonate with him.
“He just taught you to respect the game and realize how fortunate you are to be able to play it and to compete every single day at a high level,” Winchester said. “He wanted you to play the game fast, have fun doing it, be demanding and expect a lot out of yourself and I think, more than the Xs and Os, that’s a good mentality to take into play. Just to make sure you’re loving it and putting your best foot forward everyday.”
Winchester is hoping his past experiences will be somewhat of a beacon for his players. His career is one of those stories just about every player in the CCHL aspires to have. He started his junior hockey career suiting up for the CCHL’s Cornwall Colts before joining Colgate University, a team he eventually captained, on a full scholarship and then he moved on to the Senators when he signed as an undrafted free agent.
“I’m very passionate for the game still, fresh off a career that was pretty rewarding. I, obviously, love the game and had some pretty special experiences and I can draw on them to help kids along,” Winchester said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to see kids play in this league just like myself. I want them to be able to move on to college or Canadian university and hopefully one day live their dream like I did. I realize that’s not always realistic, but it’s a great league to be a part of and I’m excited to help kids develop.”
Original Article at Recorder.ca