During a long and productive career at the junior and professional levels, Brent Gilchrist acquired a clear understanding of what it takes to be successful on the ice.
Since his retirement from the game a decade ago, the 46-year-old former NHLer has been passing on that knowledge and experience to new generations of young players.
So each year, when some of Canada’s best teenaged talent comes to compete at the Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament, Gilchrist is among the most interested of observers.
Gilchrist, who is currently the head coach of the Kelowna tier 2 midget team, coached the Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Rockets for two years at the tournament, including guiding them to the final game in 2010.
Gilchrist said as much as teaching hockey skills is key for the development of young players, passing on life skills is even more important.
“It’s not necessarily all about hockey, it’s about people…and we’re trying to help these kids become better people,” Gilchrist said recently a tournament luncheon in Kelowna. “The lessons of the game are the lessons of life and that’s what I try and pass on to them.”
Gilchrist played 792 NHL games with seven different teams, scoring 135 goals and adding 170 assists. The highlight was a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
As is the case in any player’s career, Gilchrist experienced his share of highs and lows in his more than two decades in the pro game.
He said what players learn from their on-ice successes and failures at the elite midget level, will benefit them for years to come.
“If you think about a shift of hockey and the struggle that a player faces at this level of midget…they play very hard,” said Gilchrist, who led , who led the tier 1 Rockets to the B.C. title in 2010. “Just the intensity they play with, because now they have a lot of size and strength and speed.
“They have a lot of p— and vinegar and they’re not necessarily that smart,” Gilchrist joked. “They don’t regard their bodies very much, they play with reckless abandon, and at my age when I watch them I kind of cringe.
“There’s more failure than success when you step on the ice,” he continued. “You fall down, you get hit, you lose the puck, you miss the net…there’s 10 things that happen that in a microcosm is a failure before success. That’s hockey…and that’s life. So if our kids learn how tough it is when they step on the ice and just keep playing and playing no matter what, that’s an experience they can draw on and take with them the rest of their lives.”
The Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament features 12 teams and runs Jan. 8 to 12 at Memorial and Rutland Arenas.
The semifinals (Saturday, Jan. 11 at Rutland Arena) and the championship final on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 12:30 p.m. at Prospera Place will be broadcast live on RyanWatters.ca
For the complete schedule and more information on KIMMT, visit www.kimmt.com.