CALGARY, Alta. – Following back-to-back medal-winning performances as an assistant coach, Joe Martin (Alberni Valley Bulldogs, BCHL) is making the move to head coach and will guide Team Canada West at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge this December in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Serving on the Canada West staff the past two years, Martin helped lead his side to a gold medal in 2017 and returned last year to aid in a bronze medal finish at the 2018 WJAC.
He also led Team West to victory, as head coach, at the 2018 CJHL Prospects Game that was held in Mississauga, Ont.
After earning coach of the year laurels in the BCHL in 2018-19 with the Merritt Centennials, he made the move in the off-season to join another league club, in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, where he inked a multi-year deal to serve as their head coach and general manager.
With a busy summer, including transitioning to a new team, Martin took time out of his preparations to offer some insight as he gears up for both the start of the regular season along with the WJAC in this CJHL Q&A.
CJHL: Give us your thoughts on being named head coach of Canada West.
JOE MARTIN: First off, its an honour to be given this opportunity. Now that a staff is in place, I’m excited to help bring all the pieces together. Team West has had some success as a group and lots of player success. I look to build on that.
CJHL: Is there anything from your previous WJAC experiences that you feel will help as you prepare for the event?
JM: I’ve worked with great a staff the last two years at the World Junior A Challenge. That’s key. It’s imperative that we come together as a staff between August and the selection camp. Knowing traits of the other teams will help, but its a new year.
CJHL: How will it be working again with coaches from within the CJHL, as you as a staff, prepare for the World Jr. A Challenge?
JM: It has always been a good experience for me working with different CJHL coaches. The five of us on staff, the guest coaches at the Canada West selection camp and the other members in the five western-based CJHL leagues all have a part to play. Each staff member brings different qualities to this year’s team and I’ll be relying on them to bring out their best at the WJAC. Also, guest coaches at the camp will set the tone for the event and are crucial with selection. But maybe the toughest job is getting the right 40 players to camp. This of course is where all the member clubs and the five western leagues play a part.
CJHL: This will be your third straight year as a member of the West coaching staff. How do you feel that will benefit you heading into the 2019 event?
JM: Experience cannot be replaced. I’m grateful that Hockey Canada and the CJHL has brought our director of hockey operations, Jamie McCaig, and I to the 2017 and 2108 WJACs and the 2016 selection camp prior. Also, knowing the people involved, how other teams play, living the routine of your day at the WJAC are all benefits that I can bring to our team.
CJHL: What are some of the moments that have stood out for you in being part of the WJAC?
JM: A 4-3 overtime win over Canada East at the 2017 World Jr. A Challenge. It was a do-or-die quarter-final game. We were just starting to hit our stride as a team. Luckily forward Ross Armour hit his stride before us. He was exceptional playing at over a point-per-game pace. We took the momentum into the semifinal and gold medal game and the boys were outstanding. Also, a lot of the laughter and team building with the players will stick with me for a long time. Getting to know this special group at meetings, meals and events has been great.
CJHL: What traits and skills do you look for in players as you evaluate them as a staff in helping formulate your rosters both with Canada West as well as with Alberni Valley as you head into the 2019-20 season.
JM: Team first decisions and being a great teammate are two very important traits all the players should have. At the WJAC, the style of play and the will to win vs. the other countries are important and these traits will definitely be tested.
The type of skill we want is the guys who have what we call hard skill. Skating, smarts and physical involvement are all paramount as individuals but as a team we would like to push the pace of play, be dangerous offensively, have very effective special teams play and great goaltending. I know its going to be difficult, so we’ll look for players that don’t mind doing things the hard way. Whatever it takes.
CJHL: Any final thoughts or insight you’d like to provide?
JM: For some of us, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let’s make the most of it.
The 2019 World Junior A Challenge goes Dec. 7-15 at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, B.C.
This event represents a partnership between Hockey Canada, the CJHL, B.C. Hockey, NHL Central Scouting and the local host committee.
This international showcase will feature two Canadian teams – Team Canada East and Team Canada West – along with the Czech Republic, Russia and the United States.
For more information on the World Junior A Challenge, please visit HockeyCanada.ca/WJAC, or follow through social media on Facebook and Twitter.