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Practising with professionals

Monarchs minor-hockey players soak up what Jets coaches are saying

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Many NHL fans refuse to even look for lockout silver linings, but they're there just the same.

Forward Tyler Campbell and defenceman Jordan Steele of the Winnipeg Monarchs bantams are quite jacked about theirs -- so far a couple of Mondays of practice under Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel.

"It felt overwhelming," Jordan, 13, said about his first hour-long session under Noel. "But you get used to it after a while. The pressure kind of stops because you want to do good.

"He's a good coach, good skills coach. Obviously he's in the NHL, so he's a good coach."

Monday's workout at the MTS Iceplex included Noel's new assistant coach Perry Pearn. The focus is less on schemes and more on player improvement.

"It was mainly skills, not too much skating," Jordan said. "He focused on skills. To play hockey, you need to get your skills down. For game situations, you need to know how to shoot a puck and how to pass."

Noel has energy to spare while the NHL is idle, and of the practices he's helped teams with, he said he has a hard time accepting a "la-dee-dah" pace, even if the players aren't in the big leagues.

So has Noel barked at any bantam Monarchs yet?

"No, but I think he yelled at some of the older Monarchs (last week)," Jordan chuckled.

Tyler said he was full of questions before Monday's practice, his first outing with the Jets bench boss.

"He looks like a pretty serious coach, works his players pretty hard, expects the best out of them," Tyler said. "And he obviously coaches the Jets so he's an amazing coach right now.

"(Questions?) Maybe what it's like, the pressure to be in the NHL maybe? If it's really hard, difficult, with all the fans and the media around you all the time?"

Tyler also has things he hopes to learn from the Jets coaches.

"How to be more of a team player, to pass the puck, be a leader," he said. "How to encourage players, help them become better, too. That's what I'd like to learn."

Jordan said he and his teammates were enthused about last week's list of topics.

"We learned how to do a proper saucer pass, different kinds of passing, one-touches and everything," he said. "How to shoot harder. How to have more foot speed."

Even Monarchs coach Adam Rath had his excitement level up.

"I'm going to try to pay attention as much as I can, because for me, this is basically the pinnacle for learning for me," said Rath. "He (Noel) is at the highest level. Someday I might aspire to that. There will be little things that he's teaching the kids and me learning from him. What an opportunity."

Rath said Noel and Pearn designed Monday's practice and the Monarchs players couldn't wait for it to start.

"They're thrilled," Rath said. "They love it. They can't say enough about it because for them, this is the highest level of anyone they'd have to come out to help them. They're loving it. They have so many questions and they want to try to learn so much from them."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 C1

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