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This article was published 20/4/2018 (1245 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jon Rempel remembers the conversation like it was yesterday. After all, it’s not every day you get to sit down face-to-face with one of the more established peers in your industry.
But Rempel always figured he took far more away from that day about two years ago than the man on the other side of the table. That is why Rempel, the head coach of the national champion University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team, was flattered earlier this week to hear Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice give him an unexpected shout-out.
Maurice was talking to reporters about the importance of good chemistry within your locker room and motivating players to find success. And he harkened back to that chat with Rempel in describing how he came to realize it’s a "critical piece" of building a winning atmosphere.
"Pretty humbled that he threw that out," Rempel told the Free Press on Friday. "I think coaching is coaching, but I really feel sometimes I’m not sure what I have to offer. I guess when something like that comes out I’m a little surprised by it."
Jets co-owner Mark Chipman brought them together for what was expected to be a 30-minute chat. It lasted nearly three hours.
"I felt like, at that time, we were both sort of searching for some things in our coaching careers that could help us sort of maybe approach things a little bit differently. The conversation that we did have was so meaningful to me. In a lot of ways, it actually changed my coaching philosophy in a big way," said Rempel, who was recently named Canada West bench boss of the year for the fifth time in his 14-year coaching career. He also took home U Sports women’s coach-of-the-year honours.
"It certainly wasn’t a one-way conversation. A guy like that, that much experience who’s been at it so long and the staying power he’s had at the best level in the world, you get any time with him your ears are going to be wide open and at full attention," Rempel said.
It would appear Maurice’s were, as well. The two men have built a professional relationship and occasionally text each other. Rempel said one thing they both discovered is they had a mutual intensity that perhaps had to be reined in at times, something he feels both have done since that day.
"The thing I like about him the most is that coaching, I don’t think, has changed him as a person. I feel he’s very grounded in who he is, very principled. Sometimes this profession can really eat you up and spit you out. But I really feel like he really knows who he is," Rempel said.
He was certainly reminded this season of the importance of good chemistry as his team came together to capture its first national championship in school history.
"Our team, I can say unequivocally, was real tight-knit and close and supportive and trusted each other. I think in the pro game, sometimes maybe that’s overlooked. I think (Maurice) realizes the value of that kind of thing in his dressing room. And those guys clearly have it," Rempel said.
"Over time as a coach you begin to realize more and more, skill and talent and physicality and athleticism are all super important, and I do truly believe the team that does have the best athletes are typically going to be more successful. But I really feel if players care about each other, like each other and genuinely like going to the rink and spending time with each other, and that environment is fostered in the culture of your program, that you have a real good chance."
Another common trait shared by Rempel and Maurice is the fact they’re leading young athletes, albeit under vastly different circumstances.
"I think he’s done a remarkable job with those young kids. Yeah they’re talented, but you need a firm, steady hand. It demands a lot of patience," Rempel said.
They’ve also spoken about needing strong leadership within your team. Rempel said what he had this season was the best ever — and it would appear Maurice has similar feelings.
"From what I can tell of his comments, I feel there’s a lot of trust between him and his leadership group," Rempel said.
With his coaching duties now over for the season, Rempel is enjoying the view from the sidelines as a fan. He was in the crowd Friday night at Bell MTS Place and hopes to have another good chat with Maurice soon — perhaps about their mutually rewarding seasons.
"It transcends hockey to me. It’s more about the wellness of the city, putting the city back on the map, giving people a sense of pride of what the city is about. I’m very excited and super invested because I’m a fan.
"I just want the best for those people in that organization. I really hope they can keep it going."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.