High-calibre coach

There is a great future in hockey for many of the kids on the Abbotsford Bantam Tier 1 team, and the upcoming WHL Bantam draft will be the start of these success stories.

Troy Campbell has had tremendous success as the head coach of the Abbotsford Hawks Bantam AAA team.

Troy Campbell has had tremendous success as the head coach of the Abbotsford Hawks Bantam AAA team.

There is a great future in hockey for many of the kids on the Abbotsford Bantam Tier 1 team, and the upcoming WHL Bantam draft will be the start of these success stories.

But arguably the most impressive accomplishments have come from the man behind the bench. Head coach Troy Campbell has been at the helm of Abbotsford’s Bantam Tier 1 team for six seasons, and this is the third time he has played for a provincial championship.

Most minor hockey coaches never get the chance to play for a provincial title, but Campbell has shown an uncanny ability to get his teams playing in the biggest of big games.

Lochie Bell, the past president of Abbotsford Minor Hockey and the B.C. Hockey supervisor for the provincial tournament, said Campbell has been the most successful coach in Abbotsford Minor Hockey through his 15 years of involvement, “and there have been some good ones,” he said.

“I’ve never seen one get the ability out of his players, and bring them together as a team, like Troy.”

He added that Campbell coaches because he loves hockey, and doesn’t even have a child involved.

“He’s a genuine volunteer. He’s giving back for the right reasons.”

“He’s a great coach,” said Brigitte Virtanen, who has been a minor hockey manager for 12 years, including the last two with Campbell. She said along with assistants Gary Mills and Darren Olsen, “They really prepared the kids for this weekend.”

She said the challenge for the coaches is to get the kids to think less about the WHL Bantam Draft, and their dreams of making it into Major Junior hockey. They need to get players and parents alike focused on the success of the team, and this coaching staff has done that.

Individual success is sure to follow, and scouts have told the Abbotsford team’s staff that eight to 10 players may go in the WHL draft.

Campbell can put himself in the kids’ shoes, because he was a great Abbotsford hockey prospect himself at one time. He played with the Langley Eagles at 15, was then an offensive player with the Abbotsford Falcons Junior A team, playing on the second line. When the Falcons organization left and the Abbotsford Pilots Junior B team started in Abbotsford, Campbell had an opportunity to leave and continue in the B.C. Hockey League with Vernon. He instead chose his hometown team, and in only 25 games put up 85 points.

“I should have went away,” he says now, and admitting he has kicked himself for not trying to get the most out of his hockey career.

In as much as he is developing great players, Campbell tries to emphasize the team-first philosophy with his clubs.

“It’s very important to check the egos at the door,” he said. “Team is number one, and hard work – trying to out-work your opponents. Nothing comes for free.”

His longtime assistant coach Gary Mills is a former military man who preaches team concepts with the best of them.

Their practices are uptempo, and they favour a lot of game situations

It’s a formula that has resulted in success at every level. Mills and Campbell have led numerous teams to championships.

Campbell started in 1995-1996 as the assistant coach of a pee wee triple A team. One notable on that squad was Ryan Craig, who is now a pro and captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

In 1996-1997 he won a provincial championship with a Bantam B1 team, but following that season he took time away from coaching to spend time with his young daughters.

Campbell returned for the 2004-2005 season with a pee wee AAA team, and they made it to the provincial final, but lost.

The next season he moved up to Bantam AAA, and the team won the provincial title and the Western Canadian Championship – the farthest a bantam team can go.

The following hockey year his Bantam AAA squad hosted the provincials, and won the bronze medal.

In 2008-2009 he again had the best team in B.C., and they won silver at the westerns.

And, of course, this year they hosted the provincials and took silver.

Campbell wasn’t sure whether he would be back at the helm of the Bantam AAA team again next season, but hopes to play some role within the association.

“I grew up and played all my years in Abbotsford Minor Hockey. The association is near to my heart.”