This year former Team Canada head coach Mel Davidson joins a hallowed group of individuals honoured by the Canadian Olympic Committee who have made a significant impact on the Olympic Movement. She will be one of five individuals inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame on April 16, 2011 in Moncton, New Brunswick.
WINIH took the opportunity to catch up with Davidson who is now Head Scout for Hockey Canada and get the lowdown on what her new job entails and her thoughts on the game at this stage in her career.
Elizabeth Etue: What does the induction into the Cdn Olympic Hall of Fame mean for you?
Mel Davidson: Very special and a terrific tribute to everyone involved in our women’s program in Canada and around the world.
EE: You have coached as assistant and head coach for 6 World teams and head coached for 2 Olympics. How many years have you been involved with Team Canada in total as a coach?
MD: Spring 1992 until 2011.
EE: Has your work in the women's game changed you?
MD: I grew up in the game so I would say it has changed me the same way anyone changes when they grow up – you mature, become more confident and gain great experiences.
EE: What did you take away from your coaching experience after all those years?
MD: How much the people involved in the women’s game care.
EE: What have been the most important advances/changes made in Cdn women's hockey during your time with the team?
MD: Commitment by all involved – financial by academic, provincial and national organizations both in human and material, recreational athletes moving to elite full time athletes, coaches from part time to full time, growing overall awareness of women in non-traditional roles.
EE: Why did you decide to leave coaching?
MD: I haven’t left - just not coaching in the national program – at this time I am coaching Junior A Men – Calgary Canucks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League – I will always coach someone somewhere.
EE: You are now the Head Scout for women's hockey for Hockey Canada, what does that job entail for people who do not know the scope of this position?
MD: There are over 80,000 girls playing hockey – 40,000 plus of whom are eligible for one of our three programs and we have no NHL or central scouting. I have seven volunteer scouts and myself who do our best to get out in the rinks and see all possible prospects play. We then create the recommendations for invites for our program.
EE: Does your work include travelling to watch any US college games given the Cdn players there?
MD: We cover all of North America – where ever our current players are playing.
EE: Do you also talk to the US college coaches about Cdn players?
MD: We talk to the coaches of all our players regardless of where they are playing – All coaches just want to help their players improve so it is an easy communication.
EE: What other events do you cover as Head Scout?
MD: The only events we do not cover are summer hockey or summer prospects camp – all national events, as many provincial U18 camps as possible, Midget (generally the top level of Midget in a province) and higher (Provincial Women’s Hockey League plus Central and Western leagues ( CWHL, WWHL) and Canadian and American college leagues ( CIS, ACAC and NCAA)– our scouting year runs from July 1 (where we start watching provincial camps) to the end of June – after the Esso Cup (National Championship) which is late April the only events we might watch in May or June are provincial camps.
EE: Do you work with the players in a specific capacity anymore?
EE: You are a member of the IIHF women's committee, what are the important steps taken by this committee in the next 4 years to assist the women's game?
MD: Lots of initiatives. (for IIHF plans go to: http://tinyurl.com/6xogcq4)
EE: Given that federation funding is a consistent problem for women's hockey, is there anything you think fans can do to help?
MD: Attend championships and league games especially at the post-secondary levels, Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Western Women’s Hockey League– encourage corporate sponsorship to individual national level athletes, teams and leagues.
EE: Is anything new or different happening at the 2011 worlds aside from the usual coaching seminars and committee member meetings to help the game?
MD: Holding a coaching seminar in Europe is new – it has never happened around the women’s worlds when the world championship is held in Europe.
EE: Should there be a women's hockey summit at the world champs this year 2011?
MD: No we had one in conjunction with the August 2011 Hockey Summit – from that a five year plan was established we need to put our efforts into enhancing and making that plan succeed.
EE: Lastly, are you optimistic about the future of wms hockey in the Olympics?
MD: We have work to do but I know we will do it. The future of women’s hockey is not about hockey it is about culture and how women are viewed and valued all over the world – everyone needs to work to widen the world’s views, treatment and acceptance of women in non-traditional roles not just in hockey.
Who says North America cannot learn from other countries?University of North Dakota is breaking the mold.Peter Elander signed on at UND as an associate head coach for the 2010/11 season. His 10 year stint as head coach of the Swedish national team earned him and the team some well-deserved success most notably a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics.
Elander has a university degree in gymnastics and sports education in Stockholm. He is a public speaker, conversant in 5 languages, a gourmet cook and passionate about wine. He also runs an international hockey school in Sweden for 15-20 year old international elite players. Web site:www.swishicehockey.com.
WINIH did an interview with Elander in Feb. 2010 called Pressure is a Privilege: http://tinyurl.com/37p2yzn.
Here is an interview done late Dec. 2010 with Elander about his new role in US college hockey and comparisons between Sweden and US.
Elizabeth Etue: What did you take away from your experience as head coach of Swedish national team for 10 years?
Peter Elander: I had 10 years that involved meetings and friendship with a lot of nice people. We also reached success in Sweden when I started since we had just managed to play in the A-pool in the world championship; Sweden got their first ever Olympic medals and World Championship medals. Together with my co-workers we managed to create an elite athlete approach among the Swedish women hockey players. But the best memories have been to see very young girls develop in life and in their sport
EE: What would your advice be to the new head coach?
PE: I don't believe in giving advice. I hope that the new staff can have 5 years , as good as we had between 2005-2010 where we achieved our high goals. The highlights were: we had a 5 year winning record against our arch rival Finland ; first ever win against Canada’s best team; first ever win against USA; Sweden’s first medals in world championship and the crown jewel was the 2006 Olympic final game and silver medal in Torino. So any advice will be to try to improve on the previous coach and staff record because in the end it all comes down to results.
EE: Why were you hired as associate head coach at University of North Dakota?
PE: I was hired to associate head coach to Brian Idalski because Brian is a very good friend and very humble person who will share the leadership, being a NCAA head coach without any experience with NCAA rules and paperwork wouldn't be the right step. I'm learning something every day at my position to be an excellent head coach in the future.
EE: Why did you decide to come to USA?
PE: I decided to come to US as a part of my lifelong hockey journey that has involved; playing games against Jari Kurri, Igor Larionov, a very young Nick Lidstrom and Mats Sundin; to coach players from age 5 to 40 male and female from over 35 countries from new beginners to world’s best. I truly enjoy the game of hockey and when UND offered me to work at "The Nobel Prize Lab of Hockey" The Ralph Engelstad Arena it was impossible to say no and it also gave me a chance as the only coach in the world who have coached the best male and female twins in the world; the Swedish Sedins (playing for Vancouver Canucks) and the Lamoureux, American female twins playing at UND.
EE: What are your responsibilities at UND as Associate Head Coach?
PE: My responsibilities at UND are running the power play and forwards and recruiting in Europe is my main area but me, Brian and assistant coach Erik Fabian all help out.
EE: Have any of the U-18 Swedish national team players committed to coming to UND yet?
PE: No one yet; we are looking at some but there are a lot of very good players out there but the number one requirement is that you have to like to study
EE: How have you and your family adjusted to living in Grand Forks, North Dakota? .
PE: It has been a great transition, my wife is Canadian and our son speaks both languages; he started in grade 1 playing the violin and also hockey. Grand Forks have been a very friendly hockey oriented and decent size city; we like it a lot.
EE: What are the differences in player skills at a Division I school and the Swedish National team?
PE: I think that the Swedish national team players in general have “softer hands” but the NCAA league contains a bigger gap between the players and that creates some bad behaviours and there is also less tactical knowledge which shows in international competition.