New Arizona Bobcats 18U coach Gough brings Junior A experience to table
When the Arizona Bobcats officially joined forces with the Valley of the Sun Youth Hockey Association this offseason and its list of teams grew near-exponentially, that meant the program’s coaching roster would inevitably expand, too.
It’s familiar local faces like Pat Mahan, Jim Livanavage, Mike Hensdell and of course, Bobcats founder and head coach Ron Filion, who make up some of the base of an experienced coaching lineup that is now 16 members strong.
In addition to those who have helped build this particular program – or been staples on Arizona’s hockey scene over the past couple decades, it’s newcomers, like Brent Gough, who are poised to give the Bobcats that extra edge in its first season with a full complement of Mite, Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam and Midget teams.
Gough, who played at the Canadian junior, NCAA Division I and international professional levels, most recently served as the associate head coach and assistant general manager for the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League and is now the Bobcats 18U AAA head coach and an assistant coach for the 2006 Mite squad.
“Obviously this year is the first year we have a full arsenal of teams,” said Gough. “It’s nice to be part of that – where we can build on what Ron and all the other coaches have already done here. We want to be able to have an 18U program where guys don’t have to go away to play. Some players in Arizona still leave after 16U to go to California or other places, and we have the chance to not let that happen.”
Gough said he’s excited that his assignment with the Bobcats will include such a varied experience.
“It is a huge contrast,” Gough said. “You know what? It’s fun. For me, I truly feel it makes me a better coach. When you’re working with the younger kids, you say ‘hey try this,’ and they see it happening and their eyes light up, but at 18U, hockey is all about habits and tendencies.”
While expectations are high for the 18U AAA Bobcats, who compete as part of the Tier I North American Prospects Hockey League, Gough said that success for his teams will be defined in a number of ways.
“To say that it’s not about winning would be a lie,” he said. “But if I want to define success, I want to turn over my roster very year – bring in 20 new guys because we moved those players on.”
Turning the roster over, for Gough, means getting his Bobcats 18U players spots at junior and college levels – and beyond.
“Whatever their aspirations are, that’s my job,” he said. “I’ve been there at Junior A. I know what to expect, so I want to be able to put kids in situations that we know they’re going to be able to succeed. I’m hoping that the connections I made in Canada, I can pick up the phone and tell someone ‘You know, this kid is someone you should see.’
“And it’s my goal is to move a player on as soon as they’re ready. I’m never going to hold them back – ever. We’re one stop on a hockey path and hopefully, they can learn a lot and be ready for the next level.”
— Brett Fera