The Canucks developed a better locker room culture as players found their voice

“I thought this year’s group came together in the venue as well as I saw it during my time here. It’s not quite there, but it’s definitely in the right direction.” —Tyler Myers

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A team’s culture is not something a coach or general manager can simply pronounce. It is something to be encouraged.

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During Bruce Boudreau’s tenure as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, it became clear that a new culture emerged.

It’s really a pretty simple thing. Have human relationships with your players and use emotional intelligence in these relationships.

“I think I’m pretty positive and it’s all about winning,” Boudreau said this week. “And I think it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that. It didn’t matter what we were doing. It was about winning. And I think that’s called a great culture to have. And so it starts with practice. It starts with wanting to win every game, I think.

In fostering a team culture, a coach must know their athletes and set a strong, positive example. Players should be encouraged to express themselves freely and have the freedom to take risks on and off the pitch.

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“Let them make mistakes. Let them own it,” said Francois Ratier, a Quebec-based coaching consultant. it’s getting better.”

Since the departure of Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev after the 2019-20 season, there has been a lot of talk about the important leadership roles they filled in the Canucks locker room and how those holes remained empty after their departures.

It’s clear from the comments Boudreau and his players have made over the past few weeks that that void has gone, that this current generation of Canucks have finally found their collective identity. And every player, whether naturally talkative or not, feels empowered to express themselves.

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When Boudreau arrived in early December, the Canucks had won just eight of their first 25 games. Nothing they did seemed to work.

But winning builds confidence. And the Canucks immediately won. That their success, mainly due to the game of goalkeeper Thatcher Demko, did not matter for the renewal of the spirit of the team.

They were winning and that’s all that matters.

“As we started to win, you could hear more in the room. It was more of a real positive piece than a negative piece. And there was no more ‘unhappiness to me,’” recalls Boudreau.

Tyler Myers agreed with Boudreau’s assessment.

“He’s awesome,” Myers said. “You find out pretty quickly that Bruce is a pretty positive person. Even though we went through some lulls, still very positive.

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“He’s in the locker room and kept the guys upbeat. And I think the way we played as a group shows what we think of him. I think the band played really hard for him. It’s a testament to what he did when he arrived.

The team had a handful of leaders, like Bo Horvat and JT Miller, who were known to speak out in one way or another. But a truly vibrant team culture means everyone feels comfortable speaking up, being able to lead, regardless of their role on the team.

Conor Garland (middle) of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal with Quinn Hughes (left) and Luke Schenn during the third period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on January 1, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Conor Garland (middle) of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal with Quinn Hughes (left) and Luke Schenn during the third period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on January 1, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers /Getty Images

And so silent players started talking more. It wasn’t just quiet leaders like Demko and Elias Pettersson, it was actors like Alex Chiasson.

“Even normal calm guys at the end, like Chiasson. I mean, everyone respects his voice. He won a cup and when he started playing and doing well, he started talking,” Boudreau said.

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“And then Millsy and Horvat, and everyone was in on this thing. The Luke Schenns and the Tyler Myers and everything. It was a whole bunch of guys pointing in one direction.

“That’s the mindset I want to see when players come to this team, that they expect to win, because when you expect to win, if you see someone not working as well hard than you or do things that you are capable of, that you are ready to do it and they will not do it, you let them know, ”added Boudreau.

“Then the leadership in the room gets bigger and stronger. And it becomes your way of playing and your way of life.

Gone are the days when young players simply had to defer to veterans on the team, Myers said.

“You want to see young people express themselves,” he said. “Just because a guy is young doesn’t mean he has to stay quiet in his corner.”

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Conor Garland pointed to a speech the normally silent Quinn Hughes gave at the end of the season as an example of culture change. The high-octane defenseman told his teammates that just because they weren’t in the pursuit of the playoffs anymore, doesn’t mean they can’t come out strong every night.

“Try to change the culture. You know, this team hasn’t made the playoffs in a while and you know, we want to be a group that takes this team to the playoffs and competes for the Stanley Cup year after year, so it has to start somewhere. was the message Hughes had for his teammates, Garland said.

Myers noted that Hughes’ speech was somewhat obligatory as he had just received the team’s Player of the Game belt, but what Hughes had to say was nonetheless impactful.

“The words he said, you can tell he’s growing as a player and a person in the room, becoming one of the leaders,” Myers said.

“I thought this year’s band came together in the hall as well as I saw it during my time here.

“It’s not quite there, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.”

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