Winning with Winchester
Brockville Braves head coach Jesse Winchester was always a hard working player, a centre a coach could count on consistently to give his all every game.
The former NHL forward’s high effort, hard working demeanour has carried over into his own coaching style and has resulted in the Braves holding onto second place in the CCHL Robinson Division. The Braves sit only behind the powerhouse Carleton Place Canadians, the No. 1 ranked Canadian Junior Hockey League team.
Through the Braves and the club’s hockey academy, Winchester has instilled in his players the keys to success in hockey are effort and determination to improve each and every time they step on the ice.
“Jesse has been where everyone wants to go, so it’s much easier to really open your ears and listen to him. He respects and loves the game more than anyone I have ever seen and it rubs off on all of us players in the organization,” said Andrew Jarvis, captain of the Braves and Carleton University commit.
Jarvis has been with Brockville since the 2013-2014 season where he played as a 16-year-old. The veteran defenceman has had a different coach in each of his five seasons with the Braves.
“The younger guys are lucking out with having a coach like this early in their career,” Jarvis said.
The love for the game Winchester displays was apparent to Braves coowner and general manager Dustin Traylen when he was searching for the right man to lead the Braves this season and develop players in its hockey academy, which ranges from college-ready players to high school freshmen.
“What drew me to Jesse was his level of professionalism and love for the game of hockey. His love is palpable. He is honest with himself and honest with his players,” Traylen said. “The Braves franchise and the players are lucky to have him.”
Zach Matyasik, leading scorer of the affiliating Brockville Tikis, is one of the players in the hockey academy trying to get his game to the next level with the help of Winchester.
“Jesse’s coaching style has helped me realize the importance of good puck movement and maintaining possession to make smarter plays,” the 18-year-old Syracuse native said. “He preaches the importance of consistency, being ready to go game in and game out. I’m certain that Jesse’s coaching in the academy will help me reach Junior A.”
When asked why he chose to begin his junior coaching career in Brockville, Winchester said, “My wife and I are happy in this general area for the time being, and the chance to coach in such a competitive junior league was too good to pass up. I felt like my playing career ended a bit prematurely because of injury, and this opportunity allowed me to continue my growth in the game, albeit in a different way while I still have the desire to improve.”
Winchester played for the Cornwall Colts Junior A team starting in 2001-02 and then moved on to Colgate University before signing with the Ottawa Senators in the NHL in 2007. He spent four seasons in Ottawa, one season in Finland with the Helsinki Jokerit, and one season in Florida with the Panthers. His playing career was cut short due to recurring concussion symptoms.
Winchester and the Braves know there is plenty of hockey left to be played this season with 28 games left on the schedule. Brockville is currently riding a five game win-streak, with the offense leading the way. The team has scored four goals or more in each game during this hot stretch.
“We currently have a great group of young men in our locker room, so our goal is two-fold: to continue building a culture that realizes how lucky we are to be involved in the game at a high level, and then to respect how hard it is to be good at the game every single day,” Winchester said. “For the most part we have embraced the process and that is testament to the effort that the boys put in everyday during practice and games.”
Winchester was tight-lipped about what might be next for him. He told The Recorder and Times it’s difficult to say what his future will hold but, “Right now we are taking it day-by-day and enjoying the process.”
For now, though, Winchester is a Brave. Just as the young coach is enjoying the process, so are the Braves organization, its players, and the fans that come to the madhouse every Friday night.
The Braves (20-13-0-1) face off against the Grads (9-24-00) at 7:30 p.m. at the Brockville Memorial Centre.