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Dinos assistant coach talks former NHL career and changes in Canadian hockey

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, July 21 2016 —

With an IIHF Hall of Fame inductee as a head coach and graduates like Hayley Wickenheiser and Amanda Tapp, the Dinos women’s hockey team is one of the crown jewels of Dinos athletics. Added to the roster last year was Tim Bothwell, a former NHL hockey player and assistant coach for the Atlanta Thrashers from 2001–2003. The Gauntlet sat down with Bothwell to talk about his career and his thoughts on the game’s progression over the years.

The Gauntlet: Your addition to the women’s team last year added a wealth of experience to the Dinos coaching staff. Was that move planned?

Bothwell: Well, there’s a lot of things that went into it. Number one, I knew [head coach] Danielle [Goyette] extremely well, having coached her in [the] Torino [Olympic Games]. We have a long relationship, we get along extremely well. So that was a really big part of it for me.

Number two, Barb and I, my partner, really love it here in Calgary. I moved around so much in the hockey world in the last 25–30 years that I was really looking for something that could keep me in Calgary and stay involved in hockey. And this was a perfect marriage because Danielle and I get along so well. And as I suspected at the time, I prefer and enjoy more coaching the women, so it was kind of a perfect marriage of about three or four things.

G: The team has produced major stars over the year like Hayley
Wickenheiser and Amanda Tapp. What makes the hockey program here in Calgary so strong?

B: Danielle, for starters. She’s an excellent coach in a lot of different ways. Very good interpersonally, number one, which is important for head coaches these days in particular. [She is] an excellent skills coach, so she can help mould and develop a player without a great deal of skill, improve their skating, their stick-handling, their puck-handling. She has a good skill-coaching eye, probably as [good as] anybody out there. And on top of that, she’s got a wealth of experience as a player, she knows and understands the game extremely well. There’s not a whole lot more that you need or want in a head coach.

G: What is your own philosophy when it comes to coaching?

B: Very similar to Danielle’s. We want to have fun, especially at this level. We’re all driven to succeed and Danielle and I are similar in that way. We’re passionate about the game, we want to excel, we want to do well, but the best way — especially in the female game — to get there in terms of success is to enjoy it. [To] have the girls enjoy it, and we enjoy it, and that makes all the work that much more fun.

G: You spent some time playing in the NHL throughout the ‘80s, can you tell us a little bit about that time in your career? Are there any highlights?

B: Certainly there are a lot of highlights. It was a tremendous experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Probably one of the biggest playing highlights would be the year I played in Hartford. With about a month left in the season we were eight or nine points out of a playoff spot, which is a long way with a month to go. We made the playoffs and then in the first round, we did a total upset of the Québec Nordiques who were an absolute power at that time, and the city of Hartford actually had a parade for us at the end of the playoffs even though we didn’t win the Stanley Cup. So it was kind of a bizarre little hockey story and certainly a highlight.

G: Have you noticed that the game has changed at all since then?

TB: Dramatically. Very dramatically. Back when I played I was a decent skater. It was a strength of mine — not fast but a particularly good skater. But back then, you could probably say there were three to five guys on the NHL roster who were very average skaters. And some of them, poor skaters who would not have a hope in heck of playing today. Everybody skates well. Everybody shoots the puck well. The game is really dramatically different than it was in the ‘80s for sure.

G: Do you find there are any major differences between coaching women’s hockey versus men’s hockey?

B: The one major difference is social. Women have to have fun in order to win, and men have to win in order to have fun. And that’s a pretty significant difference, but it’s a very critical one. You always have to keep your finger on the social temperature around the female teams. It’s important on the men’s sides, but not as critical to team success. The second thing is confidence. I think the female athletes, they struggle more with confidence when things are going poorly. In the female game, when you score a goal, the whole energy of your team goes up, and when you get scored against, the whole energy of your team drags down.

G: You’ve had so much experience coaching and playing hockey at an elite level. Can you explain the amount of discipline it takes to get to that point?

B: I don’t know if I could explain it. I know it does. The biggest ingredient of success, I believe, for any athlete is passion. It drives everything. It makes the hard workout days easier, it makes all the success more fun and enjoyable. It makes all the adversity and roadblocks you face easier to get past.  It’s the single most important ingredient, and that’s not to say if you’re not passionate you can’t get there, because if you’re extremely skilled you could — but you’re leaving something on the table if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing.

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