They Said It - RGV's Chris Brooks
As the CHL prepares for the 2010-11 season, we will be sitting down with the head coaches from around the league in a feature called "They Said It". The honor for the opening interview goes to Rio Grande Valley's third-year boss, Chris Brooks
(62-51-15 record with the Bees). Next up is Rapid City's Joe Ferras
, check back for his interview in the coming days.
How has the off-season been so far for you?
The offseason has been good. It has been very busy recruiting wise and doing a lot of the little things that are required to prepare for the upcoming season. As a coach you spend a lot of time on the phone networking and talking to agents and trying to find players that are the right fit for your team. Recruiting is a time consuming part of the job, as you have to be available to prospective players and their agents 24 hours a day. At the same point, it is necessary to have balance in your life and try your best to make time to relieve yourself from your job a bit.
What changes do you feel are necessary for the Bees for this season?
Reflecting on last season, I don’t feel we were that far off. We had a lot of untimely injuries that really impacted our team at various points. Was I satisfied finishing 27-27-10? Definitely not, but at the same point our team battled right to the end of the season. Its important to continue to build our team around the locker room and in order to do that you need players with character and drive and you need players who aspire to play hockey at the highest level they can possibly play at. It is critical for us to be a team that other teams in the league hate to play, whether it is at home or on the road. Other teams need to know exactly what they are going to get when they play us every night. Other teams need know that we are going to compete and be tenacious from start to finish. In order to achieve that we have added size and grit to our blueline in signing Kyle Radke, Kirk Medernach, Matt Smyth and Rob Cowan.
As a head coach, what did you learn the most from your first year to second year in RGV?
I have learned so much about myself and a person and as a coach through my time in Rio Grande Valley. My biggest strength as a coach is my ability to teach. In order for me to teach, I feel we need players that want to learn. We need players that put the team first and will do anything asked of them. If we can get a group like that we will have a team. If you have a team that works towards a common goal, you can have success. I want to surround myself with players that are not satisfied playing in the CHL. I have also learned that this is a business. You have to make decisions that are best for the team and organization, and put personal feelings that you have for players aside. Sometimes that is difficult to do.
You have signed size and toughness, are you changing the focus and game plan for the team this season?
My focus and game plan for the team this upcoming season has not changed. I have just been fortunate that the players that I have pursued to come and play in Rio Grande Valley have size and toughness. Now the goal is to continue to build with some skilled players around what we have signed.
You obviously think highly of character players and those who play both ways (i.e. McClellan and Lee).what do those types of players mean for your hockey team?
Character is one of my key priorities that I look for in players. The players I bring here are a reflection of our owner, our front office and me. I have been fortunate over my two seasons in Rio Grande Valley to have a lot of great character players. Two of those players, Zac McClellan and Aaron Lee characterize the type of players I want to coach. They approach every single day like it is their last, they are coachable, hungry and unbelievable team guys that will do anything for the best of the team. They are great in the community and in the locker room and they make coaching rewarding and enjoyable.
The Bees and Bucks will meet a bunch during the regular season, how big is that rivalry and do you at all think of, when recruiting, players that match-up well against the Bucks?
Our rivalry with Laredo plays a key role in our success. Terry Ruskowski is one of the most successful coaches in minor pro hockey and you know his team will be ready to play every night. They are well coached and well prepared. In return that is why it is so important for us to be even better prepared. Terry is a coach that gets the most out of his players and heading into the season, we know that the 16 games we play against Laredo will be battles.
The fans support for the Killer Bees is so steady, what has been the trick in keeping them on the edge of their seats?
Our fans are unbelievable. When I left Western Michigan in 2008, the organization, front office, and the fans were a big reason why I took this job. Our owner and front office staff do an unbelievable job entertaining and making the fans experience an enjoyable one. At the same time, the fans and our organization, make Rio Grande Valley a great place for our players to play. Our front office staff is very creative and the corporate and community support continues to grow.
What are your thoughts on the CHL's playoff format with 16 of 18 teams making it to the post-season, would you be 'offended' to be the eighth team in the conference?
I knew this was going to be asked! I have been asked this many times since this decision was made. I think this is the cleanest way for the CHL to set up the playoffs. If we went to 12 of 16 teams making the post season, people would have criticized it. Setting up the playoffs is a no win situation. Some will like it some won’t. I support the decision. Regardless of how many teams make the playoffs, my goal as a coach is to approach the season game by game and our focus is to improve every single day in pursuit of a championship.