A Conversation With: London Head Coach Pat Powers – by C. Scott Holland

Recently, 105.7 myFM’s Chris Soares had the chance to sit down and chat with London Nationals’ head coach Pat Powers.

Powers, a former Western Jr. B hockey player, was named the Nats’ head coach late in the summer when Kelly Thomson left the position to return to school so he could finish his university degree.

Powers is no stranger to the area, having played Jr. B hockey in Strathroy and St. Thomas as well as having had some coaching experience with the Jr. B Stars (2007/08) and Western University Mustangs (2008/09).

St. Thomas is his hometown and for the coach, who just turned 40, walking the hallways at the Western Fairgrounds arena and St. Thomas’ Timken Centre has allowed him to “meet many friends and family.”

His hockey journey itself has been a long one. After playing Jr. B in the early 1990s, he went to the east coast where he continued his education and played hockey at St. Thomas University. Eventually, he became the university’s head coach for two years but left to return back to the London-St. Thomas, Ontario area. After a year as the Stars head coach, he became an assistant coach and then interim coach for the Western Mustangs who won the OUA Men’s championship.

When asked about his views on what has changed, Powers said, “The league (west Conference and GOJHL) has become more professional as far as the way things are run. All the coaches are well-prepared and are helping the players get to the next level.”

Becoming the Nats’ new head coach was a surprise for him. “I knew the owner and assistant GM Tim Simmons, but since becoming the coach, I’m finding it’s a steep learning curve. The players are getting to know how I run things and we’ve been working on some game aspects like our powerplays lately.”

A multitude of adjustments are addressed prior to and after each contest, but Powers feels his Nats team is progressing, “They’re participating in more games and we (the coaches and players) are seeing where the errors occur. Some of them are small.”

As a whole “the parity in the league is largely good; the players are up on their toes playing their best game.” That means the Nats must bring their “A” game to every contest they play and so far as the midway point of the season is here, London has fared quite well sitting with a 12-7-3-1 record tied for fourth place and just four points from second place in the tight Western Conference standings. Yet the Nats’ standings position is deceiving because they are in the midst of a log jam between second and fifth where only four points separates four teams. One aspect which must have Powers thrilled is the fact that London has the second lowest goals allowed in the division with only first-place Leamington having a better mark than the Nats’ 68.

Regarding the new three-on-three second overtime format, Powers stated, “You’d think the three-on-three would open things up and more games would be won.” However, the GOJHL has had 14 tied games so far. “It does open things up …every team strives for everything in that second overtime.” One of the best instances of that scenario was a 0-0 draw in a game London played at Leamington on Oct. 1st.

How the Nationals are progressing thus far, Powers thinks, “We’d like to bear down and prepare our team to be the best we can be come playoff time.” His past coaching experience has to help get the proper messages across to his players and he admits, “That experience helps me relay things and with my own Junior B history, I can understand and relate to what players are going through – their emotions, their ups and downs, etc.”

How he injects inspiration to get the Nats winning and playing well is an unknown but said, “I never know where the next motivation l find will come from!”

In the meantime, he still revels in the history he has from playing at St. Thomas’ Memorial Arena, “It’s kind of exciting being there; it was a good experience for everybody and the fans.”

With half a season yet to be played the Nationals are in a strong position for a good stretch run and perhaps several rounds of playoff excitement. But for the time being Powers is only focusing on the next game the Nationals play in their schedule.

C. Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington with his wife Susan. He can be contacted at: cttocsh1@yahoo.ca

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