Westville native current co-coach of Canadian women’s hockey team
WESTVILLE – The biggest coaching opportunity thus far in Lisa (Jordan) Haley’s life is just around the corner as Sochi 2014 is fast approaching.
© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Canada's coaches Danielle Goyette, centre, and Lisa Haley watch from the bench as Canada's Jocelyn Larocque, right, takes part in warm-up prior to women's pre-Olympic hockey action against the U.S.A. in Calgary last Thursday.
Having the chance to be a bench boss for the Canadian women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics wasn’t something that came easy according to Haley, who didn’t start coaching hockey until after she finished playing her university career with the Concordia Stingers in 1996.
“Just like players, there are a lot of hours of work that go into preparing yourself for this, so I began coaching right out of university about 16 or 17 years ago now,” said Haley. “I spent a lot of time in Halifax coaching at Saint Mary’s University and I’ve been involved with our national team program with Team Canada since 2003, so that would make it a 10- or 11-year process, but achieving something of this magnitude takes that amount of commitment and time.”
The Westville-native started her hockey career in a Westville Miners jersey, playing until she reached the bantam level. Haley took some time away from the sport, as it wasn’t encouraged for girls to play in bantam and midget because of the contact rule. When girls hockey became a sport at the Canada Winter Games she went to tryouts and made the team for the 1991 Canada Games.
From there she spent five years with Concordia’s program as a player before returning to the Maritimes to join the Huskies program where she coached for 14 seasons and led the school to four AUS championships.
“Saint Mary’s was my first coaching opportunity in hockey, but back in high school I coached elementary basketball and things like that, was an instructor at hockey schools and things, but nothing serious until I started at Saint Mary’s,” said Haley.
Helping the Huskies wasn’t her only coaching highlight before enjoying her successes with the national team program. Haley has “lost count” of how many times she coached Team Nova Scotia over the years, including the girls team at the 2003 and 2007 Canada Winter Games. She said it was those experiences that helped give her the national opportunities she has had.
“I coached Team Nova Scotia (U-18 teams) – I lost count how many times – but that’s my path,” she said. “To get to Hockey Canada you typically coach in your provincial high performance programs, which is what I did.”
Since joining the Hockey Canada national program in 2003 she has served as an assistant coach five times at the world women’s championship, twice with the U-22 team during the 2003-2005 seasons and once with the U-18 team, winning gold at the 2010 world women’s U-18 championship.
Last February Hockey Canada announced Haley would be part of the coaching staff for the 2013 world women’s hockey championships and the 2014 Winter Olympics, but last week she was given an increased role, at least for the time being.
Dan Church resigned as head coach of the women’s team last Thursday, saying he felt others lacked confidence in his ability to win a gold medal at the Olympics. He did not specify whether it was players or Hockey Canada management who questioned his competence.
That leaves Haley and fellow assistant Danielle Goyette as co-coaches for the time being, with Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and female head scout Melody Davidson looking for a replacement.
“It’s actually been a really difficult situation with our team right now with our head coach resigning, so basically we’re a man down right now,” she said about Church’s departure with less than two months before the opening ceremonies. “In my role as an assistant coach, along with our assistant coach, we are trying to pick up the ball a little bit from that departure and make sure the team doesn’t miss a beat.
“I knew I was going to be going to the Olympics for about a year now, so I’ve been mentally ready for that, but not quite mentally ready for the latest challenge in front of us.”
At the last three Winter Olympics the women’s hockey team has brought home gold and the expectation is no different this time according to Haley. Having been to a number of international events she hoped to some day coach at the Olympics, but had no official time frame for achieving that.
“It’s always pretty difficult to predict what kind of opportunities you’ll get because there is a lot of great coaches in our game and obviously hockey is a passion in our country, so it’s a very honourable opportunity to be selected as one of the coaches,” said Haley. “I’m thrilled that it happened. Would I have wished it happened sooner? I think that every step along the way Canada has hired the right people to coach our teams and that’s why we’ve been able to win gold medals and hopefully they’ve gotten it right this time and we can continue that trend.”
Coaching alongside Goyette who won gold as a player with Canada in 2006 and 2002, Haley said she brings her own experience as a coach to the table for the coming Olympics.
“I think at the end of the day it’s probably experience,” she said. “As I said I’ve been in the game in this type of a role for 16 or 17 years, so I’ve been through a lot of different situations with a lot of different teams and I’ve been to quite a few world championships, so I think that’s one of the things. I think I also tend to be a bit of a – I’m not sure how you would describe it – but a passionate person about the game and like to make sure the players are motivated and ready to go when the puck drops.”
Canada opens the preliminary round Feb. 8 against Switzerland.