Kent Lewis has been coaching in the Powell River Kings organization for more than two decades, including nine straight years since the 2007/2008 season. Over the years, hundreds of young hockey players who have come to play for Lewis in Powell River have had a similar character. They are, as Lewis likes to say, “good kids.” His philosophy about the game, toward his players and on life in general is a simple message: play hard and play right.
What do you tell your players?
Find joy in what you do. Work very hard and want to get better every day. We’re dealing with kids WHO come from all over and it’s up to us to instill the right attitude and work ethic. That's the most important thing.
You often emphasize “playing right.” What is that?
A kid has to have a clear understanding of what I expect of them. Whether it be hockey, or on the street, you've got to have discipline. You have to play the right way. You've got to be very physical, you've got to be very aggressive, but you also have to find the line of being in control. The biggest thing in being in control is that you have discipline and that's something we want out of our players; know right from wrong, play with aggression, know where the line is and play the game the right way. We've HAD some of the most skilled players this league has had over the years I've been here. Playing the right way is not playing reckless.
How has the game evolved?
The game has changed so much since I started coaching in 1990 to now, and kids have changed in a lot of ways. You adapt. Good kids get the simple message and it is what we preach. It's not rocket science. I've done this a long time and I've always wanted to get better year by year. It's such an amazing game; how fast this game is and how skilled these kids are because of how they train. The defenders are now more involved, you don't see a lot of things you saw 20 years ago, like outnumbered rushes, two-on-ones, three-on-twos, because of coaching and the kids are now playing as good as you're ever going to see. One of the best things from those games that we had last year in the playoffs was we were getting sellouts in the second round. I don't ever recall that happening before, so you felt the excitement and the support. It was tremendous what the community did last year and they're seeing the best hockey that has ever been here, and this is nothing against the '70s or '80s.
Your players are 16 to 20 years old and there are a lot distractions. How do you manage that?
Whether they are hockey players or your own kids, be a good person. Have the right values. Don't be distracted. What you're posting on a Twitter account, or Facebook or Instagram, you're saying something about yourself and we want our players to be just good people and make good decisions. Don't be silly. Don't be stupid. It's a reflection on them and they're also a reflection on us. It's just about being good. You've got to strive to be good in everything you do and you've got to work hard at it.
Why is getting out and giving back to the community so important to the Kings?
That's what has made this such a great place for our kids to play. You're in a spotlight. You're in a bubble and our guys love that, and they have to recognize that they're walking down the street and some young minor hockey parent is going to look at them and say, ‘Hey, there’s a well-mannered and responsible kid.' We are examples. We get involved with this community because we need this community and it's great for our kids to learn how to deal with these things. We want our players to develop into being good young men.
What do you get out of coaching the Powell River Kings?
I look at what I do and I obviously have to love it. There are a number of reasons. I know what this club has meant to the community. It has provided some of the best hockey entertainment in the town's history. I consider myself very lucky. I'm in Powell River for a reason and that's because it's a wonderful community and my family is here. I’ve had a great life in hockey, and it's continuing, and I enjoy it and you have the ability to help mould and shape young people. And they teach us, too. We have great kids and it's a balance. You can learn from each other. I consider myself very lucky to have had the family support to be able to do it, and still consider myself young.