Every summer, Sean Bamford has coached a hockey camp in and around Ottawa. But this year he decided to go further afield than usual, about 10,400 kilometres further.
For his ninth summer coaching, the Ravens hockey forward went to Beijing, China to help young players perfect their game.
“In terms of coaching, the only thing different was, of course, the language,” he said. “But in terms of hockey, it doesn’t matter where you are around the world. The ‘language of hockey’ is the same.”
The 25-year-old grew up in south Ottawa and attended Brookfield High School, not far from Carleton. Now going into his fourth and final year as an arts student focusing majoring in Law, Bamford has been playing for the Ravens since 2013. He played one year for the Ottawa Junior Senators and four years for the Cumberland Grads, where he worked with Paul Flindall.
As previous head coach and general manager of the Cumberland Grads, Flindall started up the Beijing Chevalier Hockey Club in December 2014. He said asking Bamford to coach under him was a no-brainer.
“When I knew I would be bringing a couple of coaches over for the camp, my first thought was Sean,” said the head coach. “I know Sean very well and I knew if he accepted my offer he would be a great ambassador for the game.”
Twenty-two young players between the ages of six and 11 became Bamford’s hockey protégés. In his first week, Bamford immediately began to run practices and soon travelled close to 700 kilometres with his two teams to the eastern port city of Qingdao. During a three-day tournament, Bamford and Flindall coached 10 games that included Chinese teams and one Russian team.
Three of the young Chinese players were fluent in English, and they helped translate directions to their teammates.
“More often than not, I would just demonstrate what I wanted to be done,” said Bamford.
But he learned enough Mandarin to interact with his players, as well as call directions from the bench. The most effective of these being, “pass,” “shoot,” and “skate faster!”
“I’d say the biggest difference between hockey in Canada and in China is that the most important thing to them is to win,” said Bamford.
Coming from the land of hockey, Flindall noted that making the sport as important to young Chinese players is something to work on. He feels lucky to have had his past player’s help in in that.
“To see a player you coached for so many years turn into such a great young man and to be able to call him a friend, that’s the real payoff for a coach.”