Brad Rihela is on board with Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association, heading up a coach and player development team.

Brad Rihela is on board with Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association, heading up a coach and player development team.

Chilliwack Minor Hockey hires Brad Rihela to craft player development plan

The Chilliwack Chiefs coach will lead a team that includes ex-Langley Rivermen boss Bobby Henderson

COVID had a devastating effect on youth sports in 2020, but for Chilliwack Minor Hockey, it also provided an opportunity.

President Lee McCaw and the CMHA board had time to evaluate what they do and how they do it, and one of the things they targeted is player development.

“Player development, coach development and community relations are arguably the three biggest things we offer for the fees we charge our members,” McCaw said. “At the end of the year, they expect to have fun obviously, but they also expect to get better and have proper development.

“We as a board thought it was important to have a paid position to oversee that.”

Enter Brad Rihela, associate head coach and general manager of the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, and a guy who’s as plugged in to player development as you can get.

“For many years he did an amazing job being the head of player and coach development in Aldergrove, where he grew up playing,” McCaw said. “We were able to scoop him up from Aldergrove on contract and bring him in here. With all the competition that’s coming around nowadays, with all these different places you can play, having quality development is huge and Brad is going to be a huge part of that.”

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Rihela’s skill-development group will be staffed by an interesting list of names, including Bobby Henderson.

Until recently the hockey boss of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, Henderson brings a ton of experience to the team and will be a paid coach with CMHA’s bantam A1 squad.

“It’s a very important part of rep hockey these days getting unbiased non-parent coaches,” McCaw noted.

Troy Stordy has been heavily involved with Mission Minor Hockey, runs the Mission Kings spring hockey program and owns the HockeyHQ training centre in Abbotsford.

“He’s a great guy, very highly educated in high-end development,” McCaw said.

Other notable names include Wes Mcleod, Graeme Strukoff and Kevin Zarillo.

“These guys are all in high demand around the Fraser Valley area and we were able to pull them all together and give them the opportunity to support minor hockey,” McCaw said. “Guys like Clarke Wismer, Clayton Krahn and Jeff Dods are great and they’re all still part of our program, but it was important to bring on some of the individuals that a lot of our members are going to on their own time for development.”

Members of the team will be assigned to certain divisions and will come up with an entire season-long development plan for those coaches. McCaw said new coaches coming in will have full practice plans prepared for them if they need them and want to use them.

“It’s phenomenal being able to offer this kind of high-level development, without it costing our members anything additional beyond their minor hockey fees, which are actually being lowered around eight per cent for 2021-22,” he noted. “All of this is part of a cohesive long-term plan. We used all the COVID down-time to go over our bylaws and policies and manuals and we noticed we didn’t have a long-term plan. So we went about crafting a five-year plan that will build back our development to an elite level in Chilliwack for house and rep players. For everybody.”

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