New Bulls striving for success
The Bradford Bulls Junior A hockey team is beginning only its third season as part of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League ( GMHL), but that won't stop them from exceeding expectations. The team, coached by Ryan Wood, is off to a promising start to the season, winning five of their opening six games (5-0-1), the only loss coming in a shoot-out against the rival Bradford Rattlers.
The Rattlers are the father of the two Bradford teams in the GMHL, but coach Wood strives to keep the rivalry between them as friendly as possible.
" I think it's just common in terms of two teams in the same town," said Wood about the rivalry. "We try to stay friendly as much as we can, but we've only been in the league for three years so the rivalry might be greater in the future. They've [Rattlers] got great players and we lost to them in a shoot-out in our season opener, unfortunately."
Although coach Wood wants the rivalry to stay healthy, he does expect his team to be competitive when playing the Rattlers, and he admits that cross-town games tend to be more exciting than games played against the other eighteen teams in the league.
Coach Wood is beginning his first season behind the bench of the Rattlers. Wood, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, played hockey in the Manitoba Tier II Junior A league, as well as the Lake Superior Hockey League before turning his focus towards coaching and pro-refereeing. He coached for two years in Winnipeg, and then travelled to the States as a referee in the IHL, USHL, and the North American League. Being involved in hockey for his entire life, Wood believes that there are bigger priorities for a coach than simply winning games, and he wants to reflect that mentality during his time as head coach of the Bulls.
"Being a new coach in the league, my expectation is to develop hockey players and try to move them on to a higher compete level," Wood said. "We have a lot of players who come here and try to advance into the QMJHL, OHL, and etc. I feel if a player deserves a better opportunity, we're going to move him."
"Yes, we want to be a competitive team, but the be-all and end-all is we try to develop hockey players and move them on to other leagues."
Community involvement is also important to the Bulls' coaching staff. The Bulls are actively involved in community fund-raisers, and events. The entire team volunteered at the Bradford Ribfest this past weekend even though weather conditions ceased to cooperate. Being an active citizen helps players improve their teamwork skills, and also allows team newcomers to feel welcome.
" Our guys volunteered at the Ribfest and we plan to do a lot more [community work],"said coach. "If people are in need of volunteers I encourage them to e-mail me."
The Bulls also welcome any foreign players who are looking to find a new team in Canada. This past off-season, the team signed Sergey Bolshakov, a goaltender who moved to Bradford straight from Moscow, Russia. Bolshakov, 17, has won three of his four starts this season, amassing a .945 save percentage and a 2.45 goals against average.
" He's a great kid," Wood said of Bolshakov. " He's got tremendous upside and potential."
First year players and veteran GMHLer's will be given an equal opportunity for success on the Bulls.
Captain Dalton Mills, who has been a Bradford Bull for two seasons, is currently leading the Bulls in points along with Jacob Bauchman, a newcomer who spent the last four years playing for the Georgetown Raiders of the Provincial Hockey League. The team is hungry for success this season, and being undefeated after six games is not a bad start.
The Bulls play home games at Bradford's Bob Fallis arena every Wednesday night while the Rattlers host games at the BWG Leisure Centre.