Brad Fox loves the impact of the relationships he has with players.
“I have always been driven by working with kids to see them become stronger people and attain their goals playing a game they love,” says Fox, who is in his 17th season in the KIJHL, and has been with the Chase Heat since they joined the league in 2010-11.
After being on a KIJHL bench for 16 years, the number of players he has helped advance is substantial.
“I think the more important thing that has come out of that is the fact that looking back, I have been privileged enough to be around those that have come back to be caring, healthy, proactive human beings in society,” says Fox. “That is something that I have taken the most pride in.”
Here are some players Fox has helped advance to higher levels: Reece Forman (Heat 2011 – 13 – Nipawin Hawks SJHL – Minot State College); Nick Fidanza (Heat – 2012-13 Merritt Centennials BCHL); Cody Koskimaki (Heat 2013-14 – Portage College – Koskimaki also played for the Kamloops Storm – 2010-11 – MJHL); Kurtis Johnson (Heat 2011-14 – University of Central Oklahoma); Logan Mostat (Heat 2014 – 15 – Salmon Arm Silverbacks BCHL); Trevor Okino (Heat – 2013-16, Jamestown University); Alex Durbeniuk (Heat 2013-16 – Central Oklahoma); Josh Bourne (Heat 2015-17 – Nanaimo Clippers BCHL – Canadian University); Landon Russell (Heat – 2016-17 – Dauphin Kings MJHL – USA College); Colton Nikiforuk (Heat – 201 -18 – Nipawin Hawks SJHL) Vince Benedetto (Heat 2019-20 – UNLV) and Gavin Mattey (Heat 2017-20 – La Ronge/SJHL); Dylan Barton (Heat – 2019-20 -Red Lake Miners – SIJHL); Kurt Torbohm (Revelstoke – 2006-07 – Kamloops Blazers WHL); Steve Tresierra (Revelstoke – 2007 – 08 Victoria Grizzlies – BCHL – Queen’s University) and Jeff Jones (Revelstoke – 2008-09 – Merritt Centennials BCHL – Robert Morris University).
When he coached at the Junior A level, Fox was fortunate to be part of the career of players that reached NCAA Division 1 and professionally.
Inspiration to be a great coach comes from many avenues for Fox. Everyone in the Heat program, including the community, inspires him to “achieve great things.”
The Heat program is driven by its great, small community and Fox says there are many people who have impacted the players that have worn the jersey. The Heat pride themselves on giving the players the resources to grow and make mistakes and learn to push forward. Players feel privileged to be a part of the Heat because of how they feel welcome.
“That in turn becomes a really attractive thing to a player and a parent when they look at a program,” says Fox, who began coaching in the KIJHL with Golden, then went to Revelstoke. “We are growing people first. If you can make that your primary focus, what we all do collectively to give them that opportunity to grow just complements not only our program, but our league for these kids going forward. I think that’s a real rubber stamp on the KIJHL.”
Developing in the Heat program is a great option for players because they get the full junior experience of being in a small community. The players see each other everyday and understand the importance of continuity.
“When we designed this program, we designed it on a Junior A template,” says Fox, who was an assistant coach in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for four seasons. “We’re going to do everything that Junior A does, but not at the same budget. Everything they offer, we offer. These kids and their parents buy into our program and there is value in ice, development, personal growth – first-class in how we operate. The things that they get, the things that they do. Once they get here and get a feel for it and see that it is a family and run as well as it is, one of the first comments I often get is, ‘Wow, we never expected this.’ That’s compliment to the program.”
To Fox, the KIJHL has created a template for players that are under the radar and haven’t quite reached their potential.
Fox began coaching at 14 when he played Bantam, standing on the bench of a female team for a season. When he finished playing Junior A, a two-and-a-half year career with the Drumheller Falcons, Sherwood Park Crusaders, St. Albert Saints and Fort Saskatchewan Traders in the AJHL, he took on a midget team for one season before embarking on his junior coaching career, which included a season in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He took nine years off to work in the fuel and gas industry, starting up Fox Hockey on the side, then came to the KIJHL. He has worked in skill development teaching every level of player up to college and minor pro for 38 years.
While being in the KIJHL, the 59-year-old has learned a lot.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself in regards to the first piece of advice I would give to any incoming coach coming through, is rule No. 1 – get over yourself. It’s really not about you,” he says. “Check your ego at the door and take the time to really learn about the kids and the people and care about them. I was one of those guys that was so driven by winning, that at times that I forgot to care about who they were versus what they were. That became a crucial item going forward for me.”
As the league progressed, it became evident to Fox how underrated the KIJHL was.
“From when I first came into this league, to where we are now, there are a lot of really good players. There always has been.”