Derek Cormier loves the game of hockey. There’s really no other way to describe it.
It’s been six years since Cormier laced them up professionally, but his passion for the game is still undeniable.
When it came time to finally step away from the game after a brilliant eighteen year pro career in Europe, Cormier quickly realized he wanted to give back.
From coaching at the Bantam AAA ranks to being involved in Spring Programs to leading summer skills sessions for players in the NHL, AHL and QMJHL, there’s no denying Cormier’s willingness and commitment to give back to the game he loves.
A Special Feeling
Hockey was Derek Cormier’s life and it still is. It takes a special person to give back, to coach and become a mentor for the next generation of young aspiring professionals.
Some former pros are content to ride off into the sunset, never to return to the game that gave them so much. That couldn’t be farther from the truth for Derek Cormier.
For the past several years Cormier has made a concerted effort to grow the game of hockey in this region.
Cormier has approached the coaching ranks with the same class, character and dignity that he displayed throughout his outstanding playing career.
You could say coaching and Derek Cormier, were a match made in heaven.
So just how special is it for Cormier to have the opportunity to mentor future NHL, AHL and QMJHL players here locally?
“For me it’s something that I always wanted to start up here ever since retiring and I’m happy to have it here in Moncton,” confessed Cormier.
Since its incept two years ago Cormier has heard a lot of positive feedback from players, but a lot have said that they wish they could have had an opportunity like that sooner. There’s no question Cormier can relate.
“I wish I would have had something like this when I was still playing,” he said with a smile.
“It’s great to give back, but I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of this as well.”
It was hard to determine who had the biggest smile on their face during todays session at the Arthur J. LeBlanc Arena, Cormier or the players.
For one full hour coaches and players alike were fully engaged and focused on refining their individual skills.
The drills were challenging, multifaceted and intense.
With all the attention surrounding specialization in the game today, Cormier’s drills and philosophy for the elite level skills session was truly refreshing.
However, what is Cormier’s take on specialization in the game today?
“When you say specialization, I think players need a break especially at younger ages. Kids need to be active and do other sports and I totally agree with that, but this is different.”
“This is pro players or future pro players and this is their work, this is their skill and this what they hope to live off of, so its kind of one of those things that they come here, they work out hard in the gym in the morning and then they come to the rink for an hour and push themselves.”
By design Cormier builds progression into each unique on-ice session.
“Our programs on the ice will change, we are going to battle, compete and do game situation stuff, but right now we are working on individual skill and skating.”
“As we get closer, we are going to ramp up the competing and battling aspect of the game.”
All of Cormier’s drills focused on small area skills which are vital in today’s game.
“The guys are so good, the kids are way more skilled, their stronger, their quicker all of that, but what can differentiate one from another is the ability to do all those little things quicker, faster, smoother without having that hesitation, you have one second to make that play,” explained Cormier.
For Cormier it’s all about creating time and space.
“That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to create here, with any cut back, or drive to the middle, it’s all about creating your time and space.”
Cormier was a master in that area during his playing days, but what makes his sessions so unique is the fact he can still jump into the drill and execute all of them with amazing precision and skill.
Respect in the game of hockey is everything, especially when it comes to the coach and player.
Respect and trust go hand in hand.
It’s evident that all the players attending Cormier’s session have tremendous respect and admiration for the former pro.
“It’s amazing to have a guy like Derek around,” said Belleville Senators defencemen and Riverview, New Brunswick product Jordan Murray.
“Derek was always an offensive minded guy and played in some of the best leagues in Europe for close to twenty years. He knows what kind of drills to put us through to work on our skills and puck protection.”
“It’s great to get a lot of touches in the summer,” added Murray.
The smooth skating offensive puck moving defencemen just signed a new one-year AHL deal with the Senators and is looking to build off a career year a season ago.
“The biggest thing for me this summer is to continue to improve defensively. I need to get my battle level up a little bit and keep working on my stick, that’s what they preached to me in Belleville.”
Murray is a big fan of Cormier’s drill variation and variety.
“It’s good out here, in the two on two drills and stuff we do just to focus on always having a good stick and body position,” said Murray.
Murray isn’t the only professional in attendance at Cormier’s summer sessions. Philadelphia Flyers defencemen and Dieppe, NB’s own Phil Myers also skates with the group.
Myers individual skill set is off the charts and it’s just a matter of time before he becomes a NHL regular.
The Flyers Prospects edge control and agility is truly outstanding, Myers is the full package when it comes to the new era of NHL defencemen. Nevertheless, with all that said a moment near the end of practice really captures the young Flyers mindset.
Myers skated over to Cormier and asked if it would be ok to finish the session with 2-2 battle drills.
Compete, compete, compete that’s all Phil Myers did throughout the hour-long session.
The NHL ready defencemen pushed himself through every drill and you could definitely see the entire group elevate their compete level as well.
“The days Phil comes, you can definitely see the level go up, especially during battle drills, guys like seeing him go and compete against him,” said Cormier.
“Phil loves those drills and game situation stuff, he pushes guys through it, which is good,” explained Cormier.
From NHL ready defencemen to 2020 NHL Draft prospects Derek Cormier’s session has it all.
Lukas Cormier, one of the brightest young puck moving offensive defencemen in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League knows firsthand the impact Derek Cormier can have on the ice and behind the bench. It just seems like yesterday when the NHL Draft eligible defender had Cormier as a coach in Bantam AAA with the Dieppe Flyers.
“I think it’s great,” said the Charlottetown Islanders star when asked about having Cormier putting the players through their paces in the summer.
“Derek runs some really great practices. I really enjoyed my time with him in Bantam as well.”
Cormier understands the magnitude of his NHL Draft year, but is trying to take all the necessary steps to ensure he’s prepared to play at his highest level this season.
“I’m trying to get my upper and lower body stronger to improve my first three strides and to get my feet quicker,” stressed Cormier.
“This program has really helped me.”
Cormier is quick to credit Strength and Conditioning Coach Rick Legere who also plays a vital role with all the players training regimes throughout the summer months.
“Rick runs a really good program as well, I really like it.”
“He works with all the players that play high level hockey. He’s just starting out and is already very well known.”
“We do a lot of different things like yoga and track,” admitted Cormier.
Derek Cormier and Rick Legere have found the perfect formula for keeping players sharp during the offseason, however, Cormier’s on ice sessions are multi-dimensional and offer every player areas in which improve or refine.
“With Derek’s experience you can always go to him with any questions that may you have,” said Sackville, New Brunswick native and 2018 President Cup and Memorial Cup Champion Ethan Crossman.
“We are lucky to have Derek out here,” confessed Crossman who is prepping for his first NHL Rookie Camp experience with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I try to get Derek’s opinion on what worked for him because he played for a really long time.”
It’s not hard to see that all the players enjoyed the competitive nature and skill based learning that Cormier encompasses in every drill.
“It’s game situation,” Crossman said of Cormier’s drills.
“We aren’t practicing for fun, we are practicing to get better for games and he’s preparing us for that so we are very thankful.”
Saint John Sea Dogs forward and Moncton, New Brunswick product Aiden MacIntosh is also very thankful to have Cormier as a skills coach over the summer.
“It’s really special to have someone like Derek here. Obviously he’s had a long career, but he’s still definitely in his game shape, it’s really neat watching,” confessed MacIntosh who’s entering his third season in the QMJHL.
“We are really lucky to be working with Derek over the summer.”
MacIntosh is coming off a solid year individually, but is really looking to improve his overall game in hopes of helping the rebuilding Sea Dogs get back to respectability.
“I think the biggest thing this past year for me was confidence, but I’m looking to improve every aspect of my game,” confessed the skilled two-way left-winger.
“I really think all the ice that we have had this summer with Derek has really helped me.”
“Derek is a true professional,” said Josh Andrews, Vice President of Andrews Hockey.
“We are definitely blessed to have him on our team and impacting all the young players he does every year.”
“Derek is exceptional at working with players on the ice, but more than that, he is genuine and truly cares about all players he works with as people first and foremost.”
After putting the elite group through the paces, Cormier ran another session for Atom and Pee Wee aged kids.
Cormier’s passion for the game is infectious. His enthusiasm and willingness to give back truly reveals his character and love for the game.
Derek Cormier is a natural when it comes to motivating and getting the best out of players.
Some people were born to coach others were born to play, Derek Cormier was born to do both!