New Lincs' coach wants to instill systems, structure
Jeff Bradley was on the bench for three Western Conference titles with London
By Pat Payton
Systems and structure . . . all over the ice.
That's what new head coach Jeff Bradley wants to instill big time in the St. Marys Lincolns.
"Luckily, I had a great mentor in (former London Nationals' coach) Pat Powers," Bradley said in an interview with the Independent last week. "Pat believed in structure, on and off the ice, and systems and being organized and keeping a schedule.
"It's just about bringing some consistency and some structure to this team."
Bradley, 34, was behind the bench for his first two games with the Lincs this past weekend. He replaces Trent McClement, who was relieved of his duties on Nov. 7. Bradley was on the Nationals' bench for 12 or 13 games this season, before accepting the St. Marys job.
Priority number one
What is priority number one with the Lincolns, he was asked before conducting his first practice with the team last Tuesday.
"Systems," the Port Stanley resident quickly replied. "My definition of systems is having a plan all over the ice. We have to establish what we're going to do in the defensive zone, our neutral-zone forecheck, our set face-offs, and our offensive zone. In addition to that, all the special team stuff, forecheck, the regroup, absolutely everything.
"I was taught one way in London, by Pat and other assistant coaches like Adam McKee, that this is the way we should play hockey. It seemed to work there, and I'm going to bring that to St. Marys as much as I can."
Five seasons under Powers
Bradley spent five full calendar seasons with Powers in London (including the Covid year last season when no league games were played). He was on the bench for three of Nationals' four consecutive Western Conference playoff titles. Bradley coached the defencemen for part of his tenure in London.
The new Lincs' coach says he will definitely bring some of Powers' hockey philosophies to St. Marys.
"Pat was so instrumental in my desire to get better as a coach," he said. "When I got to the Nationals, I was coming from a Jr. 'C' and Jr. 'D' background. I learned from Pat for five years, and I still talk to him on a weekly basis and I've talked to him about how I should prepare for this (Lincolns') job.
"Pat was always so prepared; he had a plan for everything. He was so instrumental in my development as a coach, so I take a lot from him. He not only taught me more about hockey, but it got my interest level up and to seek information on my own. I've got a bunch of really good people that I've tried to surround myself with who have a ton of hockey knowledge. I'm able to call on those people whenever I need something."
While being a coach with the Nationals, Bradley saw a positive "change" happening two years ago with the Lincs.
"Not only this year, but two years ago, I really saw a change with the competitiveness of this St. Marys team," he said. "In my first couple of seasons in London, they weren't anywhere near the top of the standings. Then all of a sudden, they're in third place in the league (in 2019-20).
"They're a team that works hard, and the young guys want to get better. I've met with the leadership group here in St. Marys, and they're all on board with everything I said. They're hungry to learn, and we have a GM in Greg (Smale) who seeks out hockey players to play for this team. He wants to see this team perform to its fullest on the ice."
Super excited about opportunity
Bradley says he's looking forward to working with the team's Director of Hockey Operations.
"I want to work for Greg, and he's shown tremendous belief in me. He's got me excited to be a head coach, especially for St. Marys. I know the Lincolns have a rich history. I know I'm not going to a bad team here, I'm going to a really good team that thinks they're underachieving at the moment. We've got a fresh start at 0-0 right now, and we want to head upwards."
Bradley was asked to put a number from one to 10 on the excitement level he feels about coaching the St. Marys Lincolns.
"It would be 12," he quickly replied with a laugh. "I'm super excited. I've been ready to be a head coach for a couple of years, but I didn't want to leave London. We had such a great thing going on there.
"I loved the people who were around there, but this opportunity was just too good to turn down. Greg believes in me, and I believe in Greg, and we believe in the team. I'm extremely excited."
Smale describes Bradley as a communicator and teacher.
"I think the structure, and the Xs and Os, the passion, the video, there's so many intangibles that Jeff brings that will be a positive influence upon our group," the GM said. "It's a change of philosophy and a fresh start.
"I think everyone is breathing a little bit easier, and looking forward to a different perspective."
Jeff Bradley bio . . .
--Born in Montreal, Bradley has lived in Port Stanley since 1994.
--Played Jr. 'D' hockey for five seasons in Port Stanley and Mt. Brydges.
--When he finished playing Junior, he began coaching minor hockey in Port Stanley.
--Seven years ago, Bradley joined Randy Campbell's staff as an assistant coach with the Lucan Jr. 'C' Irish. He was then named head coach of the Port Stanley Lakers. But before he coached even one game, he got a call from Pat Powers and joined the London Nationals as an assistant coach.
--Bradley, 34, spent five full calendar seasons with Powers in London (including the Covid year last season when no league games were played). He was on the bench for three of Nationals' four consecutive Western Conference playoff titles.
--Bradley also scouts the GOJHL for the Western Mustangs men's university hockey team.
--His full-time job is a sales rep. for a company based in Montreal, and his territory is all over southern Ontario.