Crusaders’ coaching coup, adding champion consultant Mike Ellis

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When Adam Sergerie was brought on board with the Sherwood Park Crusaders in the newly-created position of president of operations earlier this month, he promised tangible hockey help for the players in addition to his work on the business side and dealing with community relations.

He’s off to a pretty impressive start on that front, announcing a developmental partnership with a man who has managed to accumulate a number of championships to his credit, including most recently helping the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2020.

The Crusaders recently announced that they are welcoming Mike Ellis of Highlight Sports to the fold to provide what a team release described as “data-driven performance player development to the Crusaders program, providing individual specific player development plans for Crusaders players and prospects.”

“Mike is the most innovative and forward-thinking hockey person I’ve been around,” Sergerie explained. “He has worked with some of the most progressive organizations at the highest level and to have him consulting with us helps fast-track the Crusaders vision of consistently striving to be one of the top programs in the country. This is a strong message to our current and future Crusaders that we are putting the players’ needs at the forefront and that we want to support their individual goals. Mike will consult with our staff on all of our development needs and initiatives. We are really excited for the organization, but even more so for the players.”

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Ellis has had a simply fascinating career path.

A Burlington, Ontario, native, Ellis played minor and junior hockey in his hometown before making the move to England to play in the British National League.

He suited up for 12 seasons in the BNL and became a staple with the British National Team, helping them to bronze and silver medals in lower level World Championships. He eventually served as a playing coach with the British national squad and then as head coach following his retirement from on-ice duties.

Ellis made coaching a regular gig and guided a few different hockey teams in Italy before joining the Nashville Predators organization as a skating coach. He then made the leap to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a player development consultant, where he won championships with both the Newfoundland Growlers (ECHL) and Toronto Marlies (AHL), remaining with the Maple Leafs organization until 2019.

He then joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as the franchise’s director of skill development, assisting them in earning the ultimate prize when they captured the Stanley Cup in the Edmonton bubble last year.

Ellis and his company still had room to take on other projects and the Crusaders made it onto that list.

“I’m excited to be a part of this player, coaches and management group’s vision,” Ellis commented in a Cru release. “I look forward to providing the framework and methods to help players strive technically and tactically to reach their goals”

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“He will visit monthly and be available for staff, coaches and players via phone calls, text, emails and zoom calls,” Sergerie said. “With all the technology resources available, there’s plenty he can do from anywhere, really.”

After going 0-3-1 against the powerhouse Brooks Bandits the last two weeks, the Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking to conclude their spring season on a more positive note with a four-game set against the Grande Prairie Storm. Photo courtesy Target Photography
After going 0-3-1 against the powerhouse Brooks Bandits the last two weeks, the Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking to conclude their spring season on a more positive note with a four-game set against the Grande Prairie Storm. Photo courtesy Target Photography

While the monthly visit part will naturally be contingent on what pandemic travel restrictions make feasible at the time, Crusaders head coach Adam Manah can’t wait to have Ellis’ added insight.

“It’s another layer to our organization,” he said. “Adam Sergerie knows Mike Ellis very well and it was something that was presented to (associate coach Jeff Woywitka) and I when all the changes happened and Adam got hired. Mike has a tremendous background within the game. He has coached and been a consultant and skills coach, he has all the boxes checked. For us, it is bringing in another big name. With him having been with Tampa Bay and other NHL clubs in the past, and in Europe, it is just another big step for our organization. When we go to recruit players, we can say we have Mike Elllis. We are super excited to work with him. He is going to make Jeff and I better as a staff and we are looking forward to sharing ideas and having us all pulling the rope in the same direction.

“He’ll be coming in probably once a month to work with our players for a couple of days. He’ll also be cutting individual skill video of our players so they can get individual feedback on the skills within our system. He can help Jeff and I by taking more off of our plate because we are focused on the team side so often. For him to be able to come in and work on those individual skills with our players on the ice and cut video off the ice and send that to the players and have that dialogue, that is going to be nice, instead of it just being Jeff and I that they hear from all the time That is going to be huge, having another sounding board that they can rely on. It just gives us layers on layers.

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“It’s exciting that our ownership group continues to want to make our organization the best in Canada, and by bringing in Mike with his background, it is absolutely massive for us. Everybody is just jacked about the direction we are going and he is going to help us a ton. People can look at his background and see that he just won a cup in Tampa, that’s pretty cool.”

In the wake of climbing COVID-19 numbers and multiple teams having to pull out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s spring developmental season, the Crusaders will now wrap up the year on May 9, two weeks earlier than expected.

In fact, only seven of the AJHL’s 15 teams are operational at the moment, with some not participating in the pseudo season at all, and others now sidelined due to recent positive tests within their previous cohorts.

The Crusaders are scheduled to close out the campaign against the Grande Prairie Storm, playing two games up north this weekend and then suiting up for a pair of final contests on May 6 and 7 at the Sherwood Park Arena.

sjones@postmedia.com

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