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Coach-fullBy Frank Dabbs

Call it the Greg Ireland junior hockey paradox.

If you put winning first you won't win, the head coach of the Owen Sound Attack told me on the eve of the 2014-2015 schedule.

The Ontario Hockey League team's season begins Wednesday at the Harry Lumley arena at 7 p.m. when they play against the Kitchener Rangers.

Before winning, the young men on the team have to be successful with parallel processes, said Ireland. "In our personal conduct off the ice, we do the right thing every day."

Coachc-featThere are the processes that concentrate on education, character and deportment.

"Not one player on the Owen Sound Attack has failed a school course since I arrived here.

Ireland begins his fourth season with the game against Kitchener. He has a winning 115-90-16 record in Owen Sound and previously, at San Antonio and Grand Rapids, a combined 193-140-23 record of wins, loses and regular time ties.

Cities like Owen Sound and Kitchener across Canada and the U.S. are the heartland of hockey, a "country" in which Caledon-born Coach Ireland has spent his career He has worked and socialized with Wayne Gretzky, Bret Hull, Gordie and Mark Howe, Mike Babcock and Steve Yzerman.

He coached Luongo of the Swiss Elite League and participates with Davel Datsuk in the Russian Prospect camp. "We are a process driven team," said Ireland about the Attack.

The level of expectations and demands we put on the players prepare then to play at that level," he said.

One of the lessons at the team's orientation is how to make a bed, military style, so that players can keep their rooms in the homes that host them in good order.

There is a dress code, guidance on how to treat women properly, zero tolerance for drugs and chewing tobacco, advice from police and fire liaison officers on safe behavior.

Ireland works with young men who are in the millennial generation, and it requires patience and listening.Coachb-feat

"You have to learn to bite your tongue," he said. "We teach them that you can't conduct yourself as if you invented the game. You didn't."

The team can dress 22 to 23 men for a game. Ireland dresses 20: two goalies, 12 forwards and six defensemen.

"In 26 years, this franchise (the Platters to the year 2000, then the Attack) have seen 29 men go on the careers in the National Hockey League," said Ireland.

One, maybe two players in each season will go to the NHL.

What will the remainder of them do?

"We want them to be looked up to as leaders in their communities in whatever career they chose after hockey. We build character and we coach leadership."

There was a time, said Ireland, "when all players really knew was hockey."

That is no longer adequate, and it is not responsible if their coaches don't prepare them for a wider world. However there is a process of becoming a better player and participating on a winning team. Players are each on a path and Coach Ireland preaches continued work.

"If we continue the path we started on last season, and if the players develop their focus and maturity, we will make gains (as a winning team) this year. Ultimately, the answers are on the ice."

Coacha-featLast season the Attack's win/loss record was 44-18-1-5.

Coach Ireland and his wife Erin and sons Jake and Brennan live in Kemble.

Above his desk this season is a quotation that explains his philosophy of coaching: "If at first you don't succeed try doing it the way the coach told you to do it the first time."

The Attack ownership group includes Dr. Bob Severs, Fay Harshma, Peter and Paul MacDermid and Frank Coulter

General manager Dale DeGray heads the hockey operations.

Ireland's coaching team includes assistant coaches Drew Bannister and Daniel Tkachuk, skills coach Nathan Perrott, goaltender coach Greg Redquest. Power skating coach Denis Reid, strength and conditioning coach Andrew Hopf, therapist Andy Brown, and statistician Ryan Manley.

The scouting staff is comprised of director of player personnel Bryan Denny and scouts Deron Bauer. Eric Navarro, Mark Sylverster, Jason Micheluttie and Steve Ludzik Jr. Fred Wallace of CFOS is the voice of the Attack and play-by-play announcer of the games.


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