WILCOX, Sask. – It’s an experience that has provided many memories for Devan Praught.
The 30-year-old Summerside native is employed at Notre Dame, the famed private high school in Wilcox, Sask. He teaches Grade 9 math, and last weekend coached the school’s top midget AAA hockey team to the 2018 Canadian championship – Telus Cup.
“It’s been very rewarding,” emphasized Praught. “It’s been a great experience working with motivated kids, who are motivated both academically and athletically.
“It’s been very enjoyable to watch them grown. Some players come in at a high level and they push and get better and better, and other kids come in and they work every day. They take themselves from a lower level, and they find themselves on a triple-A team and move on to have opportunities in hockey. I have loved it.”
Praught’s work has not gone unnoticed. He has been named the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League coach of the year for the past two seasons – 2016-17 and 2017-18.
“It’s a reflection of the players,” said Praught, deflecting the praise. “I’ve always said to the guys that it’s a team award.
“I can go in and come up with whatever kind of game plan, have practices put together, the messages, mottos and style of play that we want, but if the players are not going to buy in and respond then it’s all for nothing. These guys have been focused and intense right from Day 1.
“I’m proud of these guys for how they’ve handled themselves. . . They lay it on the line every night, and they take pride playing for the Hounds. We like to play ‘Hound Hockey’ as we call it, and it’s an attack mentality and defending with passion. We are at our best when we are doing both of those things.”
Career as a coach?
With the success he has enjoyed with the Hounds, has Praught given any consideration to pursuing a career as a coach?
“When I first left P.E.I. for Notre Dame I said I was going to go out for five years,” answered Praught in a phone interview with the Journal Pioneer. “My goal when I got to Notre Dame was I was going to coach the Hounds and I’ve coached them now for two years, having coached the Argos in the same league for two years before that.
“We are sitting here in my fifth year and the plan is I will be back out there next year, and I’m excited for September to go at it again. Notre Dame has been great in providing me an opportunity to pursue my professional career as a teacher and also coaching.”
Praught said he has “had a lot of great coaches” influence his career in a positive way throughout his playing career, which included stops in the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Atlantic University Sport. He said he has implemented different things from different coaches into his own coaching style.
“Throughout minor hockey Gerard Smith coached me; my father (Kevin Praught), I don’t have to look far there, was always there for me, and even if he was my coach we were talking hockey; Mike (Pinky) Gallant was a great hockey influence, just a positive role model all the time.
“Then as I kind of move on in my career, Forbie Kennedy, the passion he had for the game. One thing I will always take away from Forbie is seeing him at his age showing up to the rink, and I could listen to his stories all day long, and when he said we’d back each other to our noses bleed he literally meant it. That was a lot of fun those two years in Summerside (with the Western Capitals). Then playing for Forbie MacPherson in Charlottetown at UPEI, and having the opportunity to coach with him, was a great experience.
“Maybe you look at it like a golf swing, and take a little bit from everybody. My golf swing is not very good, so I’m kind of fortunate that maybe the coaching is working out for me.”
Devan Praught comments on two other Prince Edward Islanders with Hounds:
Assistant coach Kevin White of Charlottetown: “I’ve worked for Kevin for three years. Actually, Kevin coached me with the 1987 P.E.I. Riptide out of Andrews Hockey School when we went to the Ottawa Young Senators in ’96 and we won it. We have a great working relationship. He is always there for the guys, knows when he has to press buttons, knows when he has to build them up. We’ve been a great tandem since we started working together.”
Forward Brad Morrissey of Sea Cow Pond: “Brad’s an exceptional talent. He’s a game-changer. Even in the games he doesn’t find the scoresheet, which he often does, he still contributes in so many other ways. As a centreman he makes everyone he plays with better. It doesn’t matter who it is in our lineup, if we put them on his line they are going to be a better player. He always finds the open guy and he’s not afraid to shoot, he has a great shot.
“It was unfortunate to see him go down with an injury (in the Telus Cup), but that’s something looking back I’m proud of Brad as well. It’s a 3-0 game and he’s back-checking on a 2-on-1 and he’s diving to stop it. Brad came to Notre Dame and people always talked about how he was an exceptional talent but his focus and his intensity, he lacked those. I think he’s proven to people he goes out every game now, and he just plays and competes. I’m excited to watch Brad in the future, and watch his hockey career unfold.”