Cyril Bollers, president and coach of Skillz Hockey, has been named an assistant coach for Ontario’s Under-16 hockey team that will compete in the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Bollers will help Team Ontario Head Coach Drew Bannister,an assistant coach for the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, guide a squad of some the province’s best hockey players under 16 years of age at the Winter Games, which are held every four years. David Schlitt, head coach of the Huron-Perth Lakers Minor Midget team, rounds out the Ontario hockey coaching staff.
The 19-event sport festival will be held Feb. 13-March 1, 2015 in Prince George, British Columbia. The games have been a showcase for some of Canada’s best athletes including Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, and Canadian women’s hockey Olympic Gold Medalist Haley Wickenheiser.
“This is wonderful. It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to have been selected,” Bollers said. “I’m just going to go out, try my best and make Ontario proud.”
Bollers is president and head coach of Skillz Hockey and associate coach of the Markham Majors Minor Midget AAA team in the Toronto area. He is one of the few coaches of color in organized hockey.
There currently are only two minority head coaches in the NHL – Philadelphia Flyers’ Craig Berube and Buffalo Sabres Ted Nolan, who are both First Nations. Paul Jerrard, who is black, served as an assistant coach for the NHL Dallas Stars last season. He’s an assistant coach this season for the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets, a Vancouver Canucks farm team. Darren Lowe, who is black, coaches the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey team.
Bollers hopes to join their ranks in the not-to-distant future.
“After all the years of all the hard work, this is the opportunity that I was looking for,” Bollers said of the Canadian Winter Games appointment. “Once you get this opportunity you have to make the best of it and it could lead to other things.”
Between Markham and his Skillz Black Aces and Black Mafia teams, Bollers has coached a stable of players – minority and white – who’ve gone on to successful major junior hockey careers and positioned themselves to become NHL players.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick last summer, Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey, a Buffalo Sabres 2013 second-round pick, and Bellville Bulls defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ 2013 fourth-round pick and brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, all played under Bollers.
And more of Bollers’ former players are expected to chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia this summer. Josh Ho-Sang, a forward for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires was listed as the 18th best North American skater in the NHL’s mid-term draft rankings last January; Brendan Lemieux, a forward for the OHL’s Barrie Colts and son of retired NHL player Claude Lemieux, was ranked 38th; Keegan Iverson, a forward for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, was ranked 64th; Owen Sound Attack forward Jaden Lindo was ranked 96th; and Colts forward Cordell James placed 126th on the NHL list.