When Greg Hopf found out he would be co-coaching the next season of the reality TV show Hit The Ice, he was literally “jumping up and down” with excitement.
“It’s a huge thrill and it’s a huge honour. I’m so ecstatic,” he shared with The Journal last Thursday, just days after hearing the news.
Hopf, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and executive director of the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT, said he is first and foremost a hockey dad.
For six years, Hopf has been coaching his son’s and daughter’s hockey teams as well as territorial teams that attend the annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships tournament.
Over the years, Hopf’s coaching style drew attention from ex-NHLer John Chabot, who happens to be the head coach for the Aboriginal People’s Television Network’s (APTN) popular reality show, Hit The Ice.
Currently in its second season, the TV show follows Aboriginal hockey hopefuls as they take on an NHL-style training camp. The goal of the show is to groom the players for a final exhibition game in front of scouts from hockey leagues and post-secondary institutions across Canada.
“John’s no stranger to the North; he’s been up here a few times. He saw me last year, he saw how I was with the kids, my coaching and my style, (and) he said ‘I really like what you do with the program and I really like your coaching style…I really want you to apply for next season’s coaching,’” Hopf said.
Not expecting to be successful, but a fan of the show, Hopf applied in February and found out last week he was selected among applicants from across the country.
He and one other selected coach will be Chabot’s assistants for season three of the show, which begins filming in Montreal at the end of July.
For the NWT coach, being filmed during ice time won’t likely affect his coaching, but being on camera outside of the arena will be an “adjustment,” he said.
Hopf said he’s proud to be a part of the APTN show, which is giving young Aboriginal athletes, especially those in the North, a fighting chance in the world of professional hockey.
In season two of Hit The Ice, two of the hockey players on the roster, Jaden Beck and Carter Hill, are from the Northwest Territories.
“I really think our Northern kids can benefit the most from this show. If you’re a hockey player in the North and you want to get to the next level and play junior or play semi-pro, you have to leave the North at 13, 14 or 15 years old to get on these elite teams,” he said. “When they do get on these teams, they have to work twice as hard because they are taking spots away from those athletes from the community.”
Hopf will bring Northern style
As the first coach from the North on the show, Hopf said he’s not going to shy away from sharing his unique, Northern style on and off the ice.
“I’m going to bring a lot of things from the North down to the show: my ideas, my systems, my cultures, my traditions and my philosophies, because that’s what I have to offer. I really believe that is why he picked me,” Hopf said.
To watch season one and season two of Hit The Ice, which is wrapping up its final episodes now, go online to http://www.hittheice.tv/index.php or to http://aptn.ca/hittheice/1 comment