As the Lightning High School Hockey League enters its’ third season, not only has the league’s volume of skaters increased, but so have the number of the LHSHL’s coaches and volunteers. In fact, the pool of both coaches and volunteers has established a unique level of diversity to the league, especially in comparison to other High School Hockey leagues across the United States.
“I have coached other leagues at this age level and nothing compares to what the Tampa Bay Lightning have to offer,” said Wiregrass High School head coach Gordie Zimmermann. “It's very difficult to compare travel (ice hockey) to High School Hockey; kids will play both and both have been great to coach. But, now I have chosen to just coach the High School level and it has a lot to do with what the Lightning have developed.”
Coach Zimmermann also made it clear that he’s learned a valuable lesson from coaching in the LHSHL. “I’ve learned that coaching a High School team really brings together people, whether they are a good player or a less talented player, and how the parents support that. It seems that a win or a loss, and with a group of players that just want to be part of their community, is handled much different than when I coached travel. I love giving back and enjoy lending support to our players. My assistant coaches have been awesome and they all feel the same way about giving back.”
Keep in mind, Zimmermann has coached numerous levels of competitive ice hockey for over 25 years. Additionally, the Wiregrass head coach mentioned that’s he’s excited for the league to start playing at the newly built and state of the art ice hockey facility, which pays homage to five ice sheets. Florida Center Ice is located in Wesley Chapel, and is the largest facility of its kind between Florida and New York.
Aside from Zimmermann’s commendable coaching experience and dedication, the LHSHL currently has one former NHL skater who acts as a head coach. Former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and (2004) Stanley Cup champion, Jassen Cullimore, stands behind the bench for the Jesuit Tigers.
Now, for the first time in Cullimore’s storied hockey career, the former NHL second-round draft-pick finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum, and pays gratitude to how rewarding coaching high school hockey can be.
“What I’ve learned about myself while being a head coach is a new-found respect for the coaches that I had throughout my entire hockey career. It’s much easier when you are able to go onto the ice yourself and make a difference in the games; it can be a lot harder to communicate to a player what you want them to do and then convince them to go out and do it to the best of their ability. It’s also extremely rewarding when they do,” said the Tigers’ head coach.
And, while Cullimore would like to win as many games as possible with Jesuit, he expressed another aspect that he enjoys most about being behind the bench and with the Tigers.
“My job as a coach is not winning games. My job is to help the team and individuals improve both as players and as a group and that is what I look forward to every year,” said a smiling Cullimore.
Additionally, led by Cullimore and his coaching staff, Jesuit reached the State Finals this past season and the club hopes to build off of that accomplishment heading into the 2017-2018 season.
Yes, both Zimmermann and Cullimore are both eager for the 2017-2018 LHSHL campaign to begin, but just a few minutes west of Downtown, Tampa, the Steinbrenner Warriors will look to grow as a group and compete under the guidance of their head coach, Dan Bubley.
Steinbrenner’s voice behind the bench in Bubley, and assistant coach Carl Frasse helped form the school’s ice hockey team; and the dynamic duo have each coached High School Hockey for over a decade.
When asked what Bubley’s favorite aspect of coaching his Warriors in the LHSHL was, he acknowledged the comradery the league has established over the past two years and counting.
“The fellowship of other coaches (around the league); getting to know the players and establishing a relationship with each of them, and seeing them improve as the season progresses has been a valuable experience,” said Bubley. “You (then) strive to learn what each player does well individually, and take their individual skill set and put it together to build a competitive team.”
“It’s far more important and rewarding to be a part of a team than be an individual. That collection of people, whether it’s adults or kids, can accomplish so much more than the same quantity of people working as Individuals,” said Bubley. The head coach of Steinbrenner has also learned that “there’s no doubt the Tampa Bay area is a Hockey town.”
While Zimmermann, Cullimore and Bubley will all be competing against one another this season, the one thing that they can all agree on is that they’ve greatly appreciated what each has learned from Building The Thunder.
The LHSHL is in need of coaches and volunteers in order to have another fun and successful season. (Click Here To Register) Or, please contact Tom Garavaglia for more information (TGaravaglia@amaliearena.com).
(Kyle McKenna covers the Lightning High School Hockey League, which can also be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)