Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Jr. Revolution thinking progression

Courtesy NA3HL

There is nowhere to go but up for the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution.

A winless 2010-2011 season in the North American 3 Hockey League pretty much makes anything positive next year a success.

“Yeah, even if we win one game, that’s 100 percent improvement, right?” asked new head coach Richard Keyes.

Hired in early July, Keyes has been in the Battle Creek area having started the Kalamazoo Institute of Ice Hockey in 2006 after his nine-year pro career came to a conclusion. He said he had been contacted in the past about coaching the Jr. Revolution, but the timing wasn’t right.

Now, it is.

“Right now is the right opportunity,” said Keyes, who also played collegiately at Michigan State in the mid-1990s. “It’s no secret about the 0-44 season last year and that we need to re-structure the organization and turn it into a world class situation. To be honest, I enjoy projects like this. I think I have a good reputation as a development coach and I believe taking over the Revolution is right up my alley.”

While no players have been signed yet by Battle Creek, Keyes sees that as a chance for an every-man-for-himself mentality when it comes to tryout camps later this summer.

“We’ve opened up our roster and are looking for disciplined and dedicated players,” Keyes said. “These players also need to have an exceptional commitment level. We need players who are willing to make the sacrifices needed to play at this level.”

The past couple years have had the Revolution pro team in the All American Hockey League, but with that league ceasing operations last spring, the Jr. Revolution is the lone team in town.

Keyes thinks that’s a good thing.

“This is a great hockey community,” said Keyes. “I believe people who supported the pro team will also come out and support the junior team. They need to know they’ll be watching kids who will be advancing to higher levels of hockey.”

While hockey has always been a part of Keyes’ life, the NA3HL presents a new endeavor. And while he admits he didn’t know too much about the league prior to taking the job in Battle Creek, from what he’s seen and learned since then has been very encouraging.

“Once I got involved, I made some calls and asked some people what they knew about the 3HL and everyone I talked to was very excited,” said Keyes. “This league is gaining prestige and that’s what I want to be a part of. I didn’t want to join a destination league where kids come and play after high school and that’s it. I want to be part of a league where kids come here, develop and move up to the North American Hockey League, United States Hockey League and college. I want to see kids that want to get to the next level. I believe the 3HL can offer that.”

Keyes also has plans to run the Jr. Revolution in a professional and consistent manner.

“When I played juniors, we were on the ice four or five days a week and for two hours each day,” explained Keyes. “To me, that was a great selling point and that’s what we will be offering here in Battle Creek. We want to set ourselves apart from other teams in the league and think we can offer something that not many teams can offer. By being on the ice and me teaching and the players learning, I’m hoping that will create opportunities for these kids like the ones I had that led me to play in the NAHL and then D-I college. We want to teach the lifestyle of a student-athlete.”

Still, Keyes knows that turning around a program that has won just a handful of games over the past few seasons (including time in Grand Rapids as the Jr. Owls) is more than a snap of the fingers and wishful thinking.

“This next season will be a process, a challenge,” said Keyes. “Once we start this year, my hope is that we can get right in there and let people know we’re not the same team of the past. We want everyone to know that Battle Creek will be in the mix.”

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