WINNIPEG, MB. - Doug Orr’s son, Colton, played 11 seasons in the National Hockey League with Boston, the Rangers and Toronto. He was a late bloomer who didn’t even start playing the game until he was 12.
But Colton had an edge. He had the edge that players such as Jonathan Toews, the Zajac Brothers, the Leipsic Brothers, Jordin Tootoo, Adam Hughesman, Brendan Shinnimin and Nigel Dawes had.
Colton spent time in Wally World.
“Colton went to Wally World and just loved all the ice time he got,” said Doug. “And Wally is the guy who got (Doug’s youngest son) Jameson a spot in Miramichi in the Quebec League. In our end of town, Wally has been really good to the kids.”
Wally World is the hockey universe that belongs to the ageless Walter Shefchyk. It’s a strange, wondrous place that takes a different view of hockey development. Not everyone agrees with it. Many old time hockey people look at Wally World with a jaundiced eye. But there is one thing that can’t be denied: If hockey players from the Capital Region want to get better, they’ll spend a little time in Wally World.
In fact, NHLers Travis Zajac, Colton Orr, Dale Weise, Ian White, Jonathan Toews, Alex Steen, Mike Richards, Frazer McLaren, Jordin Tootoo; European pros Nigel Dawes, Jacob Micflikier, Andrew McPherson, Matt Bailey, Jordy Pietrus; top female stars Brigette Lacquette, Sami Jo Small, Bailey Bram and Ryleigh Houston; and countless junior, Triple A and other top minor pro stars all have one thing in common: They all made appearances at Wally World scrimmage hockey. And they’ve made those appearances for a variety of reasons.
Some came for extra ice, some came for a good workout, but most came to work and develop their offensive skills.
"They were tired of practicing practicing,” said Shefchyk. “And instead, they came to practice playing.”
Shefchyk, a former Hockey Canada scholarship winner and CIS player at the University of Winnipeg, began these scrimmage games to develop his own kids, who both went on to successful junior and college careers, and found that many others wanted to get in on the action.
So now, some 25 years later, these games are attracting new players all the time, players who want the same thing: To practice playing and to develop offensive instincts that will help them achieve success in their own careers.
"I have been constantly striving to make it better,” said Shefchyk. “And in the last year I’ve finally found what I feel is the perfect scrimmage system.”
And that system has led to formation of the new Non-Stop Hockey League, which will debut this spring.
“There is one face off to start the action and that is it,” said Shefchyk. “Whenever there is a save or a goal, a second puck is immediately introduced into play by one of two ‘passers,’ who reside in opposite corners. This simulates transition and develops the ‘when’ of the offensive side of the game, which I feel and have always felt, has been lacking in the traditional practice setting. It also means there is no stoppage of play. The players just go, go, go. As well, the cardio workout is so great that we have a lot of guys crying uncle at the 35-minute mark.
“By the ‘when’ part of the game, I mean just that -- the correct time or better yet, the recognition of the correct time to shoot, to pass, or to prevent over-handling of the puck in the wrong areas of the ice. So many kids are paying big money to learn hockey and yet they make these blunders over and over, not realizing that these errors in judgement will result in them being cut or overlooked at a higher level, when hockey really counts.
“In other words why not have the answers to the test before the test, the test, of course, being junior camp for boys or college recruitment for girls. I believe and know that scrimmage hockey, done correctly and repetitively, with proper guidance and confidence building, can straighten these things out and produce a player that can go as far as they want to in the game."
The one thing about Wally World, whether you believe scrimmage hockey and all the innovations that Walter develops is the right way to teach the game or not, is that the kids love to play in the program. There are no drills and you’d better be in shape. When Wally World gets rolling, it’s non-stop action.
And what other league or camp in the city can say this? Orr, Steen, Toews, Dawes, Weise, Shefchyk, White, Tootoo, the Zajacs, Andrew McPherson, Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman, Bailey Bram, Lee Stubbs, Meghan Dufault and Sami Jo Small have all played at one time or another.
And now, with Non-Stop Hockey on the horizon, Wally World keeps innovating the scrimmage and guaranteeing that the kids get to play.
Game On, Manitoba’s Hockey Magazine, is proud to be a part of Non-Stop Hockey and we’re excited about the new league coming this spring.
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photos by James Carey Lauder