Penticton Vees coach branches out with NHL team

Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson returns from guest coaching gig at the Toronto Maple Leafs Development Camp.

Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson.

Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson.

No rest for the wicked.

It should be the motto for Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson whose summer vacation was cut short with a guest coaching gig at the Toronto Maple Leafs Development Camp (July 7 to 12).

“I would have been lounging around, so it cut into my pool time with my family,” joked Harbinson. “When a great opportunity comes like this you can’t say no.”

So instead of casting out on a floatie he was picking the minds of high-level coaches.

“That was one of the greatest things. The first night all the coaches got together for an informal meeting presenting on different topics. This hour-long thing turned into five,” said Harbinson, who shared his knowledge on defensive zone structure. “I picked up new ways to do things and it reaffirms what you are doing. No matter who you are, you are always learning. It doesn’t matter how many years you have been doing this, no one has it all figured out. It was a fun environment to be in.”

A reputation for producing elite players in junior hockey in his eight seasons with the Vees precede Harbinson. Add to that the three BCHL championships, an RBC Cup national championship, Doyle Cup and Western Canada Cup to his record — it is no wonder Harbinson was the only junior A coach at the camp. The invite to the Leafs camp came from the NHL teams assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, on recommendation from another guest coach Norm Bazin (Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks/NCAA) who Harbinson is a long time friend of.

Humbled by the invite, Harbinson said it all comes down to one thing.

“It’s just hockey. Everything they do, we are doing the same here,” he said of his week at the camp. “The biggest thing I noticed was that they go into more detail because they have the manpower. Also, being an outsider in Toronto you get to see how tough it is for them. You could see the shift at camp. They are making a lot of changes to get the organization back on track. The tone that was presented there, you can see good things happening.”

It is not the first time the Vees coach has walked among high-level coaches. Seminars are held at the NHL draft that he has attended, it was however the first time he met the Leafs new coach Mike Babcock.

“He is very approachable and has all these great ideas. He is very energetic and has a great hockey mind,” said Harbinson. “Anyone that has coached in the NHL, won Stanley Cups and led Team Canada to championships — it would be crazy to not watch them closely and try to emulate them.”

Now back in Penticton, Harbinson is preparing for the Vees training camp which is slated for Aug. 22 to 24.

“I have been staying in touch with the boys and they are training hard and really excited to get back to the ice,” he said.