2021 22 nwt coach connection jenner saulnier

Coach Connection: Jenner & Saulnier

Meet Gil Langlois and Darren Saulnier, minor hockey coaches who had a meaningful and lasting impact on members of Canada’s National Women’s Team

Shannon Coulter
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November 26, 2021
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Every member of Canada’s National Women’s Team began their career the same way: by playing at the grassroots of our game. Along the way, they had coaches who helped to shape their playing style and boost their love of hockey.

Here’s a look at two players, two coaches and two lasting impressions.

Brianne Jenner and Gil Langlois

Gil Langlois coached Brianne Jenner for one season early in her minor hockey career. Langlois originally got involved in coaching as his kids began playing sports. Despite their short time together with the St. Catharines Royals, they both had an impact on each other’s lives.

Hockey Canada (HC): What about coaching made you want to continue after your kids finished their minor hockey careers?

Gil Langlois: (GL): I think it’s just the love of coaching and being involved with young people. The experience of being able to try and share what you learned; I just always had a thirst for coaching. I did tee-ball, soccer, baseball and hockey. You know, it’s one of those drives that you either have it in you or you don’t, I think mine never really went away so I was just trying to get involved and give back. I didn’t play much minor sports when I was younger, and the ability to continue to learn and try and share what I did know with young people was pretty rewarding.

HC: What are your favourite memories from coaching Brianne?

GL: There was really two instances that make me smile right now. I remember one of the kids bringing a Beanie Baby into a game once and he said, ”This is our lucky charm,” and he puts it in a stall… They’re eight-year-olds, so I said, “OK, no problem.” And then a game or two later, there’s like half a dozen little Beanie Babies. Everyone’s bringing them in, and Brianne brought me one. Now I’m going out on the ice, I’m coaching and I got these Beanie Babies hanging out of my pocket because now I’m bringing them on the bench… She brought me a Beanie Baby as good luck, it was pretty funny… One of the special moments that I’ll never forget is we’re in a tournament and it was a tough game. We did the pre-game speech, like I always did. They went out on the ice and they won the game. And after the game, Brianne came up to me and said, “We won that one for you, Coach.” Well, you know, as a coach, even though she’s only eight years old, it was very touching for me to recognize that she put her heart and soul into the game and then dedicated the win back.

HC: Gil, what message would you give to Brianne?

GL: I would tell her how proud I am of how she’s doing in hockey and outside of hockey. I always knew that she had those skills and those abilities, and I am happy that success has come her way on and off the ice. And [I wish] her and her family well going forward.

HC: Brianne, what message would you give to Gil?

Brianne Jenner: Thank you for the positive impact. Coaches at grassroots are so important. They have an opportunity to set their players up for a great relationship with hockey throughout their lives, and Gil did that for me. It made me so excited to go to the rink every day, and regardless if I made hockey a career or not, I always had a great relationship with the game and just learned so much from having a positive relationship with hockey. I think those coaches, they have enormous impacts and I thank him for having that positive impact on me.

Jill Saulnier and Darren Saulnier

Jill Saulnier’s father, Darren, was actively involved with the hockey teams she played for growing up in Nova Scotia. Whether he was a coach or a volunteer, Darren had a special connection to hockey as he watched his children grow up playing the game.

HC: Darren, how did you get involved with coaching?

Darren Saulnier (DS): I played hockey when I was younger, my brothers as well. I knew hockey was probably going to be passed down to the kids, so both my son, Brennan, and Jillian when they were younger, I got them on skates at a young age. Then I was putting rinks in the backyard as most hockey families in Canada do, so that’s kind of where it started. From there, they entered into Timbits and I volunteered to be a part of that. It was my son who started it for a year or so, and then Jill decided she wanted to give it a shot. I started coaching both of them at a young age in the Timbits program and then they stayed together and played boys hockey until Jill switched over to girls. I was involved as a coach when they were younger and then kind of helping out coaches and being assistants as they went up the ranks, and in Jill’s last year of playing before she left to go away… she played one year of girls hockey and I coached that team.

HC: What moment stands out to you about Jill growing up playing hockey?

DS: One of the things that stood out to me was that she was accepted into boys hockey for the younger years. I think that was the core of her really getting passionate about hockey. Because she was able to do that and connect with her brother and that group of boys, she was accepted. I think she really fed off that… I think that was key that she had her brother and the contacts with those boys at that earlier age just to make her feel included.

HC: Darren, what message would you give to your daughter?

DS: I would just tell Jill to continue on her path, living her dream. What Jill thrives on most and what she wants to see in a team is chemistry and see the bond of the team. I know she recently said to me [that this team is] a really tight-knit group and she said I’ve been on a lot of teams, but she said the chemistry of this group is really second to none.

HC: Jill, what message would you give to your father?

Jill Saulnier: Thank you for the time. Thank you for sitting on the ice cream bucket throwing pucks for me in the backyard. Thank you for bringing me to the track and teaching me how to work hard and run laps and keep my passion alive. I think often on a journey we really lose our passion once in a while because, you know, the road is not easy. And he was just the guy that brought me back to my goal.

Looking to get involved behind the bench in your community? Contact your local hockey association and visit HockeyCanada.ca/Coaching for more information.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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