It all started with a text. Janelle Forcand was sitting by her friend’s
pool in the summer of 2013 when she noticed a message asking if she would
be interested in working at a week-long hockey school. She thought it
sounded like a great job … for a week.
Eight years later, the Winnipeg native has been named the national winner
of the BFL Female Coach of the Year award in the community category.
“As a hockey player, I never thought that coaching would be a thing. It
never crossed my mind,” Forcand says.
Growing up in the Manitoba capital, Forcand says she was fortunate to play
girls hockey throughout her career, even though it was following after her
older brother, Scott, that motivated her to get into the game. A long-time
member of the St. James Assiniboia Minor Hockey Association, Forcand didn’t
crack the AA Titans roster until her final year of minor hockey.
In her early years behind the bench, Forcand worried that lack of
high-level experience would be an important determination to coaching
success. She has since learned the two aren’t directly correlated.
“Your hockey-playing background doesn’t translate into what your coaching
ability can be,” Forcand says. “You can be a successful coach as long as
you put the time, the effort and your heart into it.”
Forcand’s assistant coach, Danica Rowinski, says Forcand absolutely lives
by that standard, and her players are better for it. Forcand will take her
players rollerblading outside of team time or even come out for another
team’s practice if a former player makes the request.
“The fact that the girls will reach out to her and she always pays so much
attention to what is going on in their lives, I just don’t know many people like that,” Rowinski says. “She does things that she doesn’t need to do when
she’s not working or coaching.”
Forcand is not only a positive influence in the lives of her players, but
she’s also having an impact on the future of women in coaching. As the
female hockey coordinator for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy (a program
designed to increase attendance in socially and economically challenged
schools in Winnipeg), Forcand has been introducing young women to coaching
by recruiting through her former league, the Manitoba Junior Women’s Hockey
“You don’t really have to think too far outside the box to get hockey
players involved as coaches, but you just have to go out there and get them
and expose them to it, otherwise hockey players won’t really think twice
about it because all they’ve really know is being a player,” Forcand says.
While the approach seems like common sense, it’s that level of detail that
Murray Cobb, director of the Academy, says sets Forcand apart from other
“Janelle has taken the time to research why girls are less likely to
continue playing sports into their teenage years, and she goes above and
beyond to ensure her players don’t fall into this statistic,” Cobb
explains. “This goes a long way as an example to other coaches who see the
wide variety of activities that Janelle brings to the rink and her players
lives to make them want to keep playing hockey and staying active in
Forcand has been the head coach of the U11 girls’ team at the Academy for
three seasons and helps with the U13 and U15 teams. Though her first few
years behind the bench were at the AA level, Forcand says working with
players just learning the game has become her passion.
“Being able to interact with the kids and learn what makes them happy and
what makes them who they are; being able to be a part of their experience
of hockey and watch them grow and change and evolve and getting to be by
their side is huge,” Forcand says with a grin. “Coaching is a selfless job,
but it gives so much more to you than you would ever realize.”
One of the biggest hurdles to coaching, Forcand believes, is the perception
it takes too much time. While it can be a lot at the elite levels, there
are opportunities to give back to the community at the grassroots level
with a much smaller commitment. And even the smallest commitment can have a
“[It gives players] a positive experience with this game in hopes that one
day they’ll do the same thing for another kid,” she says.
After eight years of handing out positive experiences, Forcand is being
given a positive experience of her own, national recognition of the work
that she’s done. It’s given her a chance to look back on her coaching
career and consider all the lives she’s touched, friends she’s made and
learned experiences she’s had, making her the coach she is today.
“You’re so focused on being proud of your team and your players and your
coaching staff and you never really take a moment to be proud of yourself,”
Forcand reflects. “I just hope that all the coaches who won the awards this
year, in the past and in years to come, they really sit down and give
themselves a pat on the back because they’re doing great things and they
should just be so proud of themselves, and I think we forget to give
ourselves some credit there.”