Well-respected, well-seasoned Craig Hartsburg, who has played and coached in both the Ontario Hockey League and the National Hockey League with distinction, wants to assist with what he calls the “updating” of Sault Ste. Marie’s entry in the Great North Midget Hockey League.
The local major midget team won just 12 of 36 regular season games in 2018-2019 before making it through two rounds of the playoffs in the Great North.
Sault Ste. Marie was represented by two teams in the Great North in each of the past two seasons but will proceed with just a major midget entry in 2019-2020. The 2019-2020 major midget team that will compete in the Great North will be open to tryouts for all players born in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
At any rate, the Sault Major Hockey Association will soon be interviewing applicants who are interested in coaching the local major midget entry in the Great North for next season. Which is where Hartsburg has offered to lend his expertise.
The 59-year old Hartsburg — he turns 60 in June — has had an association with Sault Major and the Soo Pee Wee Hockey League through a coaching mentor-ship program for more than a year.
And now through Sault Major president Travis Merrett and coaching selection committee member Zoltan (Toots) Kovacs, Hartsburg told Hockey News North that he wants to help the major midget program “get back on track.
“What we really need to do is to update our major midget program and upgrade it to where it is the team that all of our up and coming players want to play for at some point,” Hartsburg said evenly.
From his end, Hartsburg said that once the coach for the local major midget team in the Great North loop for the 2019-2020 season is selected, he will offer his assistance to the bench boss.
“For me, any help that I would give would be in the early stages like starting with a game plan that would include systems, practice preparation … things like that,” Hartsburg relayed. “And if the coach, whoever it may be, wants me to go on the ice and help out during tryouts and and in early season practices, I would definitely be available to do that.
“Any help that I would give would be in the early stages … to help get the (major midget) program going in the right direction and to assist in any way I can,” he added.
Hartsburg noted that off-ice preparation and conditioning are essential in helping to build a better major midget program.
He added that it would be advantageous for Sault Ste. Marie’s major midget team to incorporate off-ice assistance and expertise from individuals such as local sports psychologist Dr. Arthur Perlini, John Parco of Superior Sports Training and Cara Russon of Yoga Is Movement Medicine.
“We also need to have more on-ice practice time,” Hartsburg emphasized. “We need to have unlimited ice time available, not just one or two practices a week … those are things that Travis (Merrett) and Toots (Kovacs) and I have discussed.”
Hartsburg, who has made Sault Ste. Marie his off-season and then permanent home for many years now, retired as a coach in 2016 after an eventful 27-year coaching career that included 19 seasons in the NHL and successful stints in the OHL and Western Hockey League.
As a player, Hartsburg had a world-class career as an all-star defenseman with both the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL and the erstwhile Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He was captain of the Greyhounds for two of his three OHL seasons and was captain of the North Stars for seven of his 10 NHL seasons.
“There is a lot what we can do to improve our minor hockey program in Sault Ste. Marie,” Hartsburg noted. “In fact, we have already seen improvement at the atom, pee wee and bantam levels with championship teams.
“Now,” he continued, “we have to take that to the midget level. We need to get off to the right start with our major midget team well before the next season begins. We need to set up an off-ice training program that deals with mental preparation, dealing with ups and downs … and taking care of the bodies through nutrition, weight training and yoga.”
Hartsburg concluded that he is willing to assist with “figuring out a game plan. We want to have an elite, respected program for all of our teams right up to and including midget. We can make this work.”
PHOTO: Craig Hartsburg of Sault Ste. Marie is a career player and coach who is now retired and wants to help the local Great North Midget Hockey League team get back on track.