By Doug Kennedy
To say the Kincardine Bulldogs are lucky to have an experienced, well-travelled coach like Todd Norman is a bit of an understatement.
From Brussels to Stratford to Guelph, to Team Canada and being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round, Norman has a lifetime of memories and a wealth of knowledge. Kincardine is fortunate he has landed here, with a teaching job split between Ripley and Lucknow. He lives in Kincardine with his wife Kathleen and their one-year-old daughter,Tessa.
Former Wingham Ironmen manager Steve Coulter, signed him out of Kurtzville minor hockey. Scott Pettigrew was his first junior coach.
Someone might not know the hockey background Norman brings as the coach behind the Kincardine Bulldogs bench. His previous coaching stop was in Listowel, where he worked with Jason Brooks and helped the Cyclones win their first all-Ontario championship in the GOHL.
”Jason reached out to Todd to join the Cyclones coaching staff for the 2015-16 season, said Brooks. “Todd was a tremendous local hockey player that had played at many levels and had great success in the game, that I thought he could offer the players different perspectives and insights into the game. I also thought he would be a big help to Jesse Cole and myself as we were focused on the defensive side of the game, and he would give us a different side of the game. Todd had great offensive skill at all levels he played at, so he was the perfect fit to improve our team. In Todd’s time with us, we were fortunate enough to win two mid-western division Cherry Cup championships and one Sutherland Cup championship. Todd’s passion for the game, for helping his players get better, shows each and every time he steps on the ice. He is an excellent coach and even a better friend.”
Norman’s biggest influences were his parents, Fred and Heather. Fred coached many of his, and his brother Reed’s, teams in minor hockey.
After Brussels, he headed to Stratford to Play Junior B. He was drafted in the third round by the Guelph Storm. It was there he got to play with Jeff O’Neill, Todd Bertuzzi, Manny Malholtra, Brian Wilsie, Chris Hajt, Allan MacAulay and Jamie Wright. He played in one memorial cup in Peterborough. Guelph had a strong team all of the four years he was there.
Norman said he was fortunate along the way to play for some great coaches. Craig Hartsburg and E.J. McGuire were a couple of his coaches in Guelph that he really learned a lot from. Hartsburg taught him work ethic, discipline, and conditioning. He pushed all his players to go beyond what they thought was possible. He was a great motivator and taught you what it would take to get to the next level. E.J.McGuire introduced his players to sports psychology, which could improve your knowledge and skills to address performance and wellbeing. His university coach was Danny Flynn. He said Flynn was amazing at breaking down the game and teaching the Xs and Os of the game. He was extremely prepared for the opponents he was facing, and therefore taught a lot of systems in all three zones.
“I was fortunate to play for these three coaches, as they all have been coaches in the NHL,” said Norman.
He played on Team Ontario under 17 division, which is a huge accomplishment.
He played for Team Canada in the under 18 Ivan Hlinka tournament. On that team, he played with Jarome Iginla, Marc Savard, J.S.Giguere and Daniel Briere.They won the gold medal.
After that, he played in the east coast league for three years, then the western professional league and the central league, before heading off to France for one year. Then it was off to Saint Francis Xavier University, where they won the National U sports Championship.
General manager Warren Beisel says the Bulldogs are extremely lucky to have Norman at the helm of this team. Norman has an extremely calm approach and has gained the trust of his players after completing his first season with the Bulldogs.
“It makes my job easier to recruit when I have a coach like Todd,” said Beisel.
Assistant general manager Mike Hackett said with Norman’s history as a player and coach, he brings a positive demeanor to the team and works well with his staff, which builds confidence inside the dressing room.
I am sure Todd will influence a lot of youth in this area for many years to come. The one ex-teammate of his I would like to meet is Jeff O’Neill, who had a long NHL career and is now on TSN Overdrive. I have a feeling having a cold one with him would be entertaining. Hopefully we will all be back at the rink next winter.