From Sports Illustrated: Brandon Tanev’s Road to the NHL through Creative Hockey Development

From May 2, 2018 Sports Illustrated

Despite a Lengthy Hockey Hiatus, Brandon Tanev Has Developed Nicely for the Jets


  • It took a while for Brandon Tanev to hit his growth spurt, but the waiting only made him love the game more. The Jets winger has endeared himself to Winnipeg fans in short order.


A few hours before Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, Mike Tanev made the quick walk from his downtown Winnipeg hotel and visited the team store inside Bell MTS Place. He was busy perusing the T-shirt and hoodie racks among fellow Jets fans, scouting out garb as gifts for various relatives, when he overheard a woman whose own souvenir search had stalled. “I want to buy a jersey,” the woman lamented, “but they don’t have any with TANEV on them.”

“I’ll be the only one in the arena wearing one,” Mike replied.

That rare memorabilia item came straight from the source, of course—the pearl-white and navy threads worn by middle son Brandon at the outdoor Heritage Classic in Oct. 2016 during his rookie NHL season. A year and a half later, though, the Jets’ marketing department might want to think about stocking those shelves with No. 13 apparel pronto. Capped by an empty-netter during Tuesday’s 7-4 win over Nashville, which helped lift the Jets to a 2-1 series lead, Tanev has now scored goals in four straight Stanley Cup Playoff games, endearing himself to a delirious fan base and proving his worth on the biggest stage in franchise history.

An undrafted free agent who signed with the Jets in March ‘16, he is a shifty puck hound and snappy checker whose father dubs “a bundle of fire.” It probably helps that Tanev also possesses seemingly limitless energy, at least to the extent that former Providence College teammates joked about him requiring toys on the bench to stay occupied between shifts. “He’d always be standing up, alway ready to go,” Friars coach Nate Leaman says. “He never stops.”

Well … not quite never.

“It’s funny,” Mike Tanev says. “People don’t understand that he was out of hockey for four and a half years.”

The system does not tend to reward those who take breaks. It is increasingly specialized, month after month, packed with pressurized travel team tryouts and obsessive helicopter parents and draft rankings that might as well start with defensemen still wearing diapers. And yet Brandon Tanev—future NHLer, future sought-after Winnipeg Jets sweater—barely played competitive hockey as a teenager growing up in the Toronto suburbs. “Just waiting for the day that I would mature and get the size I needed to put myself back into hockey,” he says.

That was the biggest—or smallest, rather—issue. Entering high school at East York Collegiate, Brandon stood several inches short of five feet tall and weighed significantly less than 100 pounds.  Naturally this did not prove appealing to local coaches, like the group whom Mike overheard at one Christmas tournament, laughing and wondering why a fifth-grader was allowed on the ice with much older skaters. (Brandon was around 14 then, same age as everyone else.) “Everybody in Toronto are all geniuses, right?” Mike Tanev says. “If you’re not big enough, they don’t want you.” And when no one wanted Brandon during his minor bantam year, Mike pulled him out of the system.

The spurt mercifully arrived during his final year of high school, though even then Brandon only climbed to roughly 5-foot-7. Fortunately that was enough to earn a spot with the OJHL’s Markham Waxers in Ontario, where he turned heads as a point-per-game playmaker before migrating westward to join the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL, another junior A league located in British Columbia. One year later, Tanev found himself matriculating at Providence, the proud recipient of a full ride to a rebuilding Division I college program. Reached over the phone recently, Leaman chuckles at the memory of that “stringbean” of a recruit who arrived on campus in late 2012.

“Tanny,” he says, almost wistfully. “I’d take him on any team, any time, anywhere.”

As it stands today, the Friars were plenty lucky to have him. Goodness knows they might not have captured their first-ever NCAA title if it weren’t for Tanev, then a junior marketing major, dashing across the slot and whipping the game-winning goal against Boston University in the third period of the 2015 title game at TD Garden. “That will never be forgotten,” Leaman says. “The thing is, after you coach someone like Tanny, you’re always looking for the next one. That’s what an impact he had on us as a program and me as a coach. He’s one of a kind.”

No doubt that Winnipeg would agree. Partway through his son’s rookie season in ‘16-17, Mike ran into Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on the team’s annual father’s trip. At the time Brandon was playing on the one-year, two-way contract that he had signed out of college, meaning that he earned significantly less whenever Winnipeg demoted him to its AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. “I told Kevin, if he gets a one-way contract, you’re going to see a totally different Brandon,” Mike recalls. “When you’re a borderline guy, your main focus is to not go down to the minors. So you have a different mentality. You play to stay in the lineup. You play cautious.”

And cautious is not Brandon’s nature. Mike remembers opposing collegiate defensemen shying away from pucks in the corner because they caught sight of Brandon, barreling down the ice, looking to check them through the glass. “My game is fast and physical,” Brandon says. “I’ve always been taught to work hard and be tenacious. Then, once you have the confidence to hold onto the puck and make plays, it can all come together and work.” True to Mike’s promise, Brandon indeed rounded a corner this season, finishing with 18 points in 61 games, including his first career hat trick against the Bruins on March 27 and this recent four-goal postseason binge.

“That’s impossible,” an awestruck Coffey replied. “No one takes time off in those crucial years and turns into a hockey player.”

Link to the original article is here;



Hockey Summer Camp: Creative Hockey Development

Looking for something fun, athletic and cool to do this summer?

Sign up for our Creative Hockey Development Summer Camps, which run weekly from July 9th, 2018 to August 17th, 2018.

This camp is for boys and girls, skaters, scorers, forwards, defense, and we have our own Goaltending Camp running at the same time, so goalies are more than welcome.

You can book weekly or for all or some of the weeks.


The camps are run out of Chesswood Arena in Toronto.

The camps run from 8:45am to 2:45pm, and if you need your skater to stay a bit long, that can be arranged for a slight fee.

The dates for the camps are below – and please note the cost for each week of the camp is the same, except for the August 7th to 10th camp as Monday is a holiday and there will be no camp on the Monday.

July 9th to July 13th.  Cost: $500.00 + HST ($565)

July 16th to July 20th.  Cost : $500.00 + HST

July 23rd to July 27th.  Cost: $500.00 + HST

July 30th to August 3rd.  Cost: $500.00 + HST

August 7th to August 10th.  Cost: $400.00 + HST

​August 13th to August 17th.  Cost: $500.00 + HST


Reserve your spot today, by contacting the office at

Payment can be made via etransfer, and shortly we will be accepting credit cards through Square, Paypal, and Apple Pay.

As an added bonus, depending on the age of your player, a portion of our camp will qualify as Child Care which entitles you to a tax credit in Canada.


About Creative Hockey Development Camps

The goal of our summer camp is to improve each player’s skills, attitude, awareness, creativity, and skating ability throughout the week.

Our camps are very well-organized.  Our programs are extremely structured and the players are supervised by our highly experienced staff.

We don’t just allow the maximum number of kids allowed on the ice, and then scream instructions at them while watching the first dozen perform the drill while the rest go through the motions.

Kids can’t learn that way.

Coaches can’t coach that way.

Nobody has fun.


What You Need

Hockey equipment, a healthy packed lunch – there is a snack bar on the premises – and a water bottle filled with water.

We find that the healthier the lunch and the healthier the snacks and drinks, the better the kids are able to focus, absorb what we are teaching them, and maintain energy throughout the day.


To book, or inquire, please contact our head office, at


Follow us on Instagram, here.

Follow up on Facebook, here.

Visit our website, here.


Meet Team Creative Hockey Development

The Creative Hockey Development Team

Creative Hockey Development was founded by Dusan Kralik, an elite hockey instructor, born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and who came to Toronto 25-years-ago to teach the sport that he loves.

Creative Hockey Development continues to improve the skills of each and every player that they have instructed, coached or consulted with.

Dusan Kralik

For over 25-years, Dusan has been teaching his method of hockey skills, fast-paced, high speed, high-skill, and the NHL finally caught up.

The game of hockey today is very different from the way the game was played even 10-years ago, with the emphasis on speed, skill and creativity, so it should come to no-one’s surprise that the players leading the charge are players that Dusan trained from a very young age.

Below is just a bit about and his Creative Hockey Program;

  • One of the most elite and well known skill coaches in North America, if not the world.
  • Played in renowned Czechoslovakian Elite Hockey League for HC Slovan and Bratislava at 17-years-old.
  • Played in the 1986 Junior World Hockey Championship in Hamilton.
  • Is a certified Life Skills Coach, earned his Masters Degree in Economics and has his PHD in Hockey Skill Development
  • Trains the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes Prospects
  • Noted players Dusan trained from an early age include: P.K. Subban, John Tavares, Chris and Brandon Tanev, Sam Gagner, Matt Stajan, and Daniel Carcillo.  


When it comes to the game of hockey, there is no one else who will teach you, your child, your team, better than Dusan and his Creative Hockey Development program.

Creative Hockey Development Blogs!

Welcome to the first blog post from your team at Creative Hockey Development!

This blog will be used to provide additional resources for the clients of Creative Hockey Development, including, but not limited to;

  • Coaching Tips
  • Practice Drill recommendations
  • How to be a better player
  • What path should be taken, and why
  • Consulting
  • Camps run by Creative Hockey Development
  • How to play hockey as a smaller player
  • How to be the best goaltender possible
  • Equipment selection
  • Stories
  • More information from the owners and coaches of Creative Hockey Development

And it’s all interactive, so you can comment, ask questions and be a bigger part of our organization!


Stay tuned as we begin to roll out content!

Check out our website for programs, skills sessions and camp information at


Everybody can be whatever they want to be, provided they are willing to put in the work to get there. – Dusan Kralik, Creative Hockey Development owner and skills coach.