CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – February 2023
“If you believe in yourself, have dedication and pride and never quit, you’ll be a winner.”
By David Grossman
Words from one of the greatest college coaches of all time and expressed so eloquently to people on numerous occasions.
Paul William “Bear” Bryant had the elegance of communicating messages and was a genius in his hallmark days as the football coach at the University of Alabama. Simply put, Bryant was a symbol of success in so many ways.
There are others who say that sport can bring out the best of people.
Put those two comments together and we find an individual eager to build a career in hockey operations. Motivated, enthusiastic, and committed, that’s Dustin Peltier who wants to be the next one to prosper in Canada’s National winter sport.
It should come as no surprise that Peltier, who no longer scores goals for a hockey team, instead dreams of one day getting an opportunity to lead a group of talented individuals who would benefit from so much more – including the synergy of teamwork.
For Peltier, his ambition goes beyond putting a puck in the net. It’s moving up to management where he can incorporate his education with experience in business, commerce, and sports administration. What becomes crystal clear, when talking with Peltier, is that he may have his own formula for that kind of success.
It all starts with confidence.
Determined and focussed, Peltier wants to become the next individual, from an Indigenous community, to be involved in the senior management side of the sport – and that includes the professional game. There was a time when this would have been considered a spectacle or just a one-night wonder.
Not for Peltier. He’s serious, strong-willed, and resolute.
Proud of their First Nations roots, Craig Berube and Ted Nolan are the only head coaches to get the top coaching jobs in the National Hockey League (NHL). Peltier, realizing he may have steep steps to climb, is hoping his name comes up sooner than later. His goal: to be a fulltime General Manager.
“There are lots of steps to navigate through, but that’s my ultimate goal,” he said. “I want to continue to meet people, take advantage of opportunities, continue to gain experience, and hope that one day, it happens.”
Home for Peltier is the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, a First Nation reserve on the eastern peninsula of Manitoulin Island. Known for its rich Indigenous culture, it’s about a six-hour drive northwest of Toronto.
While far from connecting with the professional hockey community, Manitoulin Island is believed to be on the largest freshwater island lake on the planet and is also home to Canada’s first European settlement.
Like most youngsters, Peltier has also had his share of hockey role models. His were former NHL greats Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman. Both are now in executive sports management roles.
While attending Manitoulin Secondary, Peltier played several years of Junior hockey with the Manitoulin Islanders and wanted to keep progressing – but his mother emphasized the priority was to be on education. Her advice was important – and Peltier took it.
Now a huge benefactor of the business marketing program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, followed by a degree in sports administration and commerce from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Peltier gained knowledge and expertise in marketing, event planning and hands-on experience, that would become quite valuable.
“I wanted to work in hockey, that was always the plan,” he said. “Networking and volunteering opportunities opened the doors, and a summer job as a teenager, helped me save money to take a program in Barrie that would involve learning to work, one day, in the professional hockey world.”
That seven-week summer program, along with his positive attitude, would lead to an opportunity – an assignment, from former Barrie Colts general manager Jason Ford. Peltier was given the test of finding talent as a scout for Northern Ontario.
“It was my first experience as a scout and I was at Laurentian at the time,” recalled Peltier who had been a minor hockey coach with players under 18 years of age associated with community level teams Wiikwemkoong. “I jumped at the opportunity and tried to make an impression.”
Building on experience and his resume, an energetic Peltier had an internship with the Ottawa Senators. That four-year experience was with the NHL team’s business development office. As an account manager, he worked with corporate clients, box owners and season ticket holders. His current role is scouting for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Experience, learning and taking advantage of opportunities,” said Peltier, who has completed the first level of the National Coaching Certification Program. “Doing my best, meeting people and hoping that one day the opportunity to achieve my ultimate goal comes true.”
One of his proudest moments came in 2022, after he was the successful candidate as general manager for the Ontario squad that competed in the National Aboriginal Hockey championship in Membertou, N.S. This is an annual tournament, sanctioned by Hockey Canada, that provides an opportunity for Indigenous hockey players from across Canada, to showcase their athletic abilities.
“It was, and still is, a major event and we beat Saskatchewan 3-2 in overtime to win the gold medal,” said Peltier. “Winning was great but my focus will always be on mentorship and to continue doing what I can to help young players get to the next level.”
Through the Aboriginal Apprentice Coaching Program, Peltier was selected to be with Team Ontario for the 2023 Canada Winter Games scheduled for February 18 to March 5 in Summerside, PEI.
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Peltier – who educate the use of strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“Winning was great but my focus will always be on mentorship and to continue doing what I can to help young players get to the next level.”
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
The Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program (AACP) provides the opportunity for each province and territory to send two (2) coaches of Aboriginal ancestry to the Canada Games in apprenticeship roles. For more information on the AACP, please click HERE.
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