March 22, 2016
WATERLOO — Adam Oates.
Hockey Hall of Famer. Five-time all-star. Seventh in all-time NHL assists.
Personal coach to your son or daughter?
What sounds like a hockey fantasy is now a reality thanks to a Waterloo-based startup called My Pro Hero.
The service allows you to connect with a roster of coaches for live one-on-one, group or team webcast sessions.
“Adam has the philosophy to coach the best players in the world,” says Steve Wicklum, who, along with Todd Bidner, founded My Pro Hero.
But the vast majority of players wouldn’t have dreamt of being able to connect with a veteran of Oates’ calibre.
Enter My Pro Hero, which got its start about two years ago at Lambton College in Sarnia and moved to the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo last fall.
“My Pro Hero is the vehicle to get that access,” Wicklum says.
Users can browse a list of coaches and make their pick based on the specific skills they want to address, then upload video of a practice session or game for the coach to analyze.
The coach then provides direct feedback in a live, interactive session conducted via laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Coaches can use a telestrator and slow-motion features to provide in-depth video analysis. Coaching sessions can also be recorded and shared for future reference.
In addition to Oates, My Pro Hero’s roster of coaches includes former NHLers Bryan Trottier, Ric Nattress, Dennis Maruk and Darren Veitch. Other coaches are drawn from the professional coaching and college, junior and international hockey ranks.
“Everybody’s got a different angle in terms of how to engage the kids,” Bidner says.
Prices vary depending on the coach, but many one-on-one sessions range from $20 to $150, Wicklum says. Sessions with higher-profile coaches cost more. A percentage of the fee goes to the business, while the majority goes to the coach.
“It just made sense to me,” Oates says of the My Pro Hero concept. “For me personally, it’s another way for me to spread my gospel.”
After retiring as a player in 2004, Oates went on to NHL coaching stints in Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Washington.
Oates was on hand this week at the Columbia Icefields at the University of Waterloo to film a video for My Pro Hero.
He called the app “a perfect marriage,” with players learning from the best and coaches having another avenue to share their years of experience with a wider audience.
Oates says if he’d had the chance as a young player to learn from a player he admired like Darryl Sittler, “I would have lost my mind.”
Bidner and Wicklum credit the Accelerator Centre with providing essential mentorship for things such as marketing, public relations and sales.
“They’ve coached us like we’re coaching kids,” Bidner says. “We couldn’t foresee success if we hadn’t been engaged with these guys.”
My Pro Hero is geared toward players from the novice level and up, its creators said.
The program will also allow players and teams to purchase instructional videos and other features without booking a personalized session.
“We’re not trying to take away from what these kids’ (regular) coaches have taught them,” says Bidner, whose hockey career took him from a brief stint with the Washington Capitals to the British Hockey League.
“We’re just adding another tool to the tool box.”
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