by Tim Morris
Stephane Levere has been coaching goalies since he was 13 years old.
“I was playing junior hockey (Gloucester Rangers),” the Ottawa Junior Senators assistant coach in charge of goalies recalled. ”It was a small town and a novice coach asked me if I wanted to coach the 7-8-year olds.
“I said ‘I’ll do that, it looks interesting,’” he added.
In one way or another, Levere has been working with netminders ever since. That’s allowed Levere to stay in the sport after his hockey career as a goalie ended after junior hockey.
Levere, who is in his 10th season assisting with the Junior Senators, said he looks for three things in a goalie.
“Skating always the first thing,” he said. “You look for his mobility. “Second is puck tracking and third is his presence in the net.”
Also important are intangibles such as the goalie’s character and his work ethic. This year’s Junior Senator goalies, Will Mizenko and Connor Shibley, check off all those boxes.
“I have two great kids, I enjoy working with both of them,” said Levere. “Both guys have skills. They’re very determined and dedicated to improving.”
Levere has a unique take on being a goaltender. He pointed out that during his playing day at 5-7 he didn’t have the size of most keepers.
“I had to find other ways to stop the puck,” Levere explained. “I viewed the game in a little different way. I’m always analyzing and observing.”
He brings that different perspective to the Ottawa goalies who have been nothing short of outstanding over his decade with the club.
Succeeding in the goal, Levere remarked, starts in practice.
“It always comes back to practice,” he said. “Being consistent in practice means consistency in games. One hundred percent of good goalie play in starts there.”
Goalies will take between 200-300 shots in practice. Another part of practice is going over video with the goalies and studying technique as a way to reinforce the basics.
The biggest part of coaching is teaching and that comes naturally to Levere. He teaches physical education in nearby Casselman, and he also works with special needs children and, the Special Olympics.
“I really love teaching,” he said.
And, Levere noted, teaching teenagers is good preparation for coaching young players on the Junior Senators. It gives him a better understanding of what makes teens tick.
In the 10 years he’s been with Ottawa Levere has seen the team become the gold standard in the Central Canada Hockey League. It didn’t happen overnight, however.
During his tenure, OJS has consistently been among the league leaders in allowing the fewest goals, topping the CCHL in 2022-23 and 2015-16, and being second in 2021-22, allowing just one more goal than the rival Hawkesbury Hawks.
“We’ve always had a staff that works very hard at recruiting and coaching,” he explained. “They’ve set high standards for who we chose to recruit, and it’s paid off.”
No doubt, it’s coaches like Levere who have made it happen.