A lot of hockey fans will tell you that they live, breathe and sleep hockey. Few, though, can likely compete with Sooke resident Craig Didmon who coaches three different levels of the sport.
Joining the wildly popular WHL Victoria Royals as assistant coach this year, Didmon has also run the Westshore Hockey Academy for the last seven seasons and looks after head coaching duties for the Sooke Minor Hockey peewee A minor team that his 12-year-old son Ty plays on.
“It’s quite the contrast going from the Royals to the peewee T-birds,” said Didmon. “Some of it’s the same stuff — getting to the same spots, getting to the same positioning. With the Royals there are higher expectations and the message is a little sterner.”
Coming from a hockey family, he said it was a natural transition to get into coaching. Although he had some success as a player — recording 50 goals and 106 points in his last year as a centreman in the BC Hockey League in 1992 — his real love was coaching which he had actually starting doing as a teenager.
“My father was a coach for 30 years and a western league scout,” said Didmon. “He was coaching bantam teams and midget teams through the years, so I’d come out and help him coach.”
Entering his 18th season calling himself a coach, it all started almost 40 years ago when he moved to the Western Communities from Burnaby in 1972 shortly after birth.
“I remember being under 10 years old and being the stick boy for the Juan de Fuca bantam team,” he said. “When I was an atom we used to come out and practice in Sooke once a week, the rink was almost new then.”
As an adult, he began his career first as a teacher. He was a counsellor at Sooke Elementary, and at Spencer where he also taught English. Then, Westshore started their hockey academy that started off with 48 kids the first year and is now one of the largest in Canada with more than 140 enrolled, said Didmon.
Rounding out his resume, he has also coached the south Island major midget team, the Victoria Grizzlies, and the Victoria Cougars — who he helped bring home a provincial championship in 2007. That all prepared him for the Royals who were looking for someone to fill the position in August. Didmon introduced himself to the general manager and head coach Marc Habscheid, and said his resume stood for itself. After a couple of interviews, he was in.
“The first thing I did was take Marc fishing out in Sooke,” he said, chuckling.
Didmon has high hopes for the future of hockey in Sooke. He admitted that for the time being, it is still a rural town with a small pool of kids to draw from.
“It makes it tough to play some of the bigger organizations like the Juan de Fucas, the Nanaimos of the world and stuff but we also have a lot of good, young coaches.”
For now, he is doing his part by helping shape young local talent on the ice.
“I feel very fortunate. It’s fun, it doesn’t really feel like work.”