One might say the coaching career of Brett Kramers has been fast-tracked. But his dedication to the game, hard work and willingness to learn would say otherwise.
Growing up as a goaltender with South Side Athletic Club, it was a natural transition for Kramers when he started his coaching journey at 18 as a goaltender coach with the club.
Just five seasons later, Kramers is preparing for his first season as the head coach of the U17 AAA Fort Saskatchewan South Fort Chev Rangers in the Alberta Elite Hockey League (AEHL).
“The short time I’ve been involved in the AEHL has been amazing, and I expect nothing less in the coming month,” said Kramers. “The resources that the coaches have at their fingertips is crazy to me. There’s not enough time in the day to list all the resources we have as coaches and all the connections that I’ve already made.”
The 23-year-old university student, is joining the league as the youngest bench boss in the AEHL.
“I’ve always looked at my age as more of a strength than a weakness,” said Kramers. “I know what the players are going through, not just in hockey, but in school and life, so it’s given me the unique ability to connect with them.”
Kramers has surrounded himself with a support system of coaches who are looking to help him grow.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach with some really helpful people. Especially when I was just starting out, I had people show me what it means to be a coach and show me the sides of the game that I didn’t know,” said Kramers. “Now, one of the things I’ve learned with Hockey Alberta is the best coaches are the best thieves in a sense where you’re always taking pieces that you like from other coaches to do it your way.”
Derrick Martin, an assistant coach with Team Alberta Male, and Zenith Komarniski, a former pro turned coach in Fort Saskatchewan, are two fellow Spring Showcase coaches who Kramers now calls mentors.
“Derrick and Zenith have been so helpful to me and in different ways,” said Kramer. “Derrick is one of the people who has given me the inspiration to take coaching seriously. The work he puts in is truly second to none and it’s inspired me to have the same work ethic and the same compete level when it comes to being a better coach and person for the kids.”
The connection to Komarniski developed through the 2022 Prospects Cup, when Kramers debuted in the Spring Showcase program as an assistant coach.
“Not only has Zenith shared what he’s learned as a coach, but also what he’s experienced as a professional, and to someone like me who aspires to be at that level someday, it’s something I keep close to my heart,” said Kramers.
In 2023, Kramers returned as an assistant coach at the Alberta Cup, once again along side Komarniski on the bench.
“I’ve been able to take so many key tools from the Showcase and the events I’ve done with Hockey Alberta and translate them to my winter season,” said Kramers. “It’s different from short-term to long-term competition. The short-term, you’re looking for the team that’s going to come together super quick, build trust, have vulnerability and build connections right away and that’s one of the biggest things I’ve taken back to my winter team.”
As Kramers moves through his career, he credits Hockey Alberta programming and connections as a pivotal part of his growth.
“Hockey Alberta has done so much for me in just the two years I’ve been involved in the program. I wouldn’t be where I am without the programs they’ve offered,” said Kramers. “I’ve been able to see a lot of things at such a young age. Every time I go to a Hockey Alberta event, I feel like I’m the youngest guy there and I leave with a notepad full of new things to try or new philosophies.”
Through his opportunities with Hockey Alberta, lived coaching experience, mentors, podcasts and professional development he participates in, Kramers has started to craft his own coaching philosophy.
“It’s the messages and values I’ve been able to take from all the connections I’ve made whether it be through the South Side Athletic Club, my time with Fort Saskatchewan now or through the events I’ve done with Hockey Alberta,” said Kramers. “It’s finding the character kids – kids who are going to work for you on the ice and work for themselves most importantly. But what’s really important to me is to be able to see that a kid is going to be just as good of a person away from the rink and represent themselves with class, as much as they are going to bring the same mindset into the rink.”
Like any coach, his philosophy is ever-evolving as Kramers continues to learn.
“The biggest thing that keeps me coming back to Hockey Alberta events is seeing the success that other coaches have had,” said Kramers. “To see the progression that Hockey Alberta is able to make whether it’s to Hockey Canada, to junior or to the NHL. The more I come back, the more I learn, I’m putting myself in the right direction as a coach of where I want to go in the future.”
Hockey Alberta’s Spring Showcase events - Alberta Cup, Alberta Challenge and Prospects Cup - serve as identification and development programs for the top coaches, players, medical personnel and administrators in the Hockey Alberta system. Coach, Director of Operations and Trainer applications for all three events open October 2 on the Hockey Alberta and Spring Showcase websites. All interested candidates are encouraged to apply.