Battle Born Hockey School Pt. 2: The Coaches
By Phillip Goodman
April 14, 2023
Reno Ice Raiders’ play-by-play broadcaster and team writer Phillip Goodman takes a deep dive into the Battle Born Hockey School in this six-part series. Part Two is an introduction to four of the BBHS coaches: Andrew Peterson, Zeph Fägergren, Adam Barba, and Weston Nash.
The Reno Ice Raiders players serving as Battle Born Hockey School instructors have played hockey at high levels and attended camps around the world since their youth days. Their combined decades of experience coaching and playing make them incredibly qualified to make Battle Born Hockey School an elite program. Here are the backgrounds of four of those coaches.
(Coach Andrew Peterson explains a drill to all the camp participants)
Zeph Fagergren, Ice Raiders centermen and penalty killer, bounced back and forth between Southern California and later Salt Lake City. He credits roller and ice hockey standout Ralph Barahona as one of his biggest hockey influences in SoCal. In Salt Lake City, Zeph played for Randy Lewis, father of two-time Stanley Cup Champion Trevor Lewis. While 2004's "Miracle" was being filmed at the Univ. of British Columbia, Zeph and Weston Nash were attending a hockey camp put on by UBC. Being with UBC players used as extras inspired Zeph and Weston to make having a hockey school of their own a life goal. That goal is now a reality with BBHS.
Since 2010, Zeph has held a USA Hockey Level 1 Certification with the intention of getting to Level 2 next year when he moves to Reno. He currently coaches high schoolers with Weston Nash and previously coached at BYU and Utah Valley University Intro to Hockey courses. That led him to joining the Univ. of Utah as a player in the ACHA D2. Zeph has also made himself available in Utah for other adult skills camps, private lessons, and worked camps with fellow Ice Raiders Jeff Jiron and Chris Whitten in Vacaville.
"It's important to have hockey history," Zeph said. "I've gone to UBC, the world-famous Minnesota hockey camps, and basically five years of experience in camps. I have retained all that info, loved it, and now I want to give that info back. I have that passion."
For Zeph, his goal as BBHS instructor is to equip a beginner adult leaguer with the tools needed to have a leg up on the rest of the playing field.
"I have a lot of history teaching beginners," Zeph said. "I'm trying to get the adult level players to be able to move up a level in their men's leagues."
So why be a hockey coach?
"The reward of interacting with everyone," said Zeph, an Ice Raiders' favorite in the locker room for his amiability and seniority with the club. "From a BYU adult leaguer to an 8-year-old scoring his first goal, it's a big reward to enhance someone's life on the ice. It's about giving back. Seeing a beginner become a player that can go wherever they want to go with it, seeing it all clicking then watching it happen, that's why I coach."
(In order from left to right: Coach Jeff Jiron, Coach Weston Nash, Coach Adam Barba and Coach Zeph Fagergren)
Adam Barba, Ice Raiders defenseman and assistant captain, has been coaching on and off for over 15 years. He started coaching random camps that came to the Lake Tahoe rink as a puck pusher (a low-level assistant with light duties). In his early 20s, he traveled at least five weeks per summer coaching children in McCall, ID; Breckenridge, CO; Missoula, MT; Lake Tahoe, CA; Denver, CO; and Steamboat, CO.
"My favorite aspect of coaching is seeing players the first time they get an 'ah-ha' moment when the instruction we have given finally clicks with a player and you see them implement those skills into their game," Adam said. "Usually, the player will come skating over saying, 'Did you see that? It worked!' That is very rewarding as a coach."
With Barba on the ice as an instructor, a skater can expect to be recognized as an individual with his or her own needs and will have fun above all.
"I think I bring a more relaxed demeanor and my humor," Adam said. "Coaching adults of course is much different than children. But even with those two different groups, there is always a coach that needs to keep it light and full of humor. I also really like to bring a level of personal connection so when I see a player struggling with an issue, I usually do not forget and will constantly reinforce the same things over the duration of camp. I believe the participants really like that because at BBHS, we like to make sure every player is receiving a lot of one-on-one attention and showing them that you remember what they are struggling with, pays dividends in their advancement as a player."
For the new hockey player at Reno Ice, BBHS offers invaluable lessons about the game that even the most die-hard hockey watcher might not have known.
"Adult level players should participate in this camp because it is a very rare opportunity to see the game broken down into parts," said Barba. "A lot of adult players just play in their league and or pick-up games and have never had the opportunity to partake in skills and drills type learning. When we coach these skills and drills, there is a reason for it that is applicable to the overall game of hockey. When we coach a skills and drills station, I will always stop midway through the drill to explain why we are doing it and the situations in a game in which each respective skill is used."
(Coach Barba explains a skill to a camp participant during a scrimmage)
Weston Nash, an Ice Raiders' original defenseman, holds a USA Hockey Level 1 certification and currently coaches the Riverton High School Silverwolves about halfway between Salt Lake City and Provo, UT. Before Zeph and Weston were teammates at the Utah Valley University where they met Jeff Jiron, they played together for four consecutive years at Riverton High where they both coach now.
"My youth coach Barry Egan really paved the way for me," Weston said. "Our previous Ice Raiders coach Shane Hicke and current coach Mike Harder have taught me a number of different things to improve my game. I am forever grateful to all three of them."
Nash is admittedly newer to coaching having coached youth on and off for about two seasons and he is eager to start making an impact with what drives him to be a contributor.
"It's my passion for the game," said Nash. "As much as I love to have fun and keep things light, I love competing and teaching the skills of the game. Getting to know new players and finding ways to improve their game are my favorite aspects of being a coach."
Why does Weston feel adult-level players should participate in this camp?
"Our adult camps go over the fundamental skills and systems and we take an advanced look into each aspect of the game to help build a higher hockey IQ," said Nash.
"Going to UBC and other camps in my youth was always a great experience," Nash added. "It’s awesome to work with my teammates to help bring all our favorite aspects and experiences of previous hockey camps to BBHS."
(Coach Weston explains a drill before demonstrating)
Andrew Peterson, Ice Raiders defenseman and captain the last two seasons since the Ice Raiders moved to Reno, holds a Level 3 USA Hockey Certification and will earn Level 4 this summer. He has been coaching at Reno Ice since the rink's inception three years ago and before that helped coach youth teams within his club in Sweden while playing overseas. Prior to shipping off to Sweden, Peterson played NCAA D3 hockey at Gustavus Adolphus College in the hockey hotbed of St. Peter, MN, where he has family roots.
"I’ve played all over," said Peterson. "Considering I was born in Reno which is a very non-traditional hockey market, I think it helps to have players who also come from similar areas and encourages them that it is possible to play higher and further with the right mindset and work ethic."
Peterson wears the "C" for the Ice Raiders because of his leadership abilities, calm demeanor, and multif-faceted on-ice skills. Fans that watch Peterson's fundamentally sound game need not be experts in X's and O's to see what elements he brings and why he is eager to show budding adult leaguers the necessary skill sets that are required to play at the next level.
"Adult players will learn a wealth of knowledge that they may not get elsewhere," said Peterson. "There are different aspects of the game that don’t just include basic skills. We're also elevating their hockey IQ and on-ice awareness and positioning."
(Coach Peterson doing a cheer with all the camp participants at the end of practice)
It takes a lifetime of dedication and work to hone the skills and gain the knowledge needed to lift the Stanley Cup as a player in the NHL.
With these four coaches in your corner, it might only take you one Battle Born Hockey School camp to acquire what you need to become an adult league champion at your local rink.
(Camp Team Picture with all the Coaches and Players at the Adult Skills Camp in Kearns, Utah in April 2023)