By day he is in charge of one of the top Bantam age boys hockey teams in Western Canada. By night he is mentoring young players with a girls minor hockey association.
Both more than satisfy Milan Dragicevic’s puck passion.
The 49-year-old Richmond resident spends a good portion of his day in skates. It starts at Planet Ice where he coaches the Delta Hockey Academy’s Bantam Prep Green team that will enter the holiday break with a league best 18-1-0 record. It is then off to the Richmond Ice Centre as Director of Player Development for the Richmond Ravens — a position he has held for about a decade.
“It’s a job but not really a job because I’m coaching hockey,” smiled Dragicevic whose extensive hockey resumé includes being the first-ever head coach of the Vancouver Giants. “I love working with the girls and the Ravens are a fantastic association.
“You have to change your hat a bit after working (with high end talent at DHA). But both of them are so rewarding. It’s a lot of fun and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Dragicevic joined the DHA coaching staff last season, working with the academy’s Bantam White team. It’s been a seamless transition up to the top end Green squad that already had a number of familiar players, none more so than his son Lukas — expected to be among the early picks in the 2020 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft come May.
The 6-foot blueliner with impressive mobility is one of just two returning players and is fourth in team scoring with 32 points in 19 games.
Lukas came through the former Richmond Minor Hockey Association before making the transition to DHA but was only coached by his dad in the spring.
“He had really good coaches growing up and Richmond Minor did a fantastic job of developing not just him but all the kids. It’s a big credit to Richmond Minor and what they did in the past,” said Dragicevic. “It’s also a big credit of what DHA did last year and what we are doing with all the kids this year.
“This is not about coaching my son. It’s just the way it worked out this year that I coached a lot of these kids in spring hockey and have known this age group for many years. Last year, was great experience coaching the White team and a very positive experience for me. I wanted to come back.”
DHA’s Bantam Prep Green team has an outstanding track record of developing talent.
Alumni include eventual NHL first round draft picks Ty Smith (2018) and Dylan Cozens (2019). Last year, 12 DHA team members were taken in the WHL Bantam Draft.
That reputation attracts players from throughout Western Canada and beyond when it comes to team tryouts each spring. This year’s squad features players from Portland, Fort St. John, Vernon, Brandon, Prince George, Nanaimo and Gibsons.
Team bonding is created by an academy environment that sees the boys do everything together including time in the classroom.
“We are a mixed bag of geography from all over Western Canada. The best thing about it is they come over here for 10 months and it’s their family for 10 months,” explained Dragicevic. “The special thing between the group is we are really close. You can see it on the ice with the success that we have had. They like each other and want to play for each other.”
The DHA Greens’ 2020 schedule features three tournaments, including defending their title next month at the prestigious John Reid Memorial in St. Albert. It’s then the inaugural WHL Showcase in Seattle and the year-end CSSHL Championships.
“There are expectations going into these tournaments. Our goal is peak at the right time to have a lot of success but more importantly have fun doing it,” added Dragicevic.