Carter Beston-Will played 60 games in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the Columbia Valley Rockies from 2016-17 and 2018-19.
The Calgary native is now an assistant coach in the Elite Ice Hockey League with the Sheffield Steelers. The Steelers recently lost the Elite Series Championship to the Nottingham Panthers. We connected with Beston-Will about the EIHL in this Q&A and his time with the Rockies, which you can watch in the video below.
KIJHL: What was it like for your team to compete for the Elite Ice Hockey League Championship?
CBW: It was awesome. It’s a little different how it’s run here in England as they have three trophies and the big one, the regular season trophy is like the NHL Presidents Trophy. That’s their big one because they kind of run it almost like they do their soccer.
For us our playoffs kind of started in October because we’re competing for first place and every weekend counts. You don’t want to get too far behind. And then the other one is the Challenge Cup and that’s like a season-long tournament. Then there’s the playoff trophy. It got shut down a little early last year with COVID-19. We ended up winning the Challenge Cup, which was a great experience for all of us and the fans are crazy out here. We get 8,000 fans a game and we had a couple with 9,500 fans so it’s a pretty crazy atmosphere, but it was an awesome experience and super memorable.
KIJHL: What was that experience like as a coach?
CBW: It was very satisfying just because in a season, it’s eight or nine months depending on how far the team goes. It’s a roller coaster full of ups and downs and long days and a lot of video for us as coaches. A lot of hours that we put into it, but winning like we did at the end there, all that hard work put in by everybody it’s just super, super satisfying and it’s a great experience and something I’ll never forget.
KIJHL: What are some of your responsibilities as an assistant coach?
CBW: In game, I’m on the bench and I run the defence. Depending on the head coach and where you’re at, everything will change, but for me that’s what I do. And then I pre-scout, I do a pre-scout video for our head coach of all our opponents, which includes taking the last game and I break down the systems, what they’re running – D-zone coverage, faceoffs and so on.
I also run the penalty kill and I do all those meetings. That will include our last game’s penalty- kill, same thing with our opponents power-play, then I put together a quick meeting with the guys. I also run all optional skates, optional practices and then help prepare for games.
KIJHL: What did you learn about the playoff run that your team went on?
CBW: It’s a grind and playoff hockey takes 100 per cent from everybody. I think that’s kind of what I learned. You can’t have any passengers. It takes everybody, even if it’s a fourth-line player that might get four minutes of the game, he can’t take a shift off and if you take a shift off, it might end up costing you. Playoff hockey is just such a grind and that’s a big reason why I learned that it was a full effort from top to bottom on our team.
KIJHL: You mentioned before, the regular season is so important because you’re competing for that title. Does that also really make the regular season a grind?
CBW: Absolutely. I remember for us at least last year in particular, it was only October and we lost two games in a row and the whole room felt like, ‘Oh no’, did we just lose our chance? It feels like we’re playing playoff hockey from October, and that’s not an exaggeration. We lifted the Challenge Cup in March and that’s when those trophies are handed out. We were worried that we might have lost our chance when we lost two games in a row. It’s hard to take any weekends off. You can’t really and it’s a pretty difficult grind right from October.
KIJHL: What is the Elite Ice Hockey League like in terms of talent?
CBW: Really strong. We had one guy last year Aaron Johnson who had played 291 NHL games. We’re allowed 14 imports, so the guys we bring over from North America are all AHL or ECHL players, and some guys who have NHL experience. Then from the European guys, it’s more or less they’ve all played in the top leagues in their country. We had some guys who played a lot of KHL games, a lot in the Liiga, Finland’s top league and so on. Then our British players, they are all top of the country here. They’re going off to play in the World Championships right now against Canada, USA and Russia. They’re in the top division for the World Championships, so even our British players are top notch.
KIJHL: How did you end up coaching in England?
CBW: It’s kind of a long trek, but straight out of the KIJHL I got a coaching opportunity in Zagreb, which is in Croatia, but they play in the top Austrian league, the EBEL. It is now called the bet-at-home ICE Hockey League. I started as the video coach and I was getting paid close to nothing the first year, but I got my foot in the door. My cousin Dylan Beston, who is also a KIJHL alumni, was a big part in getting me that first opportunity. The next year, I got a bump in position as the assistant coach for the same team. Our season was cut short, we got shut down in December due to financial reasons. I came back to Invermere for the last half of that season. Then the next year, my GM in Zagreb got hired as a GM and head coach in England for the Sheffield Steelers, and they gave him the opportunity to bring on an assistant coach, so he chose to go with me. I know how he works and we have a good working relationship.