DUBNetwork recently caught up with former Victoria Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath to reflect on his time in the WHL and discuss life after junior hockey.
Playing his entire WHL career with Victoria, the native of Calgary, AB played in 165 games and recorded 84 wins, which were franchise records. Since finishing his career in the WHL, Vollrath has found a path that includes teaching and mentoring others, passing on the valuable experience he has to offer.
Moving to Victoria
Drafted by the Chilliwack Chiefs, the young prospect never played a game for the Chiefs. Asked about his thoughts on being part of the relocation and if he had ever been to Victoria before, Vollrath recalled his thoughts on heading to the island.
“As the news broke that the team was relocating, I think my family and I were both pretty excited. I hadn’t been to the island before the team relocated there. The first training camp would have been the first time that I was out on the island. I wouldn’t have had any problems playing with the Chiefs, but Victoria’s just such a beautiful place. My parents were excited that they got to come to Victoria more and be a tourist as well as watching me play.”
Rookie Year and playing with Polivka
In the 2012-13 season, a young Vollrath made the Royals to serve as backup to Czech Republic native Patrik Polivka. While he saw action in 27 games, Vollrath said he took a lot in his first year from Polivka’s experience. “I think a big difference between hockey in Europe and that of Canada is that although he was one year older than me, he had almost played at a professional level already. You see younger goalies over in Europe get those kind higher level opportunities a little bit sooner, so he had experience already at a high level of play. He brought that right over to Victoria, and I was able to learn a lot from him including what it takes to be a pro. A starting goalie mentality. It’s something that’s important as a starting goalie in the Western Hockey League or any league. If you have a tough game, you have just got to be mentally strong and be able to bounce back the next night. Be confident in your own abilities, that was the biggest take away from him.”
Final Year in the WHL
In Vollrath’s final year in junior hockey, he put up his best numbers. In the 2015-16 season, the 20-year-old goalie posted a 2.40 GAA and .912 SVP in 53 games played.
“I worked with a sports psychologist John Stevenson since I was about 10 years old. John works out of Sherwood Park, AB and has worked with a couple of big names in Braden Holtby and Carter Hart. John was invaluable to me throughout my whole career. He helped me to focus and not put too much pressure on myself. This is my last season that junior hockey and I just want to really take it all in, be in the moment and be present. I think that mindset really helped me throughout the whole year just to stay grounded and just be calm and relaxed. I think that that really translated into success in my game throughout the whole year.”
The season came to end, however, in a painful Game 7 exit to the Kelowna Rockets. While surely hard to take at the time, Vollrath has moved on from any lingering aftereffects.
“After that game, I probably didn’t sleep for two days. However, even though we lost in that Game 7, with the tying goal coming with 0.2 seconds left, that’s now one of the greatest memories that I have from my time in Victoria.”
“Although it’s probably going to sound weird to hear a good memory is of loss, the fan support was incredible. The atmosphere in that rink was like nothing like that I had ever experienced before. All the guys were laying their bodies on the line, competing and sacrificing. It was one of the best memories that we went to battle together.”
Passing the torch
Upon completing his junior hockey career, Vollrath made way for another goalie to be successful in Griffen Outhouse. The two goalies bonded during their year together. “I always look back on Griffen and my relationship and have nothing but positive memories. He’s one of the hardest working goalies that I’ve had the pleasure of being a goalie partner with. He’s very professional in the way he prepares. If there’s one thing that I hope that he got from me is what it takes to prepare every day to give your team your best. So whether it’s your sleep habits, nutrition or off-ice with warm-ups and cooldowns, I took a lot of pride in those aspects of my game. I think that Griffin absorbed a lot of that for me as well.”
The two teammates were also connected by faith. “We’re also both Christian, so we connected quite a bit through that as well. On the road, we read the Bible together in our hotel room, a kind of church on our own on the road, which is pretty sweet.”
In the years since, Outhouse has completed his junior career as well, during which he broke franchise records that Vollrath held previously. “What a career he had for himself. If there was a guy that I would want to break my records, it would definitely be Griffin. He is deserving of it.”
University and studies
After the WHL, the next step for Vollrath was to attend the University of Calgary on a WHL Scholarship. As a recipient of the scholarship, he was able to further his education while playing elite hockey at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level.
“I committed to UofC after finishing Victoria, it was home and I wanted to play for the Dinos. We ended up having three really good goalies competing for ice time. I lost my first two games that I played and then after that, I didn’t have much opportunity to play. It was a little disheartening, but I did my best to just stay mentally tough throughout the year and keep working on my game.
“At the end of the year, I looked back on it and realized how much I enjoyed school. So I chose not to return to the Dinos for the 2017-18 year to have more time to focus on my schoolwork. It’s definitely difficult being a student-athlete with time management. I took a full course load right off the bat as well. I decided to step away and have more time to focus on my studies and not be too tired all the time.”
“I’m taking a degree in geography and earth science while studying a minor in Spanish. I can speak almost fluent Spanish, which is awesome.”
“My mom’s been a teacher Calgary for 25 years and I naturally have had a passion to learn myself. So either with goaltending or school, I’ve always liked learning a wide variety of things. And that translates into my wanting to teach. I’ve had so many influential people that have helped me with my life and my hockey career. People such as John Stevenson, Derek Purfield, and then Brady Robinson and Lynden Sammartino really helped me out over the years to develop my game and develop as a person. I have a passion to extend that help to kids and other athletes. So after my undergraduate degree, I’m planning to take the education program at UofC to become a teacher.”
Coaching and working with youth
Part of Vollrath’s desire to teach now involves him working Top Prospects Goaltending, a program operating out of Calgary. “The owner of Top Prospects Goaltending is Brad Kirkwood, who is the goalie coach of the Team Canada National Women’s team. Brad was my goalie coach at UofC in my first year and I still have a good relationship with him. Throughout the winter, every Monday morning myself and three other coaches were on the ice with 12 goalies. I really like working with the higher-level goalies and I’m not too far removed from playing at that level myself. It’s awesome to be able to mentor those guys and kind of give them the tools they need to reach the next level.”
“During the season I also worked at Summit Hockey Academy, which is connected with West Island College school in Calgary. So it was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed working with athletes. I just want to give them everything that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given by other people throughout my career.”
Taking the plunge
Outside of hockey and school, Vollrath has another big even upcoming this summer. Coleman is set to marry his fiancé Kelsey this summer in Calgary. “We have actually been together since grade 11. We met in high school and have been going together ever since. Kelsey actually came over to Victoria and did her undergraduate degree in the same field of geography and earth science at the University of Victoria. After I aged out in Victoria, she took the education program at University of Calgary and is now teaching grade 5 and grade 6 in Okotoks, AB just a little bit of south of Calgary.”
“We decided that we should probably get things rolling to get married since we’ve been together for eight years. We’ve been working on planning and everything’s in order. We’re getting married in August, with about 100 people at our wedding. I have some former Royals teammates that I played with coming, and Scott Walford, Logan Fisher, and Keegan Kanzig are my groomsmen. I’m excited to see some faces again, some that I haven’t seen in a couple of years.”
Passion for sustainability
Another passion for Vollrath besides hockey and teaching is the issue of climate change and environmental sustainability. “I was really fortunate this school year to take a 500-level class in the geography and earth science program with Shawn Marshall. He is a climate scientist and glaciologist who teaches at the University of Calgary, while also serving as the chair on Environment and Climate Change Canada. That course showed me some amazing things.”
“My reason for being passionate about climate change is that I have a passion for being outside. I just enjoy my life more when I’m outside, I feel more grounded. For future generations, I want them to be able to experience the environment that we do. I don’t want to see a world where we are four to five degrees warmer in some areas and the ice is melting in the Arctic. I think that as humans, we can do a lot more to mitigate those changes, find more renewable energy sources and more sustainable ways to live. I don’t want to see other species or the environment suffer because of the way that choose to live.”
A final look back and advice to young players
Now at the age of 24, attending university and about to be married, Vollrath was asked what advice he would give to his 16-year-old self in retrospect.
“I like to use an analogy from a book John Stevenson recommended to me called “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack. In it, it describes how diamonds are formed under pressure. It gives us a sports analogy that an athlete can perform 15% better or 15% worse under pressure. I think that at times I would often have very high expectations of myself and had perfectionist tendencies. I would say to be more patient, be calm and relaxed. To trust in my ability that things are going to work out and enjoying the moment a little more, as opposed to putting extra pressure on myself. I think that if I had done that from the start, I might have found a little bit more success right off the bat.”
Reflections on Victoria
“I was very fortunate to have spent all four years of my career in Victoria. I couldn’t have asked for any better support from the fans, my billet family or my teammates.”
“One thing that made a huge difference was Dave Lowry coming in when I was 17. I had a relationship with him with for a couple of years before he took over the reins of head coach. He was a big part of my junior success as well.”