John Nelson named OHA Coach of the Year and Cory Birk named OHA Trainer of the Year
Cambridge, ON – This week the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) is announcing the
recipients of the 2017-18 OHA Awards and today we are proud to announce the 2017-18
OHA Development Awards. The OHA Coach of the Year is John Nelson, Head Coach of
the GOJHL LaSalle Vipers; and the OHA Trainer of the Year is Cory Birk, Trainer
of the GOJHL Listowel Cyclones.
OHA COACH OF THE YEAR – John Nelson, LaSalle Vipers
John Nelson (Windsor, Ontario) re-joined the GOJHL's LaSalle Vipers as Head Coach
in July 2017, after previously coaching the Vipers from 2008 to 2011. With Nelson
at the helm, LaSalle won the OHA Sutherland Cup in 2010, his second year with the
This past season, Nelson coached the Vipers to a third place finish in the GOJHL
Western Conference with a record of 32 wins, 16 losses, 1 tie and 1 overtime loss.
To have this kind of season despite only seven returnees from 2016-17 and losing
their top three scorers, and five of their top seven, speaks volumes on the impact
Nelson had with the Vipers in 2017-18. LaSalle was one of the youngest teams in
the GOJHL last year and after some growing pains early they finished the regular
season strong before bowing out to the Chatham Maroons in the playoffs.
With a player-first mentality and open door policy dealing with both players and
staff, Nelson and his staff emphasize team priorities of: Family first; school second;
hockey third. Their goal as a coaching staff is to make the players' time at the
rink positive, safe and fun. When that happens, they believe each player will be
motivated to give their "all in" effort to make their team successful.
Nelson was an Assistant Coach with the U SPORTS Windsor Lancers from 2012 to 2017
where the Lancers were Queen's Cup Champions (OUA) in 2014 and finished first in
the OUA Regular Season in 2015. The Lancers made back-to-back appearances in the
National Championship in 2014 & 2015. Nelson was an assistant to Lancers' Head Coach
Kevin Hamlin, who also coached in the OHA with the Leamington Flyers from 1997 to
2001. Hamlin speaks highly of Nelson and his positive influence on his players,
saying "He has a strong technical skill set but also has the ability to create a
fun environment for the players he works with." Hamlin added, "As a former player
he speaks in a language that is easy for players to understand and relate to."
As a player, John Nelson was drafted in 1989 in the 10th round of the NHL Entry
Draft by the Buffalo Sabres while playing for the Toronto Marlboros in the OHL.
In 1991 he won an Allan Cup with the Charlottetown Islanders and played for the
University of Prince Edward Island from 1991 to 1996 while obtaining a B.A. in Sociology.
From 1996 to 2000 Nelson played professional hockey with stops in the American Hockey
League, United Hockey League and Colonial Hockey League.
Along with his coaching duties with the Vipers, Nelson is Owner/Operator of Proven
Performance Hockey Academy and is licensed by Hockey Canada as the Hockey Skills
Director at the FJ Brennan Hockey Academy in Windsor. When it comes to coaching
hockey, Nelson is definitely "all in".
OHA TRAINER OF THE YEAR – Cork Birk, Listowel Cyclones
Cory Birk (Listowel, Ontario) has been with the GOJHL's Listowel Cyclones for nine
seasons and is the Cyclones' Athletic Therapist and Trainer. Birk is a Registered
Physiotherapist at New Horizons Rehabilitation Services in Listowel where he has
worked since 2007. He has also served as a Therapist at the Hockey Canada Men's
Under 17 Summer Development Camp in 2015; Athletic Therapist at the 2015 Canada
Winter Games for Team Ontario's Men's Under 16 Hockey Team and Team Ontario's Women's
Under 18 Hockey Team; and is Athletic Therapist for Norwell District Secondary School,
providing medical coverage for varsity rugby and soccer.
Birk graduated from York University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science with Honours,
Kinesiology & Health Science and a Certificate in Athletic Therapy. In 2007 he received
a Master's of Science, Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. He also
has certifications from the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association as a Certified
Athletic Therapist; the Ontario College of Physiotherapists as a Registered Physiotherapist;
the Certified Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute; and is certified as a
Sports First Responder.
Cory Birk is a very well respected member of the Listowel Cyclones' staff. He is
described as a gracious, humble, capable, hard -working professional who is universally
respected and sought out in his community as a health care provider, and trainer.
In fact, Physician parents of players routinely comment that simply by being present,
Cory assures everyone that on his watch, "the boys" will be safe.
Caleb Warren, Co-Captain of the 2018 Listowel Cyclones praised the tireless work
of Birk, saying "he is always first to the rink and last to leave. He does not miss
a practice. He doesn't miss a game, he doesn't miss an injury. This recent post-season,
he spent countless hours reviewing all the video from the year and clipping the
highlights, only to combine it into a movie that he would show to us before playoffs.
Cory makes playing in Listowel a gift." Warren added that, "the success and growth
of this hockey program would not be where it is without his undeniable commitment."
In the past two years the Cyclones have won two Cherrey Cups as GOJHL Midwestern
Conference Champions and the 2018 OHA Sutherland Cup and Cory Birk has played a
key role in those Championships, keeping the boys safe along the way.
The remaining 2017-18 OHA Awards winners will be announced this week and recipients
will formally receive their Awards at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Friday,
June 1, 2018.
Monday: Officials Awards
Tuesday: Top Prospects
Wednesday: Trainer & Coach of the Year Awards
Thursday: Players of the Year Awards (Sr. AAA, Jr. A, Jr. B, Jr. C)
Friday: BJ Monro and Donald Sanderson Awards
About the OHA
The Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) was founded on November 27, 1890 and is the
governing body for the majority of Junior and Senior Hockey in the Province of Ontario.
The OHA is a Member Partner of the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), one of thirteen
Provincial and Regional Branches of Hockey Canada. The OHA consists of three Junior
Hockey leagues, Junior A - Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL); Junior B - Greater
Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL); Junior C - Provincial Junior Hockey League
(PJHL); and one Senior Hockey league, Senior AAA - Allan Cup Hockey (ACH). For more
information about the OHA, please visit: www.ohahockey.ca.