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CONDORS: Woodcroft still building in Bakersfield

"I take a lot of pride in talking to as many learned people as I can - whether they're in the profession or not - to try and find new ways to be the best that I can be," Bakersfield Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said

by Paul Gazzola /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - In just one full season in California, Bakersfield Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft has much to be proud of.

As a head professor at Condors Hockey Academy, Woodcroft's witnessed a handful of his players perform the tossing of the cap in their graduation from American League hockey to the National League.

Video: CONDORS | 1-on-1 Jay Woodcroft

The success stories are abundant: Ethan Bear and Kailer Yamamoto have embedded themselves among the Oilers top forward and defensive units after years of development in the AHL; Patrick Russell has become a depth forward in a checking and penalty-killing role; while defenders William Lagesson and Caleb Jones have been viable reinforcements when the squad's experienced bumps and bruises.

The Bakersfield alumni lacing up for the Oilers are proving that Woodcroft's syllabus for professional advancement works and it may not be long until more Condors flock over to the big club after undergoing a few more semesters in Condorstown.

"As a coaching staff, we're like proud parents when you see these players matriculate up through the system. They've put good time in for our American League team," Woodcroft, speaking with, said.

"We worked hard on building an environment where not only do individuals develop but they're doing so in a winning environment. For the organization to see that kind of push from underneath and for those players to help contribute to a team that is also fighting for a playoff position on a really good team in the NHL, we're like proud parents in the coaching staff down here."

That 'proud parent' feeling hasn't been lost on Woodcroft in Year 2 with the 'Dors. 

After navigating a highly entertaining 2018-19 season that saw Bakersfield connect 17 consecutive wins, capture their first playoff berth in franchise history and post-season series win, Woodcroft's focus in Year 2 is to continue building and to continue evolving - himself and his players.

Video: ARI@EDM: Yamamoto credited with goal down low

"I take a lot of pride in talking to as many learned people as I can - whether they're in the profession or not - to try and find new ways to be the best that I can be," Woodcroft, 43, said.

"Leadership starts with yourself. If you live it and bring it every day, I think your staff and your players, they feel it. That's what we're trying to do here - to push these guys to be their best and as a coaching staff, we're trying to push ourselves to be our best as well."

While the overriding principle has remained the same, Woodcroft did detail the differences he's noticed in Year 2 as head coach.

"What's different heading into Year 2 and now, halfway through Year 2, is that you have that experience of proving that you can be the man in charge," Woodcroft said.

"Proving that you accept and flourish under the responsibilities of having the last call. I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I was provided by the Edmonton Oilers to take over this job. The responsibility of it is not lost on me. It's a privilege. I'm proud to be the head coach of the Bakersfield Condors."

With the personal intuition to continue growing and excelling as a coach and mentor, the all-encompassing goal for Woodcroft and his Condors remains unchanged season by season.

"We're not here to just win championships and we're not just here to develop players; we're here to try and do both,'" Woodcroft said.

"It's not just one thing or the other. They're not mutually exclusive. We believe you can compete and be a good organization while at the same time, developing players for the big club."

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