Jun 19

Stick Tap to the Hockey Dad

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Here is a piece i wrote for the beauties over at Gongshow – Lifestyle Hockey Apparel to celebrate all the great hockey dads out there.

 

There he is, “The Hockey Dad.”  He’s loyal, strong, and sure he’s a little bit grumpy (You would be too if you had to stand in a freezing cold rink at 6 a.m.), but he’s got a heart of gold.  He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but he doesn’t care.  Nobody pats him on the back for selling 50/50 tickets or working bingos to help prevent the family from remortgaging the house on the back of astronomical registration and equipment costs.  There’s no thank you for swapping in the red Camaro for a Ford Windstar with dual airbags, child safety locks and a “Hockey is Life” bumper sticker.  No, being a hockey dad isn’t a glamourous or easy job, but that’s what makes him such a beauty.

Being a hockey dad is like being part of a fraternity.  Once you pass the initiation phase of substantial financial sacrifice, accelerated development of the “Dad Bod” due to bowel destroying rink food, and the deterioration of your lower back and hands from carrying bags and tying skates, you’re part of the family.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “The Hockey Dad” or you’re simply in denial, here are a few tell-tale signs that you are one (a la Jeff Foxworthy):

 

  1. If you’ve ever used cotton batten to fix a shin pad, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever used a skate blade as a knife, you might be a Hockey Dad.

 

  1. If your winter diet consists of stale coffee and rink fries, you might be a Hockey Dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever fixed broken windows or dented siding due to errant wrist shots, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever been asked to leave a Canadian Tire for “causing a scene” over the price of hockey sticks, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you know how to make a hockey net out of PVC plumbing, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you shed a tear the day your kid was finally allowed to watch Slap Shot, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you brag about being good at “Chuck-a-Puck”, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you own multiple jackets with your name on the sleeve, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever performed an e-brake U-turn to go back for a forgotten elbow pad, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever substituted NHL player names for swear words so you can express your true feelings around 9 year-olds (ie. “Jeff Chychryn, it’s cold in this Matt Frattin rink!”), you just might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve been to physiotherapy because of a hockey bag related injury, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you can scrape your entire car off while holding a Tim Horton’s coffee and not spill a drop, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever taped a stick while steering with your knees, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve nearly gotten in a fist fight over a debate about which rink has the best hot dogs, you might be a hockey dad.

 

  1. If you’ve ever faked being terrible at tying skates just so you don’t get stuck being the guy who ties half the team’s skates before every practice and game, you might be a Hockey Dad.

 

So for all you hockey dads out there, here’s a slow clap.  Thank you for tying our skates, taping our sticks and buckling up our chin straps.  Thank you for the 6 a.m. practices, the weeknight travel games and the last minute skate sharpenings.  Thank you for post-game treats, $200 sticks and for shovelling the snow off the outdoor rink.  Thank you for new equipment, old hockey cards, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em videos.  Thank you for helping us with our backhands, for “5 more minutes”, and for tickets to the Friday night game.  And, above all else, thank you for being a shoulder to cry on after getting cut from the team, the positive pep talks after bad games, and the warm smiles from the corner of the stands.

Thank you… for being a Hockey Dad.

 

Check out Gongshow’s new summer line, including the new Saucer King Game Set – perfect for the beach, the cottage, or a barbecue in the backyard.

 

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Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Apr 05

The Dreaded Green Jacket

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Every team has a post-game ritual or ceremony when it comes to singling out members of the team. When I was at Clarkson, we had a yellow hardhat that one of our teammates, Chris Brekelmans, whose family owned an excavation company, supplied and was given to the game’s hardest worker. I’ve been on teams where we had a beaten-up old lunch pail that was handed out to the player of the game as selected by the previous player of the game. No matter what it might be, the ritual of a prop that is passed around each game to a deserving recipient is a pretty common practice and helps to promote excellence and camaraderie.

When I played in Augusta, there was a truly creative and unique post-game ritual that had been passed down, year to year. After each game, the players would congregate in a large room, which was a spruced-up loading dock at the end of the arena, playfully called the “Lynx Den.” The Lynx Den was a place where fans could mingle with the players and share stories, food and drink, and get pictures and autographs. It was basically like an indoor post-game tailgate. Usually there was a microphone and the coach and/or some of the players might give some post-game speeches. This was also the place where jersey auctions would take place after specialty nights.

The post-game ritual for the Augusta Lynx each game was that the player who currently had the worst plus/minus on the team would have to wear a green jacket while spending time mingling with fans in the Lynx Den. Everyone knew the significance of the jacket, it was supposed to create a bit of playful embarrassment for the player so he would compete harder to raise his plus/minus. The jacket was old and dusty and would always be returned to a hanger in the corner of the dressing room after each booster club meeting.

Donning the green jacket was ironic because in Augusta, where the Masters is held each spring, the green jacket represents something magical and majestic. Winning the Masters and getting to sport the green jacket is the most difficult feat in professional golf, making Augusta one of the most significant cities in the entire world when it comes to a single golfing event. To win a green jacket as a golfer is to say that your name will be immortalized. For golfers around the world, the chance to put on the green jacket was a chance to become a legend.

For us, the green jacket was repugnant. We didn’t want that thing anywhere near us. In golf it is the objective to have a minus in front of your numbered score. It’s a sport in which a minus represents a positive. In hockey, it is the complete opposite. So we decided that playing in the city that brought greatness to the green jacket, we’d turn the tradition on its head and apply it to our sport. Thus began the legend of “The Dreaded Green Jacket” in Augusta.

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Feb 25

Win at All Costs or Live to Fight Another Day?

 

The NHL Trade Deadline always brings out some colourful discussions amongst hockey fans.  Which team stole the show?  Who put themselves over the top?  Who dropped the ball?  These are questions that swirl around like the cold, gusty winter winds.

Even though teams have 10 months out of every year to trade players and shape their winning team, the allure of the last minute push for excellence never loses its lustre.  It’s like the closing bell on Wall Street, with buyers and sellers frantically trying to maximize their worth.  As hot-blooded humans, we’re drawn to it, proven by the amount of buzz on Twitter feeds, sports radio shows, and of course, TSN’s NHL Trade Deadline show.  And, like an unsteady hand with the clock ticking down in a game of Operation, NHL GMs often scramble at the deadline to add the missing piece that will put their team over the top, quite often sacrificing future promise for present glory—the price for “going all in.”

Over the years, there have been the gold star deals where the “missing piece” swooped in and helped lead the charge to Stanley Cup glory.  For every story of deadline genius, there is one that makes you cringe.

 

The Good:

 

Ray Bourque’s Legacy:

 

At the 2000 deadline, the Boston Bruins granted long-time loyal Bruin, Raymond Bourque his wish, shipping him and Dave Andreychuk to Colorado in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first-round draft choice (Martin Samuelsson). The Avalanche won the Cup, providing the perfect cherry on the top of a sparkling career for Bourque.

 

Gabby’s Redemption:

 

Marian Gaborik had begun to bounce around a bit as a rent-a-sniper, never seeming to put a team over the top in any of his stops.  At the 2014 deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped the streaky Slovak to the L.A. Kings for Matt Frattin and a couple of picks (a second- and third-rounder).  The Kings went on to win the Cup in 2014 with Gaborik as a key contributor.

 

Goring’s Glory:

 

At the 1980 deadline, the Los Angeles Kings dealt four-time 30-goal scorer Robert “Butch” Goring to the New York Islanders for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Goring went on to win four Stanley Cups as a key member of the Isles’ dynasty.

 

 

The Regrettable:

 

Crumbling Leafs:

 

In the years following the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last meaningful playoff push—falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in round two of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs—the team fell into an uncontrollable nose dive.  Under GM John Ferguson, the Leafs adopted a “win now, at all costs” mentality, sacrificing draft picks and prospects for long past-due, aging former stars.  Two particular trades sum up the Leafs decade-long black cloud:

 

2003: Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes, and a first-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Owen Nolan

 

2004: Jarkko Immonen, Maxim Kondratiev, and a first and second round pick to the New York Rangers for Brian Leetch

 

The Leafs suffered early exits in both 2003 and 2004 and neither Leetch or Nolan were with the team past the 2004-05 season.  The Leafs would go on to miss seven consecutive post-seasons.

 

The real question that sits at the heart of the NHL Trade Deadline is: “What is more important: winning a championship now, at all costs, or being sustainably successful year-in and year-out?”  Some will argue that the goal of every franchise is to win a Stanley Cup.  Therefore, GMs need to do whatever they can each year to accomplish this goal.  There is some clear sense in this, but, here is another question: what brings more value to a franchise: winning a Stanley Cup, followed up by 9 years of missed postseasons, or, 10 straight years of playoff contention with no championship?

To put this into perspective, scenario No. 1 is very similar to what the Carolina Hurricanes experienced after stocking up at the 2006 trade deadline and winning the Stanley Cup that year.  At the 2006 deadline, the Hurricanes made two significant deals:

 

TO CAROLINA                                    TO PITTSBURGH

Mark Recchi                                       NIklas Nordgren, Krys Kolanos, 2nd Round Pick

 

TO CAROLINA                                    TO ST. LOUIS

Doug Weight                                      Errki Ramajaki, Jesse Boulerice, Mike Zigomanis,  Magnus Kahnberg, 1st Round Pick, 4th Round Pick, 4th Round Pick

 

Neither Weight nor Recchi returned the next season, and while most of the prospects or picks never amounted to impact players, it certainly was a major risk to move out 10 potential pieces of the future for the two aging stars.

In 9 seasons since the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, they have made the playoffs just once, amounting in a quick first round exit in 2009.  While they are currently fighting to land the 8th and final playoff spot heading into the stretch run of the 2015-16 season, they have battled through prolonged dwindling fan support and constant threats of relocation.

To apply example to scenario No. 2, a model of sustainable contention, look no further than the Detroit Red Wings, owners of an amazing streak of 24 consecutive post-season appearances (Poised to make it 25).  While the Wings have won a Cup in the last ten years (2008), they consistently resist the urge to sacrifice future sustainability for immediate glory.  Their well-known model of development, slowly harvesting their prospects in the minor leagues before thrusting them into full-time NHL duty, is just one of many pieces to the Winged-Wheel cultural identity.

The “Red Wing Way” of developing and retaining talent and conducting business has slowly bled its way throughout the league.  Red Wing disciples, such as Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan have graduated from the program, expanding their horizons into prominent roles outside of the organization.  Yzerman rebuilt a lost franchise in Tampa Bay, Babcock has infused a new culture into Maple Leaf Nation, and McLellan became a hot commodity on the head coaching market, experiencing sustained success in San Jose before landing a lucrative deal with the youthful Edmonton Oilers.

At the end of the day, there is no question that winning matters in professional sports simply because it correlates to profits.   The bigger question is whether going for it all and winning big is worth the risk of subsequent years of mediocrity.  Everyone loves a winner and everyone remembers today’s heroes.  But it’s important to remember that professional sports are a “what have you done for me lately” business and past glory is easily forgotten.

 

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Jan 10

How Playing Other Sports Makes You a Better Hockey Player

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There is an ongoing debate about the benefits of playing multiple sports as a youth athlete versus focusing all your efforts into one sport.  Advocates of the single-sport specialized approach tend to toss out theories such as Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.”  In Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, he presents a theory stating that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to attain mastery in a field.  On the other side of the coin, multi-sport enthusiasts can point to the research of “The Sports Gene” author, David Epstein, who noticed a pattern amongst elite athletes that points to the theory that sampling multiple sports before the age of 12 led to a higher success rate in their eventual chosen sport.  Through his research, Epstein discovered that higher rates of athletes who peaked at sub-elite levels tended to specialize in their chosen sport from a young age, leading to more instances of athletes hitting a plateau.

There are compelling statistics and arguments that support both theories.  Having read much of the data out there, I’ve come to a personal conclusion that both of these theories are correct, to an extent.  I agree with Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule and I also agree with Epstein that sampling multiple sports is essential to achieving elite levels.  I believe there is a connection between the two theories in that most sports in general have several physical and cognitive similarities and requirements.  In other words, there are multiple connections between sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball and football, and when an athlete takes a break from one sport to play another sport they are still contributing to their 10,000 hours of practice.

Growing up, I always had a very strong overall desire to play hockey.  Although I absolutely loved hockey, my level of desire went through peaks and valleys.  The one thing that always brought me back to the summit was getting away from the rink to do something else.  As a young hockey player, I had opportunities to play hockey almost all year round.  I usually did partake in the spring hockey programs, but once the hot summer months rolled around, I swapped my skates for soccer cleats.  Taking a two month absence from hockey helped me to recharge my batteries and get a much needed break.  It wasn’t so much of a physical break as it was a mental break.  And while I wasn’t playing hockey, I always felt that my hockey skills continued to grow.  The reason for this, I believe, is that soccer requires transferable physical and mental skills that were consistent with what is needed by hockey players.  As a center midfielder, I was constantly working on my conditioning and footwork, building my communication skills, and spatial awareness.  I always felt that there were so many similarities between soccer and hockey, just like I feel that there are comparable similarities between hockey and football, and hockey and basketball.

As a hockey development specialist, I am a big advocate of kids playing multiple sports (a la David Epstein) and I’m always looking for the connections between the physical movements, strategies and cognitive requirements to help hockey players develop as athletes as they take beneficial breaks from the rink to participate in other sports.

Here are a few examples of the connections between other sports and hockey and the benefits to developing versatile, athletic hockey players:

 

Basketball and Hockey

 

One of the first things that jump out at me with basketball players and how it benefits hockey players is ball protection.  The way basketball players use their footwork, legs and hips to protect the ball is precisely what hockey players are taught when they learn how to protect the puck from defenders.  On the other side of the ball, the way basketball players use effective footwork and controlled body contact to defend by containing attacking players is extremely similar to how hockey players battle in the corners and along the wall for puck possession.

 

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Hockey-Stick-handling-Protecting-the-Puck

 

Another similarity is in how basketball defenders in the post “box out” attacking players and vice versa.  In hockey this is a valuable, transferable skill to learn when establishing body position in front of the net as a defender or a forward to either clear out or score on a rebound.

 

When devising strategies for your power play, you can learn a lot about effective ways to attack by watching how basketball teams run their offensive strategies.  For example, Tex Winter’s “Triangle Offense” is quite similar in its purpose to hockey’s “Box and One.”  The “and one” in hockey works to create coverage confusion, forming multiple triangles with the corners of the box and creating out-manned situations.

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Rink Diagram

 

 

Soccer and Hockey

 

One of the biggest similarities between hockey and soccer, in terms of physical and cognitive skills, has to do with spatial awareness and attacking strategies.  Wayne Gretzky once said that hockey is all about “creating two-on-one situations.”  You’re always trying to find ways to create out-manned situations to achieve favourable outcomes.  In soccer, it is the same.  Since the pitch is so large, you need to get creative and find ways to create two-on-one situations when attacking.

 

Another similarity in regards to skill transfer is when you examine passing in both sports.  In both hockey and soccer, there is a lot of movement.  In order to attack with flow, you need to be able to read where players are going to be and pass the puck or ball in that area.  Hockey and soccer players both use spatial awareness to make “area passes” or “through balls.”

 

As with basketball, where there are a lot of principle similarities with ball and puck protection, the same can be said about soccer and protecting the ball and defending against an attacker who has established effective positioning and ball protection.  While attackers in both soccer and hockey can use deception and agility to beat defenders, the defenders need to stay low and use effective footwork, body positioning and arm and hand work to prevent attackers from beating them.

how-to-defend-in-soccer

 

 

Football and Hockey

 

I often classify defensemen, while breaking out or transitioning with the puck, as having to think and act like quarterbacks.  When a defenseman begins a controlled breakout, he or she has to quickly assess passing options, the way the other team is fore-checking and make a split second, informed decision on what to do with the puck.  It’s no different than a quarterback going through his passing progressions.

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I also see a lot of similarities between cornerbacks/safeties and defensemen in the way that they have to read the attack and maintain tight gap control on receivers or forwards.  The principles are the same: match speeds and keep tight gaps while dissuading the quarterback or player with the puck from making a pass to the player you’re covering, all the while being ready to step up and intercept a pass if need be.

 

 

Baseball and Hockey

 

You may look at baseball and hockey and think that there aren’t a whole lot of transferable skills, but if you look hard, you will see a lot of similarities, especially with technique and movements.  For one, the idea of weight transfer for batters and pitchers, driving off their back foot and bringing their hips through toward target is very similar to the technique required to shoot a puck.  Also, when infielders turn a double play, they need to use effective footwork to rotate their hips and shoulders to square up the throw to second or short, similar to how hockey players move the puck quickly around the perimeter of a power play setup.  In both sports, the respective athletes rely on explosive movements and quick, informed decisions like getting a jump on a fly ball or breaking to open ice for a stretch pass.

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Steven-Stamkos-Shot

 

While I’ve focused on a few of the many similarities between the major sports and hockey, there are several other sports or activities that share transferable skills with hockey.  And while I’ve chosen to focus on hockey and its connection with other sports, I feel that all sports, when broken down and examined closely, bare similar respective links.

Based on these observations, I think we can combine the theories of Gladwell and Epstein to state that practice does make perfect, but variety and versatility prevents burnout and developmental plateau.  By sampling multiple sports and striving to become the best athlete that you can be you will increase your chances of becoming an elite level athlete.  USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) Regional Manager, Bob Mancini, said it best: “At the youngest ages, we shouldn’t try to develop hockey players.  We should develop athletes who love hockey.”

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Dec 26

‘Twas the Day After Christmas: Ode to the WJCs

 

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and on TSN

The World Juniors were starting, it was that time again;

Along the bluelines, players stood with passion in their eyes,

Hoping that within ten days, they’d be hoisting the prize;

The pundits have bantered for weeks upon days,

If we will see in young Matthews, what we saw in Crosby and Toews;

And McKenzie, with his astute glasses and thick Windsor knot,

Will remind us that pool A is strong and it’s anybody’s pot;

Dreger will chime in that it’s Canada’s tournament to lose,

And if you think any different, you’ve had too much booze;

Russia looks good, so do the Swedes and the Fins,

There’s so much at stake and it’s all about wins;

The Czechs are strong, as are the Slovaks and Swiss,

And with the Canucks and Yanks, you really can’t miss;

Come Boxing Day all the teams will dig in,

It’s the best time of the year.  Let the battle begin;

With their flag on their chest and pride in their heart,

Bitter mid-season rivals unite to play a part;

Scorers become grinders, egos are checked at the door,

Everyone buys in, because winning means more;

Some of hockey’s most vivid memories happened at the WJCs,

Jason Botterill’s three golds and the punchup in ol’ Piestany;

It’s where legends are born and heros are crowned,

Where careers take their turns and diamonds are found;

It’s not the Olympics, they’re young and have dreams,

There are no big contracts, or brow-furrowed NHL teams;

There’s something more to prove on this world stage,

It’s the culmination of dreams, the start of a new page;

There’s no fear of injury, fatigue or stress,

These kids live for this, a chance to impress;

From the horns and the cowbells, to the face paint and flags,

The last team standing will be the one with third-period legs;

It’s the will of a country that puts gold around necks,

Pride in the faceoff circle and finishing checks;

From Gretzky to Lindros, Crosby to Doughty,

From the first puck drop, it’s going to get rowdy;

So on Boxing Day, grab a hot coffee and turn on the TV,

And settle in for what we wait eagerly all year to see;

Lean into the shots, the hits, and the saves,

Because it’s the road to glory, that enthusiasm paves;

When the final horn sounds and gloves fill the air,

You can feel a part of the elation or despair;

It is for your country’s pride that these young kids make their stand,

Their passion unites us from coast to coast, across the land.

Whether they win or they lose, we all stand to gain,

Because at the end of the day, it’s still Canada’s game.

The chanting sea of red and white is the greatest sight,

Happy World Juniors to all, and to all a good night!

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Nov 25

Message to the Minor Hockey Grocery Stick

Grocery Stick

Hey you.  Yep, you, the one who is probably going to play about three shifts today and spend the rest of the game freezing your butt off in the middle of the bench.  Hockey’s not that much fun right now, is it?  Well, I know exactly how you feel.  For three solid years, between the ages of 12 and 14, I spent most of my time as a competitive youth hockey player watching my teammates play while counting the lights hanging in the rink.  During that span one coach told my dad to quit wasting his money and get me out of hockey because I was never going to do anything with it.  I also spent a lot of time doubting myself and building an inferiority complex that would plague me the rest of my career.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I guess the reason is that I wish I could go back and do it all over again, knowing then what I know now.  The first thing you need to do, right when you start feeling down, knowing that you’re going to be driving three hours on a bus to play three shifts, is to ask yourself the most important question there is: “Do you love playing hockey?  I mean really, really love it?”  If the answer is unequivocally, “yes”, then I would tell you to move forward and focus on these invaluable guiding points about persevering in youth athletics

 

1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint

 

It’s something that I’ve mentioned in a couple of my other posts, but I can’t stress it enough to kids and parents involved in youth sports.  Don’t become consumed by the imaginary clock.  The clock probably took about 5 years off of my life from stress alone.  There are so many different ways to reach your goals.  Don’t read Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux’s autobiographies and expect that a career is supposed to progress in the way that theirs did.  More often than not, the path to success looks like a plate of spaghetti.  The kids that are superstars at 10 or 11 years-old might not be superstars at 14, 15 or 16, and the superstars at 14, 15 and 16 might not be stars at 19, 20 or 21.  In fact, in my experience, most of them weren’t.  Relax and try to find ways to enjoy the ride.

 

2)  Build confidence with small victories

 

Whether you’re playing as much as half the game or as little as three shifts, try to help prevent your confidence from going in the toilet by focusing on small victories.  Small victories for a player who is rotting on the bench might occur in practice or on the outdoor rink.  Use short-term goal-setting to help you accomplish small victories.  If you’re about to perform a shooting drill in practice, try and score on 50% of your shots.  If you accomplish your goal, take time to enjoy that small victory.

 

3)  Practice is where true development occurs

 

Building off of the last point, understand that practice is where you improve the most.  It’s where you get the most puck touches, the most time on the ice and where basically all of your skill development takes place.  Practice is where you can try new things and expand your skill set, and where you should be able to development without fear of failure.  Anyone who says you develop more in a game than practice hasn’t really thought it through.  So, since there are no bench warmers in practice, take full advantage of this valuable time to grow your desire, confidence and skill set.

 

4)  Be proactive with your coach

 

Most of the toxicity that exists in youth sports begins with adult interactions.  More specifically, animosity between parents and coaches is what tends to sour the experience of youth sports.  It makes sense, really.  If a coach decides they want to play their best players to win games, the parents of the kids who don’t play are going to be rightfully upset.  Often, it’s how this situation is handled between adults that can worsen the situation for the kid, either through escalated stress in their parents or scorn from their coach.

One thing I would have done differently as a youth player, as daunting as this may seem, would have been to be courageous and proactive and talk to my coach one-on-one, tell them how I felt and ask for guidance.  Anyone who has coached can tell you that when a player respectfully engages you about their situation, it puts the onus on you to be a leader and be more accountable in the development of that player.  If anything, it makes you feel a little bit guilty, like you’re letting them down.

Best case scenario, the coach will commit to doing a better job of giving you opportunities and focusing more on developing you as a player.  Worst case scenario, you’ll get some feedback and hopefully some honesty about why they aren’t giving you the ice-time you feel you deserve.  Either way, you’ve respectfully brought your feelings to the surface and let your coach know that you have a strong desire to play more.

 

5)  Don’t worry about status

 

This point goes hand in hand with the point about it being a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s easy to get caught up in the obsession with playing at the highest level of rep hockey.  The AAA kids get the coolest gear and jackets and they dance with all the popular girls/boys at the school dance.  I get it.  Adam Banks was pretty cool in The Mighty Ducks and The Hawks definitely had better uniforms than District 5.

The fact is, though, kids develop at different stages and you’re not always going to get better playing against the best competition.  Sometimes, you need to think about which situation represents a better way to grow as a player, both physically and mentally:  playing three shifts of tense, ultra-safe hockey per game at the highest level or playing quality minutes of confident, worry-free hockey at the level below.

The turning point in my career can when I was cut from AAA, played a season of A hockey and had the biggest growth in development of my career.  I went from three shifts a game of banging pucks off the glass to playing key minutes of confident, shackle-free hockey.  By the time the next season rolled around, I was leaps and bounds ahead of more than half the players on that AAA team I was cut from.

 

6)  Take time to celebrate the good moments

 

Don’t ever forget the main reason anyone plays hockey:  Fun!  Hockey is fun!  Enjoy all the great moments the game has to offer, from great plays on the ice, to funny pranks off the ice.  Savour the anticipation of that first cold day when the outdoor rink opens to the mini-stick games in the hotel hallways during tournaments.  There are so many moments away from the actual game itself that make hockey such a great experience for youth athletes.  When times get tough, focus more on the great moments that keep that fire burning deep inside you.

 

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Nov 20

Being a Healthy Scratch Sucks

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There is nothing more frustrating or humiliating in all of professional sports than being a healthy scratch. Getting healthy-scratched is like having the most important person in your life tell you that you suck, kick you in the balls, and then laugh at you as they walk away. Unfortunately, throughout my career I was all too familiar with this feeling.

The first time I ever got healthy scratched was in college. I was fresh out of junior and extremely green. I thought I knew it all and was stubborn and resistant to changing my game. I heeded bad advice from the wrong know-it-alls growing up who told me all I needed to do was focus on getting points and I was a mile behind the pack when I made the jump to the next level.

In college, we used to find out who was playing each night during or after the morning skate. Usually one of the coaches would pull you aside during the skate and say: “You’re not going tonight, kid. Keep your head up and keep working hard. You might be in tomorrow night.” Sometimes the coaches might wait until after the skate, while you were getting undressed, and call you into their office to deliver the punch to the stomach. On even more painful occasions, the coaches would tell you to take the warmup that night because one of the regulars was hurt and might not be able to go. They would tell you to prepare as if you were playing while they waited to see if Johnny Banged-Up could go. The worst part was that you knew there was about a one percent chance that Johnny wouldn’t be able to go, but you sat around all day with hope in your heart that you’d be in the lineup that night. It made you feel even more insignificant when you saw the injured player dragging a leg around while you sat in the stands, fit as a fiddle. Basically, the coaches were saying that you were so bad that they’d rather have half a player playing in the game than you.

Leading up to the weekend games, there were always tell-tale signs that you weren’t going to be playing in the upcoming game. Let’s play a little game I like to call “You’re Not Going Tonight.” Below are the top five signs leading up to a game to tell you that you won’t be dressing, in no particular order:

 

  1. If you are practicing all week on a two- man line with mismatched jersey colors…You’re not going tonight!

 

  1. If you are a center and you’re practicing on a line with two defensemen as your wingers…You’re not going tonight!

 

  1. If you are a defenceman and the coach pulls you aside at practice to ask you to take a few rips up on the wing because they might want to use you up front this weekend…You’re not going tonight!

 

  1. If you show up for practice and your gear has been moved out of your stall and onto a spare chair in the laundry room, to accommodate a recently acquired player…You’re not going tonight!

 

  1. If you walk into the dressing room and see your name on white board beside the third-string goalie…You’re not going tonight!

 

After it is decided that you are going to be a healthy scratch, the real embarrassment begins. After you find out, there is the call home to your parents to tell them that you won’t be playing, so don’t bother watching the game on the Internet. Then you head home, where your roommates, who are always in the lineup, are going through their relaxed, well-practiced routine of having a pre-game nap. You are still angry and dejected about not playing, so you try to find ways to not disrupt the routines of others while killing the next four hours.

When it is time to head to the rink for the game you won’t be playing in, you prepare yourself for the public humiliation you are about to endure. Firstly, you will spend the next two and a half hours leading up to puck drop working out with the other healthy scratches and staying out of the way of the regulars who are preparing for the game. After that, you might get an assignment from one of the coaches to keep track of neutral-zone turnovers or to keep a special watch on one of your teammates, because he plays the game the right way while you suck.

Once the game starts, you make your way up into the crowd and awkwardly field questions from fans and season ticket holders. You get stuff like: “Jamie? Why aren’t you out there playing tonight?”

In the beginning, I was honest and said: “Well, it’s just a numbers game and I am one of the odd men out tonight.” Or I’d say: “We’ve got eight defensemen for six spots and I just need to work hard and hopefully get a chance to be in tomorrow night.” After one of these responses, the fan would look at you like your parents just died in a fiery crash and rub your back.

Once I became a vet of the healthy-scratch game, I started to take obscure routes up to the press box, walking through rink boiler rooms with hidden ladders and hallways, or I’d just spend the game in the weight room riding the bike and watching the game on TV. I would completely avoid all contact with fans, to spare myself the embarrassment. If we were on the road and I had to sit in the stands, I would walk around with a fake limp or pretend I had one type of injury or another. If a fan intercepted me on the road, asking why I wasn’t playing, I’d say something like: “I tweaked my knee in the game last week and Coach just wants to rest me until it’s completely healed.” This way they think you’re not in because you’re hurt instead of just being really bad at hockey.

Once you get into the rhythm of being a healthy scratch, you get paranoid about every little thing. When you do get a chance to play and you play well, you are still constantly looking over your shoulder. Every part of your day becomes stressful, especially when you have a paycheque or a scholarship on the line.

On the ice, whether it’s a practice or a game, you start to grip the stick a little tighter and overthink every decision. With 28 players (on a typical NCAA roster) battling week in and week out for 20 spots, practices are just as intense and closely scrutinized as games. To put it into perspective, teams even video their practices and analyze certain drills to evaluate players throughout the week.

Below is a week’s worth of notes I kept during my freshman year at Clarkson University. To give some background to the situation, we had just played two games at home against Colorado College. I was scratched on Friday and played on Saturday.

 

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2003

 

I feel like I played pretty well tonight. I played a lot against Brett Sterling’s line and didn’t get scored on. I even got some power-play time in the third period and played a lot down the stretch. My legs felt good, and in the third, I drew a penalty on Mark Stuart, after which he called me a “plug”. Coming from an NHL first- rounder, I took it as a compliment.

 

Sunday, Nov. 27, 2003

 

Spent the day drinking big beers and eating wings at Eben’s Hearth with the boys. Sunday, Funday!

 

Monday, Nov. 28, 2003

 

We had a two-hour bagger today. Even though we took two of four points from a nationally ranked team, Coach put us through a first hour bag-skating circuit, followed by an hour of battle drills. I tried my best not to end up last in any of the bag skating drills and held my own in the battles, for the most part. During one battle, I dominated and completely owned my man. Coach wasn’t watching. The next battle, I got dangled. Coach was watching and I’m pretty sure I saw him shake his head in disgust. I’m totally fucked. I definitely won’t be playing on Friday.

 

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2003

 

Another two-hour practice today with a major emphasis on our new defensive zone coverage, which equals a hidden bagger for us defencemen. They’ve got me paired up with Matt Nickerson today, which is an awesome sign, since he is one of our top defencemen. Or maybe they’re pairing me with him to balance out the strong and the weak. I messed up the defensive-zone rotation a couple of times and got reamed out by one of the coaches. I’ll probably be paired with the third-string goalie tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2003

 

Two hours again today with a major emphasis on forechecks and special teams. On the way into the rink, I walked past Coach in the hallway and I smiled and said “Hi”. He grunted and nodded, never looking me in the eye. He hates me for sure. Today I was paired up with Ken Scuderi for practice. Scuds is another one of our top defencemen, so even though I wasn’t with Big Nicks today, I was still practicing with one of our top guys. I wasn’t practicing on the power play or penalty kill today and spent most of the second half of practice on the bench watching the special teams practice. I just realized that Clarkson had an undefeated season in the ’50s! Why haven’t I seen that banner before?

After practice, we had a half-hour video session. I was singled out from the Saturday game in three clips, all bad. I overhandled a puck on the first clip and missed my assignment in the defensive zone on the other two. It’s amazing how small you can feel when everyone is looking at you as if you just pushed a feeble old lady down a flight of stairs.

On my way out of the dressing room, Coach intercepted me and told me that I need to do a better job in my own end. He said he expects more from me and that I need to dial it up if I want to play every night. Does this mean that I will be playing Friday? It has to, right?

 

 

Thursday, Dec. 1, 2003

 

Just a one-hour, light practice today with special teams walkthroughs. I kept an eye on the coaching staff for most of the practice and they didn’t tip their hand as to if I would be in or not tomorrow night. Since we didn’t run any full-strength drills, I’m not sure who they have me paired with at this point. I suspect I won’t know if I’m in the lineup tomorrow until after the morning skate. The bus leaves for the University of Vermont tonight after practice.

 

Friday, Dec. 2, 2003

 

I found out today at the morning skate that I would be dressing tonight against Vermont. I was paired up with Matt Nickerson and was told to focus on tight gaps and containing guys down low. Overall, I played well and we won in overtime. Nobody from the coaching staff screamed at me during the game and Coach even smiled at me as I passed him in the hallway after the game. Or maybe he was smiling at Big Nicks, who was walking beside me. Either way, we usually don’t mess with the lineup when we win, so I might actually get to play again tomorrow night against Dartmouth!

 

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2003

 

Today is my birthday and I was told after the morning skate that I would play again tonight alongside Big Nicks. I was pumped to get a chance to go back-to-back nights. My confidence has been down lately, so I kept things simple and played a steady game. I played a bit on the penalty kill but no power-play time. Played against Lee Stempniak’s line quite a bit and didn’t get scored on, which is nice. We ended up beating Dartmouth, so the mood was good. If Coach keeps with his philosophy of not changing a winning lineup, I should be back in next Friday against Colgate. I’m pumped to play against Colgate because they snubbed me last year for a punk named J.R. Bria. I’ve got six buddies on Colgate and I want a chance to show their coaching staff what they missed out on. We left Dartmouth to head back to campus after the game and we’ll have tomorrow off.

 

Fast-forward one week…

 

I had a bad week of practice. The worse I played and the more the coaches gave me the disappointed, cold shoulder routine, the worse I got. Everything just spiraled out of control and my confidence went in the toilet. I ended up being a healthy scratch against Colgate. We lost and my old roommate from junior, Jon Smyth, lit us up for four goals. I didn’t play the next night against Cornell, either.

 

The funny thing about my freshman year was that when it was over, I felt I had a terrible season and needed to figure out if I was good enough to play at the Division 1 level. That was my mindset at the time.

Looking back on that year, it really doesn’t seem that bad. Our team lost in the conference final after upsetting nationally ranked Cornell in a dramatic three- game series. I won Conference Rookie of the Week once, was an honorable mention for the NCAA Rookie of the Month for the playoff month of March, and led our team in plus/minus for the season, while finishing with nine points in 27 games, as a freshman defenceman. Overall, that’s a pretty productive year. The problem was I was healthy-scratched 14 times that season. That’s just over a third of the games we played. I was never able to find any consistency or confidence, because I knew there was a 34 percent chance that I wouldn’t be playing in the next game.

 

When you turn pro and you’re a bubble guy, it’s an even more stressful situation to be in. In college, I knew I wasn’t getting cut. I may not be in the lineup every night, but my job was safe. In pro, your job is as safe as a snowman in Tahiti.

My first year of pro was an ego-booster. I played in Europe, where I got to be “the man” again. My second year of pro, I signed with the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL, which was a minor league affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. Playing for an NHL affiliate has its perks, but if you are a bubble guy not on an NHL deal, you don’t have much say in whether you get shuffled out of the mix when guys get sent down. Even if you are lighting it up, if you aren’t on an NHL contract, you are the expendable one.

After I made the team in Augusta, I let out a big sigh of relief. A lot of good players who had better college and junior careers than I did were getting cut from ECHL teams, so my confidence was high. Since I came from a college background, I had a false sense of security about my job, at that point. That quickly changed when Portland began sending down NHL-contracted players such as Gerald Coleman (who had already played a few games in the NHL the season before), Ryan Dingle (three-year deal with Anaheim), Bobby Bolt (three-year deal with Anaheim), Matt Christie (entry-level deal with Anaheim), Adrian Veideman (entry-level deal with Anaheim), Geoff Peters (AHL legend) and Shane Hynes (entry-level deal with Anaheim). For every piece of meat that comes in, one goes out.

The hardest part of the process is that there are always rumors floating around about who is getting sent down and who will get the bullet. Since the ECHL is a Double-A professional league, changes at the NHL and AHL level affect ECHL rosters. The most stressful time as a pro for me came when Scott Neidermayer came out of retirement to rejoin the Ducks in 2007. Since Neidermayer was a defenceman, he would displace a defenceman at the NHL level who would be sent down to Portland to displace a defenseman at the AHL level. The AHL defenseman would then be sent down to boot someone out of a job at the ECHL level. Since I was our most inexperienced defenseman and not on an NHL deal, I was squarely in the crosshairs. The whole process took a couple days for the changes to filter down. Oddly, Portland elected to send down a forward instead of a defenseman and I dodged the bullet.

Since the budgets are significantly lower at the ECHL level, you see a crunch in payroll and, in turn, a reduction in the number of players kept on the active roster. Healthy scratches aren’t that common at this level, but, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Often a team will get creative and put a player on the three-or seven-day Injured Reserve (IR). For example, if the ECHL general manager gets a call from the big club saying it is sending a guy down from the AHL for a few games, the ECHL GM might put a player he doesn’t want to lose on the 7-day IR. This way, he retains the player’s rights while staying under the salary cap. The AHL player plays his four games and is recalled and the ECHL player is reinstated from the 7- day IR. This tricky juggling act happened all the time.

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Nov 19

NHL All-Time Mustache Team

It’s that time of the year again…  That’s right, it’s November, the month where men proudly grow and flaunt their mustaches, all in the name of raising support and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and overall men’s health.  It’s also that time of the year when you’re either beating ‘em off with a stick or sleeping on the couch (There is no in between when it comes to mustaches).

One of the great supporters of the Movember movement is hockey.  It’s fitting, really, considering that hockey is known for celebrating facial hair growth and some of the most polarizing mustaches in pop culture history were modeled by hockey players.

In order to celebrate and pay tribute to some of the greatest dusters in hockey history, I’ve developed a grading scale to properly evaluate candidates and crown the NHL All-Time Mustache Team.  Here’s how the grading system is broken down.  The team will consist of a traditional first-team all-star team format (one goalie, two defencemen, three forwards, and one coach).

Each player will be graded on a scale of 1 – 5 for each of the following categories:

  • Career Impact (Overall effectiveness as a hockey player)
  • Mustache Shape
  • Mustache Thickness
  • Beauty Factor (Based upon whispers of legendary feats)

 

So, without further ado, here are my selections for the NHL All-Time Mustache Team:

 

 

Left Wing – Wendel Clark

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There are a few no brainers when it comes to all-star teams, for the All-Time Mustache Team, Wendel Clark is one of them.  The Kelvington Crusher, the 1st overall pick in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, put together a white-knuckle career filled with lazer snipes, teeth-jarring hits and epic fights with all the big-name heavies, all while rocking a classic handlebar mustache that screamed: “I’m going to beat up your tough guy, score the game-winner and then take your girlfriend home.”

 

Career Impact                         4.5

Mustache Shape                     4

Mustache Thickness               4

Beauty Factor                          5

 

 

Center – Derek Sanderson

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During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Derek Sanderson was the cat’s meow.  Not only was he a hard-nosed, two-way centerman for the Big Bad Bruins, but he was a legendary playboy and socialite.  We’re talking about a guy who was named one of the sexiest men in America by Cosmopolitan magazine and was once the highest paid athlete on the planet, despite not even being one of his own sport’s top athletes.  It is even rumoured that Yankee icon Derek Jeter was named after him (a rumor that Jeter denied).

 

Career Impact                         3

Mustache Shape                     5

Mustache Thickness               5

Beauty Factor                          5

 

 

 

Right Wing – Lanny McDonald

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When you’re talking hockey and mustaches, one man stands proudly above all else, and that man is none other than legendary pushbroomer, Lanny McDonald.  He’s really the gold standard when it comes to hockey muzzies.  One of five hall-of-famers to make the team, McDonald’s career speaks for itself: a Stanley Cup, 500 goals, 1000 points, and a Canada Cup.  Off the ice, McDonald was a legendary practical joker and an all-around good guy; a real cowboy!

 

Career Impact                         5

Mustache Shape                     5

Mustache Thickness               5

Beauty Factor                          5

 

 

Defence – Larry Robinson

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Robinson is the second member of hockey’s Hall of Fame to be honoured on this team.  Throughout a sparkling career as a player, scout and coach, Robinson managed to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup 9 times.  At 6 foot 4 and 225 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal, “Big Bird”, was the perfect blend of skill and brawn. A ruggedly perfect salad and a well-kept soup strainer gave Robinson the perfect look for a mid-70s Montreal superstar.  Merci, Gros Oiseau!

 

Career Impact                         5

Mustache Shape                     4

Mustache Thickness               4

Beauty Factor                          5

 

 

Defence – Rod Langway

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Former NCAA two-sport standout (Star QB and defenceman at UNH), Rod Langway, cracks this team for a multitude of cool reasons.  For one, he is the only NHL player ever to be born in the Republic of China.  Also, he didn’t even begin playing hockey until his freshman year in highschool.  Langway went on to a hall-of-fame career, winning the Stanley Cup and back to back Norris Trophies, as the NHL’s top defenceman.  “The Secretary of Defence” would also go on to an 11-year run as captain for the Washington Capitals through the 80s, rocking a lip blanket that would make a lion purr.

 

Career Impact                         5

Mustache Shape                     4

Mustache Thickness               4

Beauty Factor                          5

 

 

Goalie – Bernie Parent

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Hall-of-Famer Bernie Parent won a tight race against Rogie Vachon for something that was perfectly construed on a bumper sticker that became popular during the Broad Street Bullies back-to-back Stanley Cup run, “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.”  Sorry Rogie.  Parent dazzled in a career shortened by an unfortunate eye injury during his prime, winning a Memorial Cup, two Stanley Cups, two Vezina Trophies and two Conn Smythe Trophies.  He also appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, putting his stunning tickler on display for the entire world to enjoy.

 

Career Impact                         5

Mustache Shape                     4

Mustache Thickness               5

Beauty Factor                          4

 

 

Coach – Pat Burns

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The late, great Pat Burns is the runaway winner as coach of this team.  The guy was a cop for 16 years for crying out loud!  Aside from an amazing ascension through hockey’s grueling ranks to become Stanley Cup Champion, Burns’ most spectacular accomplishment might have been his signature cop stache.  Always a man to be respected, Burns was known as one of the best coaches in NHL history, a claim that was vindicated in 2014 when he was posthumously elected into hockey’s Hall of Fame.

Career Impact                         4

Mustache Shape                     5

Mustache Thickness               5

Beauty Factor                          5

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Nov 03

Journaling: A Successful Tool for Athletes

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Being a high-level athlete is chaotic.  As a budding football, baseball, basketball or hockey player at the ages of 15 and 16, you’re dealing with huge amounts of change and pressure.  Your body and mind are changing rapidly and your hormones are all over the map.  Challenges are bigger, decisions are more impactful and you’re trying to manage everything, from sports to school to dating, while moving at break-neck speeds.

One of the best ways to help slow things down for an athlete is to keep a journal.  A journal, above anything else, is a planning tool; it helps you gain invaluable perspective.  With anything in life, those who are the most prepared are the ones in the best position to achieve success.

As a former athlete who tends to write about the human side of sports, I often wish I had Marty McFly’s Delorean that could take me back in time.  If I could change just one thing, I would change how I mentally prepared myself for practices, games, and seasons.  More specifically, I would begin keeping a journal while I was still in minor hockey.

I wasn’t always unprepared mentally.  I actually did start using mental preparation tools such as a journal later in my career.  A teammate of mine at the time got me onto keeping a journal to help me track my routines and to help set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Based) for myself.  Journaling was a great way to stay in the present and stay grounded, but it was also a great way to gain perspective on my feelings and mindsets.  Towards the end of my career, I was dealing with a lot of feelings and emotions; anger and uncertainty were always chiefly among them.  Journaling helped me put things into perspective and helped connect the dots as to why I was feeling the way I was.  It was around this time that I began to realize that solely connecting my self-worth to my performance as an athlete was a poor decision.  I was more than just a hockey player and there was much more to life than hockey. Quite often, as a high-level athlete, you get so focused on your career that you forget who you are without it.  Journaling helped me to grow beyond that mindset and in turn, helped me become a more focused, effective athlete.

 

Here are 5 benefits of journaling for athletes and their continuous improvement on and off the field/court/ice:

 

1.  What Went Well vs. What Didn’t Go Well

 

In the world of sports, there is a tendency to focus on the negative.  It’s all about, “What went wrong and how can we fix it.”  In a black and white perspective, it makes sense: If we’re doing some things well on a consistent basis, why should be waste our time on that?  However, since athletes are human beings and not robots, it’s important to address both the good and the bad.  If the focus is always on the negative, it will have a progressively detrimental impact on confidence and mindset.  So, when keeping a journal, be sure to make note of what went wrong, along with thoughts about how to achieve positive outcomes in the future, and also make note of what went well and take a moment to enjoy some sense of accomplishment with that.

 

2.  Notes About Feelings/Emotions

 

Athletes, more than anyone else, are taught to be “tough.”  They are told to “gut it out” and “don’t show weakness,” and this includes both the physical and mental states.  With a lot of awareness and attention in sports today being focused on “mental toughness,” there is a misconception that being mentally tough means being able to ignore pain.  In reality, one of the keys to being mentally tough is being able to examine your feelings and emotions and make sense of them.  If you’re afraid to make a mistake in the game and you’re feeling insecure and anxious, “gutting it out” isn’t going to help you break free of the slump.  You need to explore your feelings and get to the root cause of their existence.  Journaling can help you track the path of your feelings and can often help you make sense of them.

 

3.  In-Game Tendencies

 

In the age of system overkill and video analysis, sports are more systematic than ever.  The best way to track all of the data pulled from these useful tools is a journal.  For years, athletes have used journals to look for repetitive patterns to gain advantages over their opponents.  Coaches make notes about systematic tendencies, while pitchers and batters make notes about each other’s swing or pitch selections.  In hockey, goalies make notes about opposing shooters and their release points and shot tendencies.  In football, quarterbacks make notes about opposing teams’ defensive tells.  It’s a big game of cat and mouse and the team and players who prepare most effectively will undoubtedly have the mental edge.

 

4.  Routine Notes

 

A great way to prepare for a game is to develop a pre-game routine.  From what you eat and how long you sleep to the type of music you listen to and whether you use visualization or other preparatory tools, a pre-game routine can help you get centred and focused on what you need to do to be successful.  Like anything in life, your pre-game routine may go through various levels of change.  If you’re superstitious, your routine may change from game to game.  If you’re on a winning streak, what was your routine like during that stretch?  One way to help track these changes is to make notes of them in your journal.

 

5.  Goal Development, Performance Measurement and Career Planning

 

As an athlete and now as a working professional on a career path, the single most effective development tool I learned to use was goal-setting.  Using SMART goals to help plan ahead and break down larger processes into smaller components was and continues to be a game changer for me.  A business mentor once put it into perspective for me with an analogy.  He said, “If you’re planning a big vacation for your family, would you not work backwards from the goal “Big Vacation” and select a destination, then decide how you’re going to get there (air, land or sea), and decide what the bring, etc.?   If that makes sense, then why don’t you take the same approach to your career?”  The concept of breaking down large endeavours or goals into smaller, more manageable components is an extremely effective way to achieve success in all aspects of life.  As an athlete this was first introduced to me by a coach who told me to quit worrying about results and focus on process goals.  He told me to write down 5 goals for each game and try to achieve them.  For a single game it might be:

 

  1. Zero turnovers at either blueline
  2. 5 finished checks
  3. Zero missed passes for completion
  4. 2 shots on net
  5. 3 forced turnovers

 

In our plan, if I was able to achieve these small, SMART goals, chances are the result would be a strong performance.  It all comes down to planning small and achieving big.  A journal is a great tool to help track this process.

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

Nov 02

How to Care for Your Gear During Hockey Season

Hockey Gear

The equipment strapped onto your head, elbows and knees whenever you take to the ice is specifically designed to take a beating and still provide ample protection. Ice hockey gear can only handle so much of a pounding, however, before straps start to fray or screws start to wobble. At this point, damaged equipment becomes a major liability to health and safety. Whether you’re preparing for opening night of the season or the championship game, take precautions now with your equipment to increase its lifespan.

 

Skate Care

No other piece of gear in the hockey bag will spend its entire life in such close contact to ice and water as your skate’s blades. As anyone who has left a bike out in the rain knows, metal and water make for a very messy combination. Immediately after each game, wipe your skate’s blades with a dry towel — not a sweaty article of clothing or a rag that has been in a humid bag for weeks. When keeping your skates in your hockey bag, use skate guards to make certain that further moisture does not come into contact with any metal parts. Finally, ensure that the skate rivets — which connect the metal blades to the underside of the skate boot — remain tight. Whenever you sharpen blades at a pro shop, ask for the rivets to be tightened. It’s possible to buy a riveting machine if you have the funds and prefer repairing your equipment without a professional’s help.

 

Gloves
There are fewer sweat glands in the hands than in most other areas of the body, but after a long intense game, you can be certain your gloves will be drenched. Gloves that have been too wet for too long will begin to lose the attachments connecting the leather to the fabric — forming massive seams that affect your ability to handle a hockey stick and create blisters. Air dry gloves by placing them on a peg close to an open window or a fan. If you find any small seams within the contours of your gloves, do not use tape or superglue to repair the area. Instead, put a small patch of leather over the hole and use a sewing needle and thread to patch your mitts.

 

Helmets

Helmets need to be able to take the most amount of punishment to protect the most important part of your body. A helmet’s plastic frame is able to withstand immense force, but only if the screws holding it together are firmly in place. Always check the screws connecting the helmet clasps to the frame prior to each game; and never use a helmet with even one loose screw. Keep a screwdriver in your hockey bag to tighten helmet sockets before and after games. Just like the helmet, a visor must keep pucks and sticks away from your vision. If you use a visor, ensure it is covered within your bag. NHL teams recommend covering visors with hockey socks in order to prevent scratches or loose screws. A helmet bag can provide excellent protection for both helmet and visor — off the ice.

 

Pads
The hard plastic and fabric that keeps your elbows and shins from hitting the ice or a teammate or the boards are more durable than nearly every other piece of hockey equipment because there are no metal parts that can become loose. Even so, the Velcro straps on pads need to be checked frequently and replaced when necessary. Just like with gloves, it’s important to dry pads after each game so moisture does not wear away at the soft parts; likewise, never repair faulty Velcro straps with glue or tape.

 

About the Author:

 pro-stock-hockey-erin

 Erin Wozniak is the Director of Marketing for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment, including hockey pants, sticks and more. PSH offers new and “dented” gear to help you find what you’re looking for at an affordable price. Erin is passionate about hockey and remains a devoted Chicago Blackhawks fan.

 

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

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