By Brandon Naurato –
“I want to play in the NHL when I get older!”
How many of us have heard that statement come from the mouths of excited youth hockey players across the country when they show up at the rink carrying their over-sized hockey bags for a 7 a.m. practice on a cold February morning? The dream starts at a young age and, for most players, it slowly fizzles away as reality starts to set in and players begin to separate themselves.
The NHL Draft has recently passed and at least the 210 players that were selected are able to keep that dream alive. I recently talked about building up your “hockey bank account.” Each and every player in that draft has built up the perception of themselves as players and they are now in a position to achieve their dream of playing in the National Hockey League.
We are currently working with a player at our TPH Junior/College Prep Program that was drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft. I have only had a relationship with this player for a couple of months, but I will never forget his response when I sent him a congratulatory text on the day of the draft.
“Thanks Brandon. Now the work really starts.”
This is an 18-year-old player that is on top of the world and that is the mentality that he has. The truth is, that is the mentality that all of the elite players have. They are always looking to get better and fight to earn their place. The result is so much sweeter when you understand what goes into the process to put yourself into a position to finally have success.
One issue that I deal with daily in regards to parents and youth hockey players is getting them to understand exactly where they are and exactly what they need to do to get to where they want to be. It is important to understand the process and enjoy it. Enjoy coming to the rink every single day to compete and fine-tune your skills and the result will be the one that you want.
Getting drafted in the National Hockey League is an unbelievable accomplishment for anyone. However, it is not the end-all be-all when it comes to playing in the NHL. Yes, it will give you more opportunity in the future over a player that is a free agent, but the battle doesn’t stop there and no, you haven’t made it yet. That is exactly what this player meant when he said the work really starts now. A.J. Thelen, Mike Morris, and Kyle Beach all heard their names called in the first round, walked up to the podium and put on their respective NHL jerseys. Not one of them played a single game in the National Hockey League, while undrafted players such as Torey Krug, Chris Kunitz, and Marty St. Louis proved that players develop at different stages. If you stick to the plan you can achieve your dreams at the end of the day.
One way to stay on the correct path to your dreams is to set goals. Every player should have daily, weekly, monthly, and year-round goals that you go over daily. This will hold you accountable when you start to deal with adversity throughout the season…which you will. Go back to your notes and understand what you need to do in order for you to continue to develop as a player as well as have an impact for your team in a positive way every time you step on the ice.
We are always comparing ourselves to our peers. It is human nature. Whether you are 12 years old and asking yourself why you didn’t make a spring tournament team or 32 years old and asking why another player was offered a pro-contract it is all the same.
What are you going to do about it?
The road to any elite level of hockey is different for every single player. Some are drafted and some aren’t. Some play college hockey while others play Major Junior. Some have to fight it out in the minors while others make the jump right way. What is your path?
This truly drives into the main reason I have such a passion for helping youth players understand the path. Hockey is not fair and neither is life. You will be cut, you will be fired and you will deal with situations that are out of your control. What you can control is your work ethic, character, passion for the game, and drive to be the best player possible. There are too many excuses nowadays. Forget the excuses and control what you can control. Keep fighting to achieve your dreams. For some players the dream of playing in the NHL will always be just that…a dream. It is up to you to carve your path and make your dream a reality. Others can help you along the way, but the ultimate responsibility is on you. You don’t know when the opportunity will come but when it does, deep down you will know if you are fully prepared to embrace it. That is where the confidence comes into play. You earn confidence through putting the work in on a daily basis. Stick to the process and the results will follow. It is easy to say and hard to do.
Are you up for the challenge?