By Brandon Naurato –
What makes a hockey player a “hockey player?” Is it their skill level? Their love of the game? Is a hockey player who is only playing the sport because his/her parents want them to any less of “true” hockey player? Does spending a fortune on hockey-specific training make you more or less of a hockey player than your teammate who doesn’t? These questions are at the root of what drives us all in this hockey world.
The way we train hockey players has drastically changed over the last decade. If you stepped into a gym in the 1990s, you were considered one of the hardest working guys on your team. Nowadays, kids have their own personal trainers off the ice, private skill coaches on the ice, and maybe even a nutritionist developing individualized meal plans for their specific needs. Let’s take it a step further…there are actually people in the hockey world that will charge you for advice and guidance on what junior camps to go to and how they can get you there. We spend all this money and time with the goal of separating ourselves from the rest of the pack in order to make it to the next level and become a better hockey player. Is it worth it? Are these the things that truly make us worthy of the game?
Don’t get me wrong, I think this is all great stuff and each of the examples I mentioned above are a step in the right direction to put yourself in a position to have success. However, there are a few intangibles not mentioned above that hockey players have had for decades that cannot be taught…
A WILLINGNESS TO COMPETE
THE LOVE OF THE GAME
So I ask you again…are the trainers, nutritionists, personal trainers all worth it? Do you have the intangibles? Are you a hockey player? It’s easy to be a hockey player when everything is going your way. Let’s say you’re scoring goals, getting a lot of ice time, and the coach is constantly telling you how you can do no wrong. This is a fantasy world that isn’t true in hockey or life. Being a “true hockey player” is hard!
Moving 500 miles away from all of your friends and family, living with a new family that you have never met, three games in as many nights (all in different cities) and an 18-hour bus ride home are just a few examples of what it is like playing junior hockey. And these aren’t even examples of adversity.
You have been healthy-scratched five games in a row and it has been a month since you played your last game.
You make the team in July and get cut a month later because they found someone better in August.
Your girlfriend misses you and says she can’t do this anymore unless you stop playing.
You just tore cartilage in your shoulder and the doctor says you will be out for 8-10 months. You only have one more year of junior hockey and you haven’t talked to one school.
Is it still worth it?
We all have our own story of successes and failures. Those are just a few examples of what I dealt with in juniors. So if you ask me the same question…is it worth it? My answer is a simple one.
Yes. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
The bottom line is that you have to love the game. You put up with the tough times because it makes you stronger – a better person after you have been through it. You do it so that you can sing the fight song after a weekend sweep at home with the guys. There is no better feeling than scoring a goal in front of 10,000 people and having your best friends join in the celebration with smiles across their faces. You do it because five years later you will hear a song in your car and it will remind you of the great people you have met, cities that you have played in, and the lifelong friendships that will never be forgotten.
Nobody can make this dream come true except you. Understand what you’re signing up for and why you are putting in the work to get there. Only you know if this is what you really want. I’m telling you that you can do it but you have to love the game. If you can’t deal with the tough times, then you don’t deserve the good ones.