By Jeff Lerg –
As the years have gone by in my career, I have really started to take notice of how the hockey world is connected. I have learned that it is important to make a good impression every time you set foot into the rink. Whether you are going to a game, a team practice, or just to watch a friend, you must always think of the ice rink as a place to be at your best. You never know who is at the rink each day and how they could affect you in the future. I feel that there are three groups of people that you must always have a positive relationship with: teammates, coaches, and opponents.
First off, it is always important for you to build strong relationships with your teammates, both on and off the ice. These are the players that you will be seeing at every practice and game throughout the season. If you can’t get along with them, then it most likely won’t be a successful season. Every great team that I have been on has had great team camaraderie. As a goaltender, you need the players in front of you to play hard for you. If they respect you, then they will be willing to sacrifice themselves by blocking shots and putting that extra effort in on the back check. Do you think a player will play his best defense for a goaltender who always yells at his teammates and throws his arms up in the air in disgust after every goal? The biggest way to gain the respect of your teammates is to work your hardest in every practice by battling on every puck that comes your way. Players hate when a goalie stands in his crease and doesn’t move in practice. They will be less willing to dig a little deeper when that goaltender is in the net. Also, make sure to let your teammates know when they make a great defensive play for you. A little compliment can go a long way for your personal success.
You must also maintain the respect of your coaches. Since you made a team from the tryouts, the coaches respect you in one way or another. In order to keep that trust, you must possess the practice mentality of ‘bringing it’ every day. You also must handle the highs and lows in a consistent manner. There will be times when the other goalie will start over you and you won’t be happy about it, but your attitude and demeanor shouldn’t change either way. Stay humble if you have great success and stay hungry if you are in a slump. Be consistent in your approach, and it will go a long way with your coaches. You never know where your current (or opposing) coaches could end up in the future. For example, my Midget Major coach from over ten years ago is now in his third season as a head coach in the NHL. He is now in the hierarchy of the best league in the world and he has helped some of his past players who left a good impression on him. He obviously can’t get them all to his team, but other teams/leagues have used him as reference. Coaches and players certainly can cross paths multiple times throughout their careers, so it is important to perform admirably, not only for your coaches, but also for the coaches you are playing against.
Lastly, it is important to be respected from your opponents. Foes can quickly become teammates as team tryouts commence every spring. You don’t want to be the goaltender who cares more about causing havoc with the other team than stopping the puck. The trash talking and wild stick will only get you so far in your career. If you are in a position of looking for a new team, you don’t want to have the door closed due to reasons that aren’t your ability to stop the puck and win games.
Give yourself the best chance to succeed in your career by doing things the right way on a daily basis. Make a good impression on all those involved in your personal hockey world, and you will give yourself a chance to climb the hockey ladder.
Jeff Lerg is the head director at Future Pro USA Goaltending.