For the Love of the Game

Everyone loves the game right, that’s why they play it?

Every player is passionate about the game, they all dream about making the NHL, that dream is attainable, if this happens or that happens, like that player from here or there, that’s the messaging that’s happening around the hockey world right?  

Hell, I’ve written about that before in “What Are You Selling?”, but if you work hard enough, anything is possible?

Again, that’s all messaging. If you have this amount of money or can pay for the best development opportunities you will have the best chance to make it?  

I wrote about that dynamic in “Money, Money, Money.”

I’ve written about the importance of “player development” nonstop for the past several years as well. Player development really matters, but what about the kids that don’t go to those sessions in the spring and summer? Are they left behind?  

I’ve written about a lot different topics surrounding the game, and have received a lot of feedback good and bad over the years, but when I received a text message on Wednesday morning from someone I consider a good friend and brilliant hockey mind, I quickly questioned the foundational aspect of the game.  

“Hi Craig, Reading your recent posts it seems the goal is always to make the NHL.” 

“In this young man’s case (Jordan Harris) it was to enjoy playing the game, a more achievable objective for most without losing the “dream” of playing someday, but it is a dream for 99%, so I feel to play hockey because you love to play is a more realistic and enjoyable theme for all Monctonian players no matter the age, politics, or development or lack of.”

Photo Credit Saint John Sea Dogs

“Love the game and enjoy yourself, then if that is the objective for coaches and players; maybe your article on development vs winning is already answered before the puck drops.” 

“Crosby’s new commercial says and really means “just have fun” how and why did success only become doing what scouts want and showcasing, etc, as if any of the scouts did not know before a special game who were good and who were not?”

Photo Credit NHL.com

“This is my point, everyone is focused on “making it” not “enjoying it.” 

“Grow the game, don’t pressure most out of it, I just feel for many of the players,” wrote Paul Boutilier.

Photo By Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images

Boots’ text message floored me, it got me thinking about my presentation to draft eligible players and Midget aged teams which I’ve had the honour and privilege of giving over the last three to four years.  

Observations from the Rink (Player Presentation) usually starts with these four foundational questions.  

What Does the Game Mean to You? What Kind of Player do want to be? What kind of player do you value in the game? What do you do each day to get better?

I ask the players to write down the questions and think about them throughout the presentation at the end of the presentation, we usually revisit them. When I ask the first question, I automatically assume what the answer will be. After Paul’s text message, I’m questioning if these young players could even answer that?  

Over the years I’ve had several parents reach out via social media asking for advice and feedback about their child’s progression and potential direction in the game. Often the first thing out of my mouth is what does the game really mean and what do they want out of the game?  

It’s an extremely loaded question, but one that has to be asked. A question that has to be processed and discussed between the family.  

I seldomly hear back from the player’s family and that’s perfectly fine. You see, the answers to those foundational questions can only really be answered by the player, not the parent. At any point in their journey in the game, the player is ultimately responsible for those answers, but what influence do coaches, agents/advisors, developmental coaches and parents really have?  

Boots’ text message is one that every player should read and reflect on.  

Why do you play the game? Is the game still fun? Do you play for the love of the game?

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