The Offseason: The Search for Answers, Opportunity and Success

Why can’t the hockey world just leave people the hell a lone?

Why can’t the hockey world just leave the player and their families alone to make their own decisions when it comes to the game? That question is being asked now more than ever. With so many viable options and places to play, confusion and uncertainty on all fronts are at an all time high.

Hockey families are constantly bombarded with attention, questions and criticism revolving around the path they elect to take. Many in the hockey world would suggest that the parents and players bring it on themselves by some of the decisions or actions they take.

The search for the perfect path in the game of hockey isn’t always clear, it’s fraught with confusion, anxiousness, uncertainty, anger and sadly heartbreak. Everyone within the game have to come to grips with the decisions being made even if they believe it’s the wrong one to make.

“It’s their choice to make, not yours” isn’t what people in the game of hockey want to hear, but it’s the truth.

The Search for Answers, Opportunity, and Success

Everyone would assume the off season would a time for reflection, rest and relaxation after a grueling season, that’s certainly not the case.  In many ways the off season is more stressful than anything hockey parents and players witnessed during the regular season. Many hockey families are experiencing an enormous amount of pressure right now surrounding the uncertainty and chosen the path their child will have to decide to take in the game. Like what the hell, it’s May, it’s the offseason, but there’s more confusion and controversy now because everyone is searching for answers, opportunity and success.

The jockeying for positions, places to play and opportunities within the game so their child could potentially reach their pinnacle and excel in the game becomes an all-encompassing endeavor for hockey parents this time of year.

Obviously, it’s great to be recognized and appreciated, but at the end of the day a player and family’s choice in what direction to take is their own, not anyone else’s. Some people in the hockey world just need to back off and give these families space. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often and the hockey family ends up in worse trouble than they started with.

The hockey plans and blueprints of future opportunity and success are already being laid out. The decision to move away from home or choose a different route or program in which to excel has been carefully mapped out, but sadly there’s no guarantees.

Why can’t the hockey world just back off and give these families the space they need?

Well, it gets very complicated very quickly for everyone involved especially when there’s so much financial sacrifice and mixed messages to deal with. The player and their parents are keeping their options open, in hopes of choosing the correct path, the agent or advisor is looking out for the family and ultimately themselves, while the organization is extremely interested in the player and wants and needs an element of commitment right away to ensure they have them locked up for the present and long term.

In many cases everyone is pulling in all different directions and everything seems to be happening at warp speed. Prep school, or stay home? What are my best options in order be noticed or considered? How much does that prep school cost compared to that other viable option? What about exposure? What about being showcased? What about the competition? What about the developmental aspects being provided? What role will they have with the team?

In many ways it all comes down to promises, and we all know promises are extremely difficult to keep in the game of hockey. Don’t believe me, well this shit is happening right now folks, it’s happening more than you think. Hockey parents are losing their minds right now trying to seek out the best options for their kids to go the farthest in the game. They are trying to navigate around hockey cultural norms at the next level while playing a balancing act in terms of it’s political landscape. Don’t get me wrong, some within the hockey world are extremely gifted when it comes to dealing and maneuvering around all of the bull shit that exists in the game today. Isn’t funny how some people just know their way around all of that shit, maybe they have had it set up that way for them?

Some people within the hockey world believe you don’t have to move away from home to excel, while some players and their families are already being promised spots on all the top teams already for next season. How could that be? Tryouts are literally months away, well just put it this way, local programs are scared to lose top players so that’s why they are being signed and promised a spot on the team in May for September.

What about an Agent?

Exposure, attention, showcasing and providing support throughout the journey, hell that’s what agents are for isn’t it? In many ways it is, but finding the right agent is extremely challenging. God forbid you chose one and it’s not the right fit, then word gets out. As they say in Letterkenny, “bad gas travels fast in a small town,” you could say the same can be said about the hockey world.

Listen don’t get me wrong I know a lot of agents and they are great people, knowledgeable people, trustworthy people and are in it for all the right reasons. Nevertheless, for the family that is travelling down this road for the first time, they clearly don’t know them and like any relationship building it’s hard to maneuver when considering every option or possible route to take.

When things are travelling at warp speed in uncharted territory, that’s when mistakes get made.

Phrases like, “we just want what’s best for “insert players name here” and the family” start being said.

Just imagine turning down an opportunity or different path, only to have that fall through last minute and then have to come back to option #1 or choose a different path all together at a moment’s notice. Could you imagine the ripple effect that might have on a young players future or the grudges that might create, hell you all know how the hockey world works right.

It’s unfair and unreasonable to think that parents and these young athletes have to go through this, but like many would assume on some occasions it self-induced and the pressure surrounding the perhaps one unintentional decision could create a “buzz” about the player and the family. That’s just really screwed up pressure, but it’s so true on so many fronts. You would hope an agent and advisor would be great at protecting the player and their family while navigating all of the potential hurdles or challenges that exist.

Why can’t we just cut through all the bull shit and support the process, discuss it rather than trying to control it or make other people’s decision for them?

Why does the hockey world have to be so hands on at all the wrong times?

The Rest of the Story

Where do the programs or organizations stand on all of this?

Back in the day, “the program” used to be enough to attract all of the top talent from the area, well times they are changing. Elite level programs and organizations now more than ever before have to make sure they are marketing and attracting the top players and their families, because they are incredibly scared to lose them. It’s happening now and you can bet the house that it will happen again.

It all comes down to choice and the player and their families have to make the choices that they believe is the right one for them. That’s a difficult pill to swallow for everyone that has a stake in the game.  

You could also bet the house that when organizations start the interview process with draft prospects they are checking, questioning and probing for interest from the player and their family.

Are you going to report? Are you going to play exhibition games? Would definitely be at the forefront of any junior team’s questions and rightfully so. You see organizations across the hockey world have been burned time and time again with dishonesty and that’s exactly why they become extremely cautious with the everyone involved in the entire process.

At the end of the day, the family and player have to make the decision not the rest of the hockey world.

Why can’t we just leave the kid and their family alone?

Why can’t we just give them space rather than forcing them into a decision at warp speed?

There’s no handbook for this stuff, there’s no set guidelines or restart menu. The most important aspect in all of this will be the players love and passion for the game and a willingness to commit and see it through. Organizations are looking for character, compete, work ethic, honesty and any intangibles that player can bring to the table. That’s what matters most from an organizational standpoint, is willingness to compete, skill and character. How bad does the player want it, how much are they willing to sacrifice to get to where they want to go?

What about exposure? What about opportunity? Is that why hockey families decide to choose a different path or route?  You see it all goes back to doing what is best for the child or what they believe is best and who in the hell are we to judge that. You can disagree, you can complain and gripe all you want, but what if the shoe was on the other foot? It would probably be a different story wouldn’t it.

Before you start criticizing a hockey family for considering all of their options, try to remember it’s their decision not yours, try putting yourself in their shoes, all they are trying to do is what’s right for their child, wouldn’t you do the same?

The organization is searching for its next crop top prospects and future to build a championship caliber team. The agent is searching for the next amazing pro prospect. The player and their family are searching for the best place to play.

Offseason or not the search for answers, opportunities and success continues.

One comment

  1. That’s a great read. Confusing times so or a lot off families. Pressure that players and families don’t need everyday


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