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Daily Dish: Contender or Pretender? Canadian Junior Hockey News

Published: Thursday, 31 May 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,

Everybody feels like they are a contender at training camp. Sometimes optimism can get the best of folks before the hard dose of reality can set in. Every league has a set of favorites before the first puck is even dropped. 

There is one common denominator among just about all championship teams; confidence and unconditional faith in the system. It takes more than talented players; and if that were the case just about any rich guy can spend his money on hired guns to be a competitor. In most cases, it is the team that did not take the shortcuts that make it to the championship game. 

Foundation- There are good owners and there are great owners. The guys that provide a great foundation for a coach to work with are the same guys that generally get to raise the trophy. 
Support- The team needs an iron-clad staff and die-hard supporters that will go down with the ship if needed. 
Coaching- The right guy can make all the difference. Championship caliber coaches are made at championship winning programs. Talking about winning and having the experience to actually do it are two entirely different animals. The coach needs to have confidence in his own abilities, confidence in the players he brought to the table, and be able to actually coach them through the developmental process. 
Chemistry- It only takes a single floater in the punch bowl to keep everyone from drinking the Kool-Aid. Coaches need to select guys that are going to fit into the system and get along with the rest of the group. The programs that are able to install a close family atmosphere often experience a high degree of success. 
Leadership- From the guy signing the checks, to the coach, to the team captain, the leaders of the team are always the most important component of a champion. 
Confidence- This cannot be taught or bought. It has to be installed at the first day of training camp and reiterated all along the way with practice, patience, and execution. A champion goes into the final expecting to win.

Contender or pretender? Once in a while a surprise comes along to upset the apple cart but generally we are all able to identify the haves and have-nots every summer. At this level of play, the coach is the most important component, but it's the intangibles that often make the difference when going after top level talent. Teams with a track record of winning, getting players moved on to school, and delivering a great developmental experience are the same teams that find themselves contending for a championship at the end of the season.

It's the other guys who are sucking the wind out of the leagues. 

The Shreveport Mudbugs took the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup because all the pieces were in place before they ever dropped the first puck back in 2016-2018. This year's championship was inevitable.

There will be many more to come.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Group. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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