Despite popular opinion, the world is not coming to an end. Not even the hockey world. Of all the sports on the planet, none have shown the perseverance of hockey.
The game, and that is the players, coaches, staff, and fans, are the definition of the word expanded family. In the past, it has been tragedies that have brought us together, and today it's a little virus that has literally changed the world and how it will respond to such challenges in the future. Our response, as a game, should also be the definitive moment for other sports to follow.
The challenge is the word how. With rinks closed, what can the game do to improve while showing the world why hockey is the game that trailblazes development and progression?
The cancer that soils relationships, companies, and even teams is that hard-to-check word ego. It's the ego that get's in the way of common sense when players, coaches, and fans think it's a good idea to abuse on and off ice officials. It's ego that drives the epidemic of disrespect towards opponents, coaches, and even teammates. It's the ego that lets us think that what we are saying and doing in not in need of improvement.
Players and coaches should take this opportunity to go back and watch every game possible from this season. Reflect on each on-ice decision; was it right or wrong and what could you have done different? Coaches can look at tactical decisions and reflect on interactions with players, officials, and fellow staff.
Now is the perfect opportunity for each player and coach to closely reflect on the season, note the areas of success and failures, and begin the process of making personal enhancements.
It's time to flip the frown into a smile. I really don't care if you are an National Hockey League all-star or a pay-to-play healthy scratch, nobody is happy about an abrupt end to a season. With that said, there is a very shiny silver lining to the situation. Everybody in the game is on an equal playing field when it comes to enhancing ability for the return of the game.
Turn the down-time into development time with the planned attack on individual physical condition, enhanced hockey intelligence, and mental preparation.
Up your game with increased speed, power, core strength, and stamina. Cross train with incline runs, weighted sprints, and anything else that's going to raise the bar.
Here's a test that should be done daily. Sprint for 45 seconds, stop for 90. Do that again eleven more times. Write down the distance. Spend the rest of the day working and preparing yourself to take that same test the next day. Maybe change it up to test in the early evening. The key is to press and challenge yourself into an improvement. Do the same with your abdominal workout, squats, and all core conditioning. Get a jump box.
Get tougher between the ears
It's possible to play the game with edge without taking stupid penalties. Coaches, that goes for you too. What's the point of an on-ice retaliation or unsportsmanlike bench penalty in reaction to a missed or bad call? Players that can't control themselves lose out on opportunities. Coaches with the same problem find themselves as career guys in low-level leagues. Grow up, junior teams are not competing for the Stanley Cup. Chances are this particular guy with the whistle will get one of your games again. Like coaches and players, the refs talk to each other too. Don't be a donkey and give the stripes a reason to NOT like your team before the puck even drops. That seldom works out for anyone but the competition.
What do you play for? Most do it for themselves. Others find motivation from faith, loved ones, and even communities. The military often uses the love of family and country to motivate warriors. Why? Because it's very effective. Coaches often try to refer to the team as a family in an effort to generate the same type of heart-felt motivation from the team. Unfortunately, that attempt often falls on deaf ears when the players hear one thing and see something else entirely. That something else can be how the coach treats the players to how the players treat each other.
What kind of coach or player are you when no one is looking? well, here's your perfect opportunity to answer that question for yourself. Do you have the commitment and character to come back as a better coach or player? A better man (or woman)? A better person?
Its a personal goal to live each day as if there is no tomorrow. There also is a set goal to be a better man today than I was yesterday. Maybe that's the cancer survivor in me. That concept goes for the way the children are raised, the relationship with my wife, friends, and even my career in the game.
Nothing speaks louder than the example being led. A good captain knows that is job #1. The same goes for the coach, father, and the rest of us.
It's often said that it takes a village to raise a child. Let's take that one step further and collectively raise the game. Now let's get to work!
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.ca. JuniorHockey.ca does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.