player tips

13

June

Are You A Big Time Player?

Posted by Greg Carter
big-time-player-blog

Big game players combine their talent and drive to be game changers.

The Stanley Cup Finals is a great time of year. As Wayne Gretzky summed it up in a recent interview “You know that you are in a special place when you look at the out of town scoreboard and there are no games being played.”

Other than the one you are in of course, which at this time of year means only one thing, the Stanley Cup!

There is no bigger stage in hockey than the Stanley Cup, when everything is on the line during an awesome seven game series. It’s the culmination of the season and the playoffs, and the game is being played at an entirely different level. The excitement and adrenaline is at its peak.

So what are some of the key factors in managing all of the stress, excitement and emotions and stepping up and being a big time player in a big time situation?  Here are some common traits of big time players that I’ve seen over the years.

•    As the games and the stakes rise, so too does the play of big game players.  Big game players have the innate ability to keep bringing the energy and leadership that it takes to get the job done. In clutch situations these are the players that are ready and prepared to make it happen. And often times do make it happen.

•    Big game players are those that WANT to be in the ice in overtime and in key situations. They want the puck on their stick, they want to be out there playing great defense to create an offensive opportunity. Big time players have the talent, confidence and determination to make it happen. They are only thinking one thing, not IF we are going to win, but HOW we are going to win. And they want to be out there for every shift to make it happen.

•    As the old cliché goes, “Hard work only comes before success in the dictionary.” Big game players know this, and understand that in order to be successful in that one defining moment, they have to train hard to get there. They shoot pucks. They lift weights. They practice and train with a purpose and with one goal in mind: converting the opportunity that they get to win the big prize. They know that they may only get one chance, and in that moment they know it’s their time to shine.

All players dream of being in the championship games at all levels. And as you watch the Stanley Cup and realize what it means to the best hockey players in the world to be playing for the top prize, you quickly understand that it takes a special player to rise to the occasion and be a big game player.

We hope the Stanley Cup Finals inspired you to train hard this summer, and that you are successful in your very own big games!

19

April

April Is The Season of Champions

Posted by Greg Carter

April is one of the great hockey months. In the NHL we have the push to the playoffs, which means a few things: the intensity ratchets up several notches, the speed of the game shifts up a gear or two and of course the facial hair is grown out. During April we also have college hockey’s Frozen Four. This is another great tournament as unpaid players are putting it all on the line not for a huge paycheck, but rather for the simple right to win a championship.

You can’t help but watch the incredible hockey this time of year and wonder, ‘what does it really take to get to that level of play’ . . . not just playing at the highest level, but to advance through the regular season and the playoffs and ultimately hit the ice and play on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights for the right to hoist the biggest trophy.

For most of players, and you’ll hear this in post-game interviews, the ‘what it really takes’ is determination. Not just team determination, but individual determination.  And that determination didn’t just start at the end of the regular season or the weeks leading into the playoffs as the team fought to make the post season. For the most successful players, that determination started a long time ago in a basement, garage, backyard rink or local park.

Determination goes hand and hand with hard work. The great Vince Lombardi once said “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Every hockey player wants to win, wants to make the playoffs, wants to play for the championship and wants to hoist the trophy. The reality is that the players who do end up in these games are the ones who have realized at a young age what it really takes to get there. First and foremost it requires a love of the game. After that, it takes commitment, determination and hard work.

The best players that I’ve played with have all possessed these traits. They were the guys at the rink first and off the ice last. They loved shooting pucks. They loved practicing and trying to get better every day. And I mean every day. They loved being at the rink, and when they weren’t they were making mom and dad upset by staying at the local rink two hours too long. They were quintessential rink rats, who also had skill, determination and weren’t afraid of hard work.

So when you see players on TV hoisting a trophy, some doing so in tears, it’s important to understand that the journey for these players didn’t start at the beginning of the season. It started at the beginning of their recognition that with determination and hard work, there can be no limits to your success.

When does your journey begin?

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The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks game last Sunday was awesome on many levels. Playing hockey in the great outdoors is not only fun and entertaining because of the unique setting and outdoor atmosphere, but also because of the action on the ice and the lessons that can be learned. It just seems as though when these multi-million dollar athletes get the opportunity to play in one of these events there are more smiles, more energy and more ‘game’.

After watching all of the action, here are some of the key takeaways that can make youth hockey players better at their own game.

Creativity Reigns. Great players are creative, they know how to create space, buy time and make moves that keep the opposition guessing. For those fortunate to have the opportunity to skate outdoors in the colder climates, ‘rink-ratting’ down at the local park is something that every goal scorer looks back on with fond memories. Great moves are born in the great outdoors, where creativity reigns.

Energy & Excitement. This time of the season is a grind for players as they head into the stretch drive and playoffs. Good coaches find a way to keep the energy and excitement at a high level in players, and Sunday it was evident that playing outdoors had both teams bringing it to a level that both fans and coaches could be proud of. Youth players around the country were surly chomping at the bit to get an outside game of their own going in the driveway or local park; and for good reason.

Fun & Phenomenal. Playing hockey should be fun, and when players are passionate about what they are doing and having fun doing it, success will follow. Anytime a player starts to get down, I always remind them that it’s just a game and that they should be enjoying every practice and every game, every single day! It was clear Sunday the players were having a fun and phenomenal time.

Greatest Game on Earth. One of the NHL’s taglines is that hockey is the Greatest Game on Earth. Watching the Stadium Series games being played outdoors in the elements is only confirmation of this, and that hockey really is the best sport. Watching some of the best players in the world compete outdoors and talk about it like they were back in Peewees or Bantams was extremely refreshing.

Good luck in your push to the playoffs and remember to bring the excitement and energy that you saw in the Stadium Series this past weekend! And if you do, success will follow!

08

March

Rails

Watching Jaromir Jagr pass Gordie Howe for third on the all-time points list is nothing short of a historic moment in the NHL. 743 goals and 1,107 assists. That is simply amazing. When you watch Jagr’s highlight reel goals it becomes evident very quickly that he has great hands, incredible vision on the ice and can shoot and pass the puck with awesome accuracy.

So what can youth hockey players learn from a player like Jagr? There is plenty in his bag of tricks to borrow from, and here are a few of the best.

A Great Teammate. Jagr has played with 8 different teams during his NHL career. Along the way he has played with literally hundreds of players and when you ask them about Jagr, they all say the same thing; incredible talent and great teammate who makes everyone around him better. It’s one thing to have the skill and the will, it’s another thing to want to share it with everyone around you. Great players truly do make everyone around them better.

A Nose for the Net. An old coach used to preach all the time that it doesn’t matter how it goes in, only that it goes in. While Jagr has had plenty of highlight reel goals, he has also scored a lot by simply being in the right place at the right time to bang home a rebound or to redirect a shot. Get to the net and good things will happen!

Outstanding Anticipation.  Parents at hockey school ask me all the time about how to teach players to anticipate the game. The reality is that you can’t teach anticipation, but the best players know where to be on the ice to make things happen. The really good players don’t go to where the puck is, they go to where the puck will end up.

I know we said top 3, but this one is a bonus.

Stickhandling. Again, Jagr has had plenty of highlight reel goals during his career and it just never gets old watching the dangles and dekes. If there is one thing players can do this summer to really take their game to the next level it is stickhandling. Whether it’s a puck on the ice or a ball in the driveway, the hand-eye coordination that it takes to master the skill of stickhandling is a lifetime worth of work. As I tell my own son, you can never shoot enough pucks or stickhandle long enough if you really want to be the best.

Perhaps what is most amazing in all of this is that even with over 1,850 points, Jagr is still more than 1,000 points from catching Wayne Gretzky who is number one on the list with 2,857 career points. More on that in a future article!

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you at one of our camps this summer!

Rails

The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks game last Sunday was awesome on many levels. Playing hockey in the great outdoors is not only fun and entertaining because of the unique setting and outdoor atmosphere, but also because of the action on the ice and the lessons that can be learned. It just seems as though when these multi-million dollar athletes get the opportunity to play in one of these events there are more smiles, more energy and more ‘game’.

After watching all of the action, here are some of the key takeaways that can make youth hockey players better at their own game.

Creativity Reigns. Great players are creative, they know how to create space, buy time and make moves that keep the opposition guessing. For those fortunate to have the opportunity to skate outdoors in the colder climates, ‘rink-ratting’ down at the local park is something that every goal scorer looks back on with fond memories. Great moves are born in the great outdoors, where creativity reigns.

Energy & Excitement. This time of the season is a grind for players as they head into the stretch drive and playoffs. Good coaches find a way to keep the energy and excitement at a high level in players, and Sunday it was evident that playing outdoors had both teams bringing it to a level that both fans and coaches could be proud of. Youth players around the country were surly chomping at the bit to get an outside game of their own going in the driveway or local park; and for good reason.

Fun & Phenomenal.  Playing hockey should be fun, and when players are passionate about what they are doing and having fun doing it, success will follow. Anytime a player starts to get down, I always remind them that it’s just a game and that they should be enjoying every practice and every game, every single day! It was clear Sunday the players were having a fun and phenomenal time.

Greatest Game on Earth. One of the NHL’s taglines is that hockey is the Greatest Game on Earth. Watching the Stadium Series games being played outdoors in the elements is only confirmation of this, and that hockey really is the best sport. Watching some of the best players in the world compete outdoors and talk about it like they were back in Peewees or Bantams was extremely refreshing.

Good luck in your push to the playoffs and remember to bring the excitement and energy that you saw in the Stadium Series this past weekend!  And if you do, success will follow!