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player tips

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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13

April

One of the many great things about hockey camp is the people you meet. Players, coaches, trainers and families from all over the country come together for this special week and it’s nothing short of an awesome experience to skate, talk and learn from others. So who will you meet at hockey camp this summer? Here are 5 people you are sure to have fun with and create lasting memories.

The Coach. We all have a coach who makes an impression on us, and some of the best coaches are those who teach you new things, in a way you have never been instructed. Each summer at camp our students create a bond with a coach that extends long after the week of camp is over. Many keep in touch throughout the season, and we are very proud of our knowledgeable and personable coaching staff.

The New Buddy. Going to a hockey camp can be intimidating, especially when doing it for the first time or going alone. Over the years we have watched kids show up the first day and hardly say a word to anyone, and end up being the kid we can’t keep quiet by the end of the week. Everyone finds a buddy at hockey camp and like the coach, those relationships often last beyond the last day of camp.

The Skillmaster. This one is kind of difficult to explain, but think the top scorer, mixed with a gift of gab and a healthy dose of confidence. Every camp has the player that has worked their tail off and has become just a step faster and a goal better than everyone else. We like these kids at camp because they motivate and inspire – one way or another- for the rest of the players to be just as good as they are.

The Most Improved. The first day at camp is always exciting for everyone, including the staff. We really enjoy getting to know the kids, assessing their talents and identifying their areas for improvements. What we really look forward to on the last day of camp is deciding which player has worked the hardest and developed the most during camp. We have a motto at camp: “get better every day”.  And we push players to do just that.

The Class Clown. This kid is part Drake, part Josh; innocent, but always guilty. He’s the kid everyone at camp instantly connects with, keeps the group bonding and always has something funny to say. Oftentimes the class clown is also the hardest worker and most respectful. But one thing is for certain, he/she is always funny.

There are no shortages of stories, lessons and learning that takes place at hockey camp, and we hope you choose to improve your game and make your memories at our hockey camps this summer. Remember to have fun playing this great game, and to get better every day!

08

April

When players sit down and think back upon the long hockey season, there are plenty of ups and downs throughout the season that can be reflected upon. There are the practices and games when everything seems to be going great, and then the times when the pucks are hitting the pipe, passes are bouncing off the stick and nothing seems to be going right.

Good players are able to fight through the ups and downs and consistently bring an effort to each practice and game. There are the times when you feel like you played well but the team loses, other times the team wins without feeling like you played your best game.

Sorting through the individual, as well as the team ups and downs is a key part of evaluating your season, and ultimately setting goals for your summer training. When starting the process of evaluating your season,it’s important to separate out team performance from individual performance. All too often personal goals get lost in the long season and players, as well as parents, start to think that if they team did well, they must have also improved individually. Unfortunately this is just not the case.

To do a thorough job evaluating a season, parents should help their son or daughter take a close look and evaluate personal strengths, and even more importantly, personal weaknesses, which are the key opportunities for positive growth and player development.

Most, if not all of the best hockey players realize early on in their career that in order to reach their full potential they have to set goals, train with those goals in mind, and try to get better each and every day. The process all starts with an honest self-evaluation of the season you just completed, not as a team, but as an individual. Once you determine the player you are today, the fun begins in mapping out the path to become a better player in the future.

To get started with your evaluation, take the time to do the following:

Break down your game into a few categories such as skating, stickhandling, shooting, passing and teamwork. For each of these areas give yourself a grade of 1-3, with the higher number representing a higher competency in that skill area. Remember to be honest in this evaluation; you can only improve if you recognize the areas that need focus.

Once you have graded yourself, start to search out opportunities to improve in these areas. There are plenty of materials to read online, including our Coaches Corner, as well as training aides, summer hockey camps and weekend clinics.

There is a great saying “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me”. Remember this throughout the summer as you work hard training to improve on the skills you have identified in your post season evaluation. There is no easy path to success, and a thorough evaluation followed by a goal setting exercise is a huge first step down the path to success.

Good luck!

21

March

Rails

Last year here in Massachusetts Mother Nature delivered us more than 100 inches of snow.  It was a winter to remember with record-breaking snowfall that seemed to find its way into our lives on a daily basis. And just when we dug out from one storm, another was on the way, dumping a dozen more back-breaking inches of snow on top of the sidewalks and driveways that we just got done clearing.

This year we are right around 25 inches of total snowfall, or roughly a quarter of the snowfall of only a year ago. As I was discussing this with someone at the rink the other day, the conversation turned to the hockey season last year, and like the weather, what a difference a year can make.

At this same point last year the guy I was talking with was in the midst of buying every shovel and ice scraper he could get his hands on. He even went out and purchased a brand new snow blower, one of those machines with enough horsepower to throw even the heaviest snow clear across to the other county. This year most of his new equipment has sat unused in his garage.

Just like the weather, the hockey season and player performance can dramatically change from year to year. One season a player may score goals like Jaromir Jagr, but the next have a dip in performance and struggle to find the back of the net.

It’s important to recognize that this is somewhat normal, and that development is a marathon, not a sprint. What players need to focus on is making sure they are preparing themselves not only for the great games and seasons, but also for the times when they need to go back to basics. Like my friend who went out and purchased all of the equipment to be prepared for snow, players should have the tools necessary to be prepared for hockey.

Mastering the fundamentals of hockey is a key ingredient to long term success. There is a belief held by many experts about the ‘10,000 Hour Rule’, which essentially says that 10,000 hours of practice to become world class in a field.  If you are a serious hockey player you have probably heard about this, and are well on your way to finding the training and ice time that will help you master the skills necessary to take your game to the next level.

While it seems no one can accurately forecast the weather (sorry local weatherman), you can help forecast your hockey career. Whether it’s 100 inches of snow and 50 wins one season, or 25 inches and 12 wins the next, the big question is this: Are you going to be prepared?

We hope so, and have plenty of summer opportunities available for players of all ages and skill level. While we don’t have shovels and snow blowers to prepare you for next winter, we have coaches and trainers who know the game and are eager to teach. Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you this summer!

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!

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