There will be no tongue-in-cheek today. This is the heaviest, most talked-about subject in hockey.
Canadians identify with ice time. Kids who get lots of ice time go to school more confident, happier about their lives and generally more content.
Kids who don’t get ice time go to school stressed, frustrated and annoyed.
It’s time to change that.
This might be true in peewee and bantam, but scoring goals is not the only way a player can contribute to a team, nor is it the only method by which players can earn more ice time. In major midget, junior and professional hockey, players get plenty of ice just by being able to clear the puck out of the zone.
Playing against a team with incredibly high-powered offensive stars? Well if you excel at face-offs and using your quick feet to play on the defensive side of the puck, chances are you’ll get to play against those offensive stars (which probably means you’ll play a lot).
Alright, this one is actually true, but not for the reasons you might think. I’ll explain with a personal anecdote:
If you’re a North Shore Winter Club member, chances are you know the Burgart family; Brad, Donna, Nigel and Desi. Well, your friendly neighbourhood blogger currently coaches Desi Burgart with the North West Giants. In the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary over the Christmas break, Desi was given the responsibility of shutting down the offensive stars of teams from far-off, foreign realms like Saskatchewan and New York.
Desi added some offense on the powerplay during the tournament, but his most important contribution was keeping these players off the scoresheet. And when opposing coaches got frustrated with the ineptness of their offence in the face of Desi’s impeccable defense, those offensive players played more.
And so did Desi.
So in the end, Desi and his line mates were the favourites to take on this responsibility*. And it worked. Desi finished with 1** (one!) goal against in the entire tournament. Remarkable.
*Desi’s BFF Justin Wilson (son of Jim and Linda) was relied upon for the offensive contributions to this tournament and definitely lived up to his end of the bargain.
**Having super-human David Tendeck (son of Paul) sure helped too (understatement).
Last spring, I got in a heated argument with “hockey dad” Gabe Hoffart.
I was coaching Gabe’s son Logan in a spring hockey game, a gold medal game which we won by one goal. It was amazing! Logan and his teammates were all pumped!
However, Logan missed a couple shifts as we pushed for the go-ahead goal.
So, the argument consisted of Gabe saying “great job, coach!” after the game, collecting Logan and leaving.
No, I didn’t know this was an argument until later in the summer when Gabe told me how upset their entire family was. How could I sit his kid in a spring hockey game? Gabe was more animal than man during this conversation.
But then something happened, said Gabe after he calmed down. Logan, a carefree kid with an enormous smile and an enormous-er Justin Beiber wave haircut, learned something important:
“It was the best thing that ever happened to him,” said Gabe. “Kelvin, you’re the greatest, smartest, handsomest coach the world has ever known. Will you be Logan’s godfather?”
Alright, sorry, I guess I can’t go 600 words without being sarcastic, but the point is that missing ice time didn’t hamper Logan’s development because he didn’t let it hamper his development. He learned about hard work and determination, and he’s a different player because of it.
Now, this is a small, isolated example of a 10 year-old hockey player, but the lessons here work at any age. Getting sat is gut-wrenching, but getting sat doesn’t define you, just like getting extra ice time doesn’t define you. You’re defined by your attitude toward your teammates, your determination to improve and your ability to be a good person who plays hockey rather than a good hockey player who’s also coincidentally a person.
Hockey is a journey. There are going to be games, months and entire seasons where nothing rhymes, nothing clicks. Sometimes the situation is within your control, sometimes it’s not.
All things being on a level playing field, the point of ice time is to teach young hockey players how to navigate the hockey world as well as the world world.