It was about seven or eight years ago I found myself partially blinded by an oversized bike helmet as I furiously pedalled the Seawall around Stanley Park with 15 boisterous preteens in tow. You’d think none of them had ever seen a seagull, let alone the ocean. For many of them, it was their first visit to Vancouver. No, it’s not like they were refugees granted passage into a new country, they were just young hockey players who grew up in Edmonton. Most of them simply weren’t good enough to have the opportunity to play in large tournaments like the one we were attending.
But at that moment, as we stopped to wait for someone who had flipped themselves over their handlebars, I turned to my assistant coach and smiled.
“The places hockey brings you, right?”
It wasn’t so much the physical location we were talking about, my statement had more to do with the accomplishment of this band of ragamuffins. We weren’t exactly the D-12 Mighty Ducks, but it was still cool to receive an invite.
This story is just one of the reasons I love spring hockey.
Another reason I love working in the spring hockey world is there’s not enough time for negativity. I was part of the same spring hockey team for five years in Edmonton, and our core of players didn’t change much. The people who weren’t served by the team? They were usually done after one spring, moved on to better things. And that was just fine by me.
In fact, a lot of them ended up coming back, which was funny.
On the ice, the opportunity to teach kids about the crucial moments in short term competitions was a valuable lesson for me early in my career. Most teams I worked with were focused on development, but it was still important to everybody to try to win whenever possible.
When you stick with the same basic crew for multiple spring seasons, you inevitably end up running into a lot of the same people from spring to spring. Case in point, with this group of 97’s, I remember getting shellacked back in Edmonton by teams with more than a few names you’d recognize. One of our last tournaments as a team, before I moved to Vancouver, was played in Vancouver in a division that included one team built primarily from current WHL and BCHL players. Have you ever heard the saying that hard work beats talent?
Well, it’s not always true. Sorry to spoil the moment.
But for one game out at UBC, despite being short-handed and bruised, it almost was.
For me, another spring hockey season starts in a few hours. The kids are excited to get on the ice with a new team, new coaches, and a new philosophy. It’s easier to coach in the spring because the expectations are wildly different. The winter season will always be what matters in this country, and rightfully so, but for those players and parents who choose to play spring hockey, it’s an exciting time.
And yeah, it’s just plain fun.
Even when you win.