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Two youth hockey players racing for the puck.

Hockey Today vs 20 Years Ago: 3 Differences, 1 Constant

08/07/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Have times changed for the better?


“Back in my day we skated uphill to the rink both ways!”

“Why wouldn’t you reverse that and skate downhill both ways?”

“Because… go to bed!”

Sound familiar? 

Hockey has come a long way in the last two decades. Let’s face facts:

  • Gear is way lighter and stronger
  • Players are bigger, on average
  • Goalies still have an unfair advantage (Ha! Take that, goalies!)

But the majority of the changes our game has undergone since Mark Messier guaranteed a win in the playoffs in ’94 have occurred off the ice. 

1. Training

It’s plain to see, hockey players train more and train smarter than ever before. Small group lessons, skill-specific clinics and tailored fitness programs have transformed hockey players into dedicated, focussed athletes. Both on and off the ice, if there’s something an athlete needs to work on, chances are there’s an option available. 

The key is to recognize that it’s still the responsibility of the athlete to work hard and get better. You can use the most sophisticated gadgets in the world, but it still comes down to a hockey player, his stick and a puck. 

2. Parent Involvement

Wait, it’s not what you think - all that training comes with a cost, and it’s understandable that the parents are entitled to an opinion. 

…Until that opinion involves other players or things over which they have no control. 

Parents are just like the players these days. 20 years ago most parents allowed the process to unfold. In 2015, parents want to understand the why as much as the how. They’re advocates for their children. If there’s something the athlete could be doing to improve, the parent will make it happen. 

Now, I wasn’t a parent of a hockey player twenty years ago, so my subject matter expertise is a little frail here. 

Wait, neither were you, thus so is yours. 

3. Spring Hockey

Anyone can play spring hockey these days. And that’s all I want to say about that. 

4. The Constant: Adversity

Playing hockey will always be accompanied by a healthy dose of adversity. That’s hockey and that’s life. Only so many players can make the team. Hockey players could learn a lot from tennis players, where they accept that there’s someone else out there who’s better, but then they accept the responsibility and do something about it. 

20 years ago the best players made the team and the same goes today. Sure, there are mistakes every year, but it’s also difficult to predict how players will respond to adversity in November. The player doesn’t know, the parent doesn’t know and the coach can only make an educated guess. 

No matter what era you’re living in, the strongest, most dedicated players make it in the end. 

Tryouts are a’comin’

Every year I write philosophical articles like this one when tryouts are about to roll around. It’s a difficult time for everybody and it always has been. All we can do as parents and coaches is support the players as best we can no matter what happens. Because In 2015 the training is better, the gear is better and the parent involvement is … well it’s something, I don’t know if it’s better or not. 

But in the end none of that truly matters, the only thing that matters is the mind of the person who laces ‘em up. All the training and gear and parent support is just that - support for a cause owned by the players themselves. 

And only the players can truly control the players. 


photo credit: NZ6X9841 via photopin (license)

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