Why do we compete?
It’s a simple question that’s easy to lose sight of. Heck, a lot of coaches purposely blur that sight so as not to heap extra pressure on their players. Hockey players need to exist in the heat of the moment, not thinking, not reacting, just doing.
And the biggest moments are nearly here.
Hockey has transformed in the past 20 years. Coaches used to work on their systems over and over again without hardly a thought to the aspects of skill that are so important these days. Being a big, strong team isn’t the be-all end-all any more, though it certainly helps - as long as you have the skill to back it up.
What sorts of skills?
Coaches work on these skills every day, and most players find extra time to work on these skills on their own. These days we encourage young players to develop their skills and their character to become the best possible versions of themselves.
Hockey is about winning. Hockey is a competitive sport. Hockey is designed to pit the best teams against the best to determine who, in fact, is the actual best.
As coaches it’s our responsibility to shape bright young citizens who can contribute to society, because that’s what will make the world a better place, and we have a motivated audience that’s captivated by the power of our voice and our message.
But hockey is still a sport. One with a gruelling march to the top of the heap, if you can survive. After all, working on your backhand toe drag in February isn’t going to prepare you for blocking a shot with your face in March.
Yet both are critical to winning, one more than the other.
Hockey is a journey that can be broken down into manageable chunks. First, you have professionals and amateurs. Then you have different age brackets - peewee, bantam, midget, junior, etc.
And then you have various levels in each bracket, followed by line combinations and defense pairs.
And every single level is all reaching for the same thing: happiness.
To win is to know happiness. It makes food taste better. It brightens the most mundane moments, like waiting to turn left on mountain highway.
And to lose is to know misery, but to lose is also to know adversity. And the playoffs are one massive lesson in adversity.
Hockey itself is the pursuit of happiness; chasing down dreams of getting better and playing the world’s greatest game.
The highest level of champion in hockey is the winner of the Stanley Cup. After that, Olympic gold. Then there’s the Memorial Cup, the Royal Bank Cup, the Telus Cup (fingers crossed), and so on.
Is the prize at any level less meaningful than any of the others? No matter what level of competition, the journeys our hockey players are taking in the playoffs all run on parallel paths. Surprises are imminent. Heroes are born. Frustration runs rampant.
And all for a small piece of metal that clearly defines your team as the top of the heap. The survivor.
Will it be your team?