I don't ever want to sound like a broken record, but the importance of learning how to work can't be stressed enough.
There's a thing called shiny object syndrome. A lot of people have it, and hockey players are no different.
Basically, it means that its easy to get caught up in something new (and shiny) that pulls your attention and focus away from what really matters.
Hockey players fall into this same trap. In fact, even teams can get caught up in this same syndrome.
We recently had a team meeting where we were going over expectations for the second half of the season and having an open discussion about what we needed to do as a group to continue improving. It was a good conversation with a lot of good points brought up by different members of the team. (I like to have these types of meetings and let the players do the majority of the talking while I help moderate and keep the conversation going. I think it helps the players grow and take some accountability for THEIR team). Players were bringing up things like better tape to tape passing, finishing more checks, utilizing the points more in the offensive zone and so on and so forth. All great things and all definitely things that, if we do, will help us be a more successful team. After about five minutes of this, however, I stopped the group and gave some of my feedback.
I was happy with the conversation but I felt like we were missing something big. We were missing the foundation.
I like to compare it to building a house.
It doesn't make much sense to start building the roof first if you're building a house, right?
Of course not.
Think about the process of building a house. The first thing that is done, and really the center piece to the whole thing, is the foundation. Without a strong foundation, everything else is done in waste. You can have the most amazing floor plan in the world but if it doesn't have a solid foundation to sit on, then it doesn't really matter because you're never going to get to enjoy the actual house.
Just like a house, the foundation of any successful player or team has to be its work ethic. As a player, you can work on your stickhandling all day but if you don't know how to work you aren't going to be successful.
The same thing can be said for a team.
As a team, you can work on passing and shooting and systems all day, but at the end of the day, if you don't have the work ethic ingrained as the top priority then it all doesn't matter.
The hard work, the will to go above and beyond, the ability to push through obstacles, the drive to show up everyday and give your best... that all has to be the priority. Those things build the foundation of a successful player and team.
Once you have that established then everything else (the shiny objects) are those extra intangibles that you can add to your game that will only help you continue to build upon that solid foundation.
The point behind this whole post is that it's easy to get caught up in the distractions that surround the game (or in life). Focus on the things that really matter and make sure that your foundation is strong and sturdy. A great foundation can withstand nearly anything that comes at it.
Remember, it takes no talent to work hard so keep grinding after the things you want. When all else fails, always be able to fall back on your work ethic.