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4 Life Lessons That Hockey Taught Me

4 Life Lessons That Hockey Taught Me

Hockey’s an unbelievable game.

Chances are that if you’re here reading this now, that you probably feel the same way.

I know I’ve talked about it before on here, in that most of the valuable life lessons and skills I have in my life today can be traced back to hockey.

My wife and I talk about it all the time as far as what are the most important lessons that we’ve taken away from sports. For me, I think there are four big lessons that I have taken away from hockey. And I also believe that if you can truly master these four principles, they will make you successful in not only hockey, but really anything that you decide to do.

  1. Confidence - The older I get and the more I coach, the more I realize that confidence is nearly everything. It’s something that I wish I had more consistently as a player, but is something that I see now as absolutely vital to success in whatever you want to do. Confidence and success I believe work hand in hand. The people that can find and build upon their successes are the people that are going to be building and growing their confidence. I know it can be a bit cliche but it’s totally true in that, if you don’t believe in yourself then how is anyone else supposed to? It’s something that we should all be working on everyday. Find success in the little things and constantly be building yourself up.

  2. Work Ethic - We live in a world where everyone is compared to everyone else. Where it’s easy to find excuses and want the glory without putting in the blood, sweat, and tears to get there. I think it’s become more socially acceptable to give up, or blame someone (or something) else when things don’t go your way. In reality, if you really want something in hockey, or life, you need to realize that it’s going to take a lot of work and it’s not going to be easy. The process of working to get what you want is what truly builds your character and helps define you as a person. Don’t short change yourself on that experience because you’re scared to work for something. Push through the pain and push through your limitations. That’s ultimately what will help you grow and become the person that you want to be. Just remember, there’s no short cut for hard work. If you try to find it, it will eventually catch up to you.

  3. Failure - Learning to overcome adversity is part of hockey, and more importantly, part of life. In my experience, the people that learn to deal and work through adversity are the ones that have the most success on the ice, and off. What do you do when things get tough and don’t go your way? Do you fold up and quit? Do you look for someone else to fight your battle for you? Or, do you stand in there, hold your head up high, and learn and grow from the experience. Success is not supposed to be easy and failure is part of it. In fact, I don’t think success is possible without failure. So when things don’t go your way and you get knocked down, get back up and keep grinding. If it’s something that you really want, you’ll look back and realize those moments that you kept moving forward are the ones that defined you.

  4. Teammates - A group on the same page is always more powerful than the individual. Just like hockey, in life, the successful people surround themselves with people who have different skill sets. It’s just how a hockey team can’t have 4 first line centers, but, if they have 4 lines that all know their role and work together towards the same objective they’re probably going to have a lot of success. Learning to work with a team is also a great teacher of humility and ego. The first advice I would give anyone looking to fit in with a team is to check your ego at the door. Realize that having the right attitude and putting the group goal at the foreground is the real way to create amazing success. The last bit that goes along with having teammates, is building relationships. It’s amazing the friends you can make and the opportunities that can present themselves by learning to work well with others and build relationships.

So while I know there are even more tremendous traits that hockey has taught me, I think that anyone who can master these 4 will definitely set themselves up for success in whatever they pursue.

And just like so many other things I’ve talked about on here, none of them take talent.

They all simply take an honest commitment from yourself. A desire to learn, work, and be great.

They all take work, and they all usually don’t come easy, but I can assure that they’re all worth it.

3 Things Every Player Should Focus On

Hockey - Focus on the things you can control.

Focus on the things you can control.

If you’ve ever been coached by me, taken a camp or lesson from me, or really, just talked to me in general about life then you’ve probably heard me say this phrase.

It’s become one of the motto’s of all aspects of my life.

It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect with it, but it’s definitely something I have really focused on within the last few years.

It’s something that I struggled with for a long time as a player.

When I think about it now, I usually just shake my head.

I wasted so much time and energy worrying about things that I had no control over that it’s borderline crazy.

What’s my coach thinking? Why am I playing with this guy? Will so and so coach, or scout, think I’m a good player?

As players, we’ve all been there.

But the reality is, worrying about things that are out of your control don’t make you feel any better, and they certainly don’t make the actual situation any better.

So how do we work on that skill and truly start only focusing on the things we can control?

You’ll notice that I used the word “skill” in the sentence above because, just like stickhandling, I think training your mind to think this way is truly something you have to consistently work at to develop and become good at.

While I could honestly write for days about this subject, I want to give you three actionable items that will help in nearly every situation.

  1. Put your team first and be a great teammate. I can’t stress enough how valuable this is. If you can always have the mindset of putting your team first and checking your ego at the door, you’ll have less stress as a player because you won’t get stuck in the depressing ups and downs of worrying about things outside of your control. Never feel like you’re above doing something that puts the team first. I think you’d be surprised how far that mindset can take you in hockey and life.

  2. Don’t cut corners and look for the easy way. As my favorite saying goes, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” If you’re looking for the easy way out, you’re not there for the right reasons. Players who cut corners are often the first to make excuses. When in doubt refer to actionable item number one above.

  3. Give yourself an honest assessment. How hard are you really working? Are you fully committed and doing the best you can? I think if we’re being truly honest with ourselves there’s usually always an area that we can give a little more at. Focus on yourself and what you’re putting into the situation instead of worrying about everything else. When you have no regrets, the results are usually always much easier to handle.

The moral of this whole post is that when things get tough, which they will, go back and look at yourself and figure out how you can keep improving, instead of looking at everyone else.

I can tell you from personal experience that it helps take out the huge ups and downs with the game and allows for a more controlled even keel.

Also, remember that it’s always going to be a work in progress and that ok. As long as you’re making progress then know you’re headed in the right direction.

NHL Playoff Observations And What We Can Learn From Them

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Isn’t this one of the best times of the year?

The NHL playoffs are incredible.

I would argue with anyone that there is nothing else like it in the world of sports.

While I haven’t watched every game, I’ve watched a lot this year and wanted to write a quick article about my observations thus far (almost 2 weeks in).

The first thing that stands out is the speed of the game. We all know that hockey is trending into a faster, more skating driven game, but the playoffs really exemplify this.

Teams and players that can skate, and play with speed, are dominating thus far. And I think this only continues to prove the point that if you want to make it as a hockey player, you need to be working on your skating and your speed.

And it’s all positions. It used to be that if you were bigger and didn’t skate as well you played defense. That just isn’t the case anymore. In fact, most of the best defenseman are now also tremendous skaters.

The next thing that stands out is team depth.

Obviously, your best players need to be your best players to be successful, but I think the team that has the best depth as a group will be the team that hosts the cup this year.

I’ve actually been a huge believer of this for a long time. I have been saying the same thing for the past few years in that, if you don’t have four lines that can play in the playoffs, you’re not going to win. Simple as that.

The last item is special teams.

The bigger the game, the more important every little advantage is.

I’m a big believer that once you get down to the playoffs, every team is good and laying it on the line each night.

Because of this, the margin of error becomes even more razor thin and things like special teams are often the real difference makers.

If your special teams struggles in the playoffs, your season is probably going to be ending pretty soon.

So what are the takeaways from all this for players and coaches?

1) Understand and realize how the game is constantly evolving. Being able to play with pace and make decisions and plays at full speed is becoming the way to have success as a player and team.

2) Remember that every role on a team is vital to its success. If you’re a fourth liner, you need to realize that your job has a purpose to the overall success of the team. Like I’ve said countless times on this blog, there’s a reason you don’t have 4 first line centers. Everyone has a job, embrace it and be the best you can be at it.

3) And lastly, don’t forget to be constantly working on your skill development. The difference between good players and great players is usually the great players are able to execute the basic fundamentals of the game at a higher level than the good players. So those things include, stickhandling, passing, shooting, and even skating. And the best part to remember about all those skills, is they can all be constantly worked on and improved.

So, Continue to go after the things you want and make sure you’re putting in the work. Taking action is always more important than trying to make sure you’re working on the perfect drill. In fact, often simple is better. And finally, build good habits and always remember that nothing worth having comes easy.

How To Deal With Not Getting Enough Ice Time

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It’s probably one of the questions that I get asked the most as a coach, why don’t I get more playing time?

The reality is that most players at some point in their hockey career are going to feel this way.

I dealt with this as a player, and the truth is, it’s never an easy hurdle to overcome.

But, over the years I’ve learned a lot (from being a player and now a coach) about the topic and I wanted to put something together that I wish I had when I was a player.

The truth is that most players when faced with this situation start down the path of playing the ‘pity game’. Coach doesn’t like me… Coach doesn’t know what he’s doing… Coach is unfair…

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve all had those thoughts.

I know I did.

I got so wrapped up in worrying about that stuff that I’m sure it took away from my game. My attitude wasn’t great and I was wandering down a path of only worrying about me instead of the ‘we’ of my team.

So if you catch yourself going down this path, what should you do?

  1. Focus on the things you can control. I know this gets talked about a lot on this blog but I think this has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned in hockey, and life. Stop wasting time, and valuable energy, on things that don’t matter. Stop trying to analyze what’s going on in your coaches head and second guessing every decision that they make. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to like, agree, or understand everything that they do, but, it simply means that you shouldn’t be distracting yourself and wasting energy on things that you don’t have direct control over.

  2. How’s your attitude? Like I said up above, it’s easy to start spiraling down the path of negativity. But honestly, what’s that going to get you? Nothing. If you bring a bad attitude to the rink, do you honestly think that is going to help your team? Or, do you think bringing a negative attitude to the rink is going to make you’re coach think… “hey, this player has a really bad attitude, I think I should play him/her more…” It almost sounds funny when you read it, but think of about the last time you were frustrated with a coach or situation and how your attitude was. Was your attitude helping or hindering the success of your team?

  3. Are you putting in any extra work? If you’re unhappy with your ice time, are you willing to work harder and do the extra work to get better, or are you satisfied with simply complaining about the issue? We all want to think that we’re going the extra mile to get better, but the reality is that most players are not. To put it simply, it’s way easier to complain about a situation than actually put your head down, not complain, and work on your craft. What sort of things are you doing outside of your normal obligations (practices, workouts, meetings…) to get better? Ultimately, if it’s something that you really want then being willing to go the extra mile for it. I can guarantee you’ll never regret doing the extra work. Think about it this way, if you committed to shooting extra pucks everyday, or stickhandling for 20 minutes everyday at your house, do you think you would ever be able to go back and regret actually doing the work? No way, the only time you’re doing to have regrets is if you’re not willing to put in the work.

  4. Have a conversation with a coach. I know to some it seems daunting, but if you’re truly unhappy with your situation, then you should be willing to have a conversation about it. I’m yet to meet a coach that is unwilling to have a conversation with a player. With that being said, there are a few guidelines I would give any player going into that conversation. First, go in with the right attitude. Going in and saying “I think it’s unfair that I don’t get more ice time” is a lot different than going in and saying to a coach “I feel like I can do more to help the team be successful. What are you seeing, and what are things that I can work on to help contribute more to the team?” Ultimately, you’re saying the same thing, but option one is focused on YOU and your needs whereas option two is focused on the needs of your TEAM. That’s a big difference. The other piece of advice I have for players in this situation is to go into the conversation prepared to actually have a conversation. Trust me, I know that not every player is going to agree, or understand, the decisions that I make as a coach. And that’s ok! But if you’re genuine and truly want to help your team more, than being able to have a conversation will help you understand the situation and should hopefully leave you with a game plan of things to improve upon. Trust me, most coaches know it’s not an easy conversation for players to have, but we all respect the players that are willing to do it.

Like I said above, I’m sure at one point in your hockey career you’re going to be faced with the situation of wanting to get more ice time.

It can be a tough and frustrating time, but hopefully the advice above helps you focus on the right areas and prevents you from spiraling down the path of negativity.

Keep focusing on the things you can control and be willing to work for the things you want.

The Power Of The "Team"

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It never ceases to amaze me the power of a committed team.

In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that on many levels, the best “team” is usually the one that wins.

Winning in hockey isn’t usually talent based. Assuming that you’re playing in an appropriate league and level for your age and skill, winning occurs for the best “team”.

The group of 20 players that can come together, work for each other, and put the needs of the “team” first are the ones that will celebrating at the end.

The reality is that we all want to play every other shift, play on special teams, and be counted on in crucial situations.

However, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that’s not possible.

Like I’ve said before, there’s a reason you don’t have 4 first line centers…

It takes all types of players with different skill sets and talents to create a winning team.

But, more importantly, it takes a group who is willing to put their personal wants and desires on the back burner and the needs of the “team” on the front.

And this becomes the challenge of every team. It won’t work with half the team on board with this. It only works if all 20 are willing to buy into this mentality.

I can promise you that the memories you’ll make from buying in and putting your team first will always outweigh the personal achievements you may achieve.

So my challenge to all of you reading this is to genuinely put your teams needs first and your personal needs second and see how your outlook can change.

Attitude Is Everything

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Isn’t it amazing how far a good attitude can take you in life?

The same can be said with hockey.

Having a good attitude plays such a crucial role to the success of a team, and you as an individual.

It’s another one of those things that sounds so simple, and easy in theory, yet can often times be one of the more challenging aspects to a season.

We all have good days and bad, and most teams go through slumps and struggles throughout the course of the season. How we react during those times often makes the biggest difference, and can make those slumps shorter, and fewer and far between.

Like we’ve talked about on here before, how you mentally go into a game is going to make a huge difference towards the outcome. In other words, if you go in thinking you have no chance of winning, then chances are you’re right.

So how do you ensure that you have the right attitude everyday at the rink?

  1. Be there for the right reasons. Love what you’re doing, but also know that everyday isn’t going to be perfect. And that’s ok. But, if you can remember all the reasons why you love the game, it makes it a lot easier to keep your attitude positive.

  2. Keep things in perspective. Think about all the work you’ve put into the game and how lucky you are to get the opportunity to play the game you love.

  3. Enjoy the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. As we’ve talked about before, hockey is the ultimate team game. And, there’s nothing better than having 15 or 20 of your friends all working towards the same goals and achieving success together. Each person has a role and a responsibility to your team and teammates, make sure you’re coming through for them. And having a great attitude is a big part of that.

  4. Make sure you’re having fun. Regardless of how old you are, the game needs to be fun. If you can find fun at the rink, then it’s always a good day. Even if things aren’t going your way on a particular day, find a way to incorporate some fun into the day. Whether in the locker room, on the bench, or on the ice there’s always a way to bring some fun to the rink.

Focus your time and energy on your attitude because it’s another one of those things that’t entirely in your control. You can control your attitude everyday. And from my experience, the days where you can have a great attitude are always more successful than the days that you don’t.

Keep pushing towards the things you want and loving the game of hockey.

The One Question We All Need To Ask Ourselves

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I think there’s a simple question that gets lost in the shuffle of hockey all the time.

We become so caught up in the routine that I think we forget to take a second and stop and think.

Do you actually want to do this?

I guess when you really stop and think about it, it’s a simple question to ask but a much harder question to answer for most.

It’s just like an onion where there are many layers. We all need to keep peeling back different sections to ultimately get to our answer.

I think it’s becoming all to common that players are getting to the realization that hockey at a high level is not something they are interested in pursuing anymore.

And you know what, that’s ok.

I think so many of us get caught up in the thinking that “I’ve been playing hockey for most of my life and the goal has always been to keep getting better, and making that higher team” that we forget to keep checking in with ourselves to see if that’s really what we want.

The truth is, I think a lot of players continue to play through their adolescence and teen years because it’s “simply what they do, and have always done.” And not necessarily because the love and drive of the game is what is fueling them to go to the rink everyday.

Or, they keep telling themselves that they want to play on that high level team, when in reality, they simply enjoy playing the game but don’t have the drive or desire to put in the necessary work to truly enjoy the experience.

The truth is, the higher in hockey you go, the more commitment, time, and sacrifice that it takes to be a part of it.

I think too often we don’t ask ourselves that simple question, and instead, just keep following our old routine, or trying to make our parents happy, or continue playing because that’s what our friends are doing.

The reality is, if your heart isn’t in it, then why are you doing it?

There’s no shame in coming to the realization that you don’t want to commit a huge chunk of your time, effort, and energy into something that your heart just isn’t passionate about.

That also doesn’t mean that you don’t still enjoy the game. It simply means that different areas of your life you are prioritizing more. And like I said above, that’s ok.

So I ask all of you to take a second and ask yourself the simple question, do you actually want to do this?

And if you do, then great that’s awesome. Keep grinding away and pursuing your dreams and committing to your team and teammates.

But if you don’t, that’s ok too.

And if you want to keep playing hockey, that’s awesome and I hope you find a level and team that meets your commitment level.

Because we should never feel pressured to play on a team where our heart isn’t in it.

The game is meant to be fun.

If you don’t want to commit to multiple practices, workouts, meetings, and games every week then don’t do it.

Ultimately, figure out what you want and find a situation that’s right for you.

The Mental Battle All Hockey Players Face

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Be honest with yourself, have you ever felt like you were going to lose before you even played the game?

I’m guessing that if you’re being completely honest with yourself, then everyone reading this will be able to answer ‘yes’.

Isn’t it crazy the mind games we play with ourselves from time to time?

Whether we look at the team we’re playing and assume they’re better, or maybe we’ve lost to them in the past, or maybe we know some of the players on the other team and know how talented they are, or maybe it’s just that they’re physically bigger…

Whatever it may be, we’ve all played the mental battle with ourselves and put ourselves behind the ball before the game even starts.

It’s amazing to me as a coach how often I see this and how much this truly dictates the outcome of the game.

I’m a firm believer that if you go into a situation expecting to lose, or fail, you’re probably going to.

However, on the flip side, if you go into the situation knowing, and expecting, to win you’re already ahead of the curve.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to coach some very good, and successful, hockey teams.

When people ask me about what made those teams different, this is usually one thing that I always bring up right away. Those teams had the confidence, and swagger, to walk into the rink every night knowing and expecting to win.

They didn’t care who we were playing, they looked at it as that team had to come play us.

It truly played to our advantage.

You could sense, and see the intimidation on the opposing teams in warmups and that only added to our teams confidence.

In fact, I used to talk with my assistant coaches about how you could tell what type of game it was going to be that night depending how the other team showed up to the rink.

You could get a sense if they were focused, excited, and ready for the challenge, or, if they were just there because they had to and hoping to survive the next few hours.

It always amazes me how the mind tricks we play on ourselves really effects so much in our performance.

So what do you do with all this?

First off, don’t beat yourself before you even get started. Hockey, and life, is a competitive venture where realistically you’re not going to win every night. But, if you go in without the expectation of winning, you’re almost always guaranteeing your outcome.

Rise up to the challenge. If you’re playing a great team, visualize the victory. Know in your heart that you’re going to leave it all on the ice, and remember, that’s why we play the game. Think of all the amazing underdog stories you’ve heard about in sports throughout your life. Why did those happen? Because a team of people came together with the belief that they would be able to create greatness for that night.

Be prepared. It sounds simple, but it’s so true. Control the things that are in your power to control and make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to give you the best chance at being successful. Know that it won’t be easy, but challenging and pushing our limits is what makes us grow and get better.


On the flip side, if you’re a great team use that confidence to your advantage. Have a great warmup, start quick, and don’t give teams lacking confidence a chance to recover and think they have a chance.

Remember that your mind is an incredibly powerful tool.

It can be used to help you, or hurt you.

Make sure that it’s helping prepare you for the challenges you face and always go into every battle with the optimism that greatness is going to happen in your favor.

So to sum everything up in one statement, don’t beat yourself before the game even starts.

Why You Should Take A Break

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I recently wrote about the importance of taking some time for self reflection during the season.

It’s important to take a step back and give yourself an honest assessment of how the season is going so far.

What is working?

What isn’t working and can be improved up?

While this is an incredibly valuable exercise to follow through with, there’s also another component that is incredibly valuable for success.

Taking a break.

While it sounds simple in theory, I think for some players and coaches, it’s a tough task to follow through with (myself included).

The truth is we all need to take breaks during the year where we forget about hockey for a day or two during the season.

Spend time with your family and friends and get out and experience life outside of hockey (yes, such a thing does exist, haha).

It’s important that we all do things like this for a couple reasons.

  1. It’s a way to clear your mind from the stresses that come with playing a competitive sport. For players, there’s the rigors of workouts, practices, and games. And on top of that there’s the mental strain of making sure that you’re ready to play and perform on a day to day basis. For coaches, it’s a way to escape the daily challenges of managing 20 plus players and personalities on a day to day basis. To go along with managing the scheduling and performance of your team.

  2. It allows you to change the routine and gain some perspective on the game. We’ve all heard the saying that “distance makes the heart grow fonder?” The same is true with hockey. It’s amazing what a few days away from the rink will do for you. For many, you’ll start to miss the rink and the routine after a few days and by the time you need to get back to work, your reinvigorated and can’t wait to get back on the ice and get back around your team.

So as the Christmas holiday rolls around, I hope you all get to take a brief break from hockey and spend some quality time away from the game.

Don’t worry, you’re not going to miss out or fall behind from taking a few days off.

If anything, you’ll come back with a new sense of energy and excitement after the holidays, and honestly, that’s incredibly valuable to a team.

So enjoy time with your family and friends and make 2019 the best year yet.

P.S. As a way of practicing what I preach, I will be taking the entire next week off from posting. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season and can’t thank you enough for the continued support of the past year.

Midseason Self Reflection

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With the Christmas holiday right around the corner, it always seems like this is a natural stopping point to relax, get away from the game for at least a couple days, and evaluate yourself and your season so far.

As I have learned over the years, self reflection is another one of those invaluable tools that every player should utilize when possible.

It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of a season.

The workouts, the practices, the travel, the games… it truly can become a grind at times.

This also can lead to us forgetting about why we love the game and why we love getting on the ice everyday.

Gaining some perspective can help deal with this.

Like I’ve talked about on this blog before, taking a step back and having some perspective on the situation can make you appreciate everything so much more.

The time spent with friends and teammates, the competition, the freedom of being on the ice, and the camaraderie of being part of a team that’s all working towards the same goal are just a few of the things that make hockey so great.

And it’s important that we remind ourselves about these things from time to time.

So as the holiday season rolls around and you get a few days away from the rink, sit back and reflect on the season so far.

What has gone well?

What has gone poorly and can be improved upon?

What can you do to help your team be more successful?

And, what can you do, or continue to do, to be a great teammate?

I think if you can ask, and answer, these four questions honestly that it will give you some perspective on your hockey season and hopefully get you reinvigorated for the second half.

Enjoy the break, enjoy the process, and remember that every day is filled with new opportunities. And, it’s our job to make the most of every opportunity.