As players get older and start playing on more competitive teams, things start to change.
Ice time is no longer equal.
Winning starts to be emphasized more.
Different roles have to be filled by players in order to build a successful, and cohesive, team.
Some people disagree with this thinking, some say they agree as long as there kid is still on the first line, and then there is the small minority who fully agrees with this reality.
Personally, as long as it is age appropriate, I am 100% on board with this and think that being a part of a team that emphasizes those three ideas teaches a lot of valuable life lessons.
The reality is that in the real world, life is not always fair. Someone is probably going to get a promotion or make more money than you at some point even though you think you deserve it more.
I think that's one of the best lessons I ever learned throughout all my time in hockey. The importance of understanding your role and accepting it in order to make the group better.
It's honestly a humbling and often difficult experience at first.
Let's face it, we live in an often selfish, me-first, type of world these days. Sports and hockey are no different.
Nearly everyone thinks that they should be on the first line, on the powerplay, and on the ice protecting the one goal lead late in the third.
But the reality is, we all know that just isn't true.
And here's the crazy part, THAT'S OK!!
We have this image in our head as hockey players that if we aren't the first line center then we aren't as good or important to our teams success.
I'm here to tell you that is completely false. In fact, I would argue that you would have a hard time finding a really great hockey team at any level that didn't have a lot of depth, and role players, to go along with that top end talent.
I look at some of the most successful teams I've ever coached. Those teams were recognized by outsiders because of a few of our top end offensive players, but when I look back at those teams I think about a couple of the stay at home defensemen who were so strong in our own zone and in front of our net. And I think about a few of the role players who's specialty became killing penalties and blocking shots.
I'll be the first to admit, not the most glamorous jobs, but none the less absolutely vital to the success of our team.
The reality is that you can't have four first line centers. You need to have that third line center who can shut down an opposing top offensive line and maybe occasionally chip in offensively. Just like you need that fourth line to be strong in the defensive zone and give you a few great shifts when the team needs it.
I'm not saying that anyone should ever settle with their role, especially when still playing minor hockey. But, I am saying that you should embrace your role for whatever it is and make the most of it. You have to be able to look at it as doing your job and holding up your end of the bargain.
For me, I have always related it to a wheel. Each player on the team is a different spoke on the wheel. When all 20 guys are doing their job, the wheel is strong and sturdy and rolls along smooth. When you have a few guys that aren't buying in, the wheel can still move and function, but it's not nearly as efficient. And when that road starts to get bumpy and tough, that's when that wheel will fail you.
So whether you play every other shift or one shift a period, find a way to contribute. If you aren't getting a ton of ice time, be a great teammate. Encourage your teammates, pump them up, show them that you genuinely want them to succeed. I'm telling you that if you can learn to think this way you'll make it a hundred times further than if you don't.
Remember that it takes all types to build a successful team. Make sure you're one of the spokes that's helping carry the weight.