Even Wayne Came Off The Ice….

Thank you to everyone who requested my blog to come back. I took some time off to work on some other things but it is good to get back to having some fun.
As you know this blog is usually relating to my son’s Mite hockey team and our positive experiences together learning and growing. Sometimes you can learn things by the actions of others……..

“I’ve been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone….The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone.”
We Take Care of Our Own
Bruce Springsteen

For all the coaches out there:

Two weeks ago our Mite team played a game against a team and the game was not pretty. It was one of those games where nothing went well for the other team. They were missing some of their players and it seemed like every time one of our players shot the puck it ended up in the other teams net. Almost every player on our team scored. During the game we took a time out to talk to our young kids about not running the score up, making good plays, passing the puck being respectful of the other team. It was a tough day and the score ended up 13-3. As coaches we felt bad for the other team but felt like we taught our kids to react properly.

Fast forward to this weekend. We played the same team and lost 6-4. What was upsetting was not losing. In my opinion at this age it is not about the wins and losses but what the kids are learning.  It was good for our kids to be humbled a bit after the previous weekend. What was troubling were the actions of the other coaches and the decisions they made.  They have a tremendous young player who was clearly the best player on both teams and maybe the best in the league. He just so happens to wear the number 99, so of course I was having Gretzky flashbacks that I thought I had buried. The coaches in their infinite wisdom decided to have this player play the entire game……never came off the ice. He either scored every goal or was involved in setting them up. Good for him, shame on the coaches. After the game they acted like they had won the Stanly Cup. This is mite hockey remember. If there are hockey gods, I’m sure they would have been severely disappointed by them. What are we teaching our kids? That it is good to sit back and let someone do the heavy lifting for you. That one person can decide your future. That it is important to win at all costs even if it sacrifices the confidence of your friends and teammates. Isn’t there too much of that in the country already?

The number 99 thing got me thinking about things.

There are legendary stories of Walter Gretzky, Wayne’s dad, walking from one side of the rink to the coaches’ bench to tell the coach to stop playing Wayne so much, that it was more important for the other kids to play more to improve the team in the long run. The other day I didn’t see any parents walk over to their coach….
I played with a lot of guys who played with Wayne and every one of them talked about him being the greatest teammate and person they knew. They all said he was a player that made everyone around him a better player. I think Walter taught Wayne a lot more than just winning at all costs.
When I was 18 and playing for the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, we played an exhibition series against the Canada Cup team that was filled with the greatest players on the planet, including Wayne. Clearly we were outmatched and after two periods and being down 6-0, the coaches decided to split up the rosters to make the game better. The door to our dressing room opened and in walked Wayne, Mark Messier, Brian Propp, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey. I’ll never forget the way Wayne spoke to us. He told us that our focus should always be on the effort, the process and in getting better- not what the current score was. It was incredible. He made everyone in the room feel better and raised our confidence just by the way he acted and carried himself. I am thankful that 25 years later the action of some misguided grown- ups made me remember that incredible experience with Wayne.

After the game I really had trouble shaking hands with the other coaches. I just felt like they really disrespected our great game. But then a couple of things happened that made me feel a whole lot better. After the game my family went out to dinner with one of our teammates and I watched them have a great time and SHARE a pizza. Driving home my son said to me, “Dad, we didn’t get beat by that team……….we got beat by 99……” I laughed and said I agreed. I could see him thinking, then he said, “Dad, don’t worry…. That coach can’t make 99 do the other player’s homework for them……”
Exactly son. Well said. Maybe we are teaching them after all.

One comment

  1. Huff,
    Great to see your blog back, I really enjoy them and so do my friends family that I copy and send them to. What you and the mites experienced are what made me stop coaching youth hockey so many years ago. The kids get it and the parents, especially in this area do not. It is sad that at such a young age parents hold such high expectations of their children at atletic events and rob them of having fun, developing social skills and along the way learning some skills and to be part of a team. My last day as a coach I reminded two parents that their two sons would never be a Wayne Gretzky or Maurice Richard and did not justify being the ice more then any of the less-skilled players. They needed to learn to be part of the team. God Bless your son for his insight and to you for instilling in him the knowledge to know the difference between right and wrong. Keep keeping your team grounded and on the track for success in life.

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