The Game Reminded Me

If you have ever read any of my blog posts before, you know that I am a big believer in the so-called unique and almost magical qualities that I think the sport of hockey has. (see Yesterday, Hockey Won) Maybe I read too much into things at times but sometimes things seem to jump out to me.
Last weekend I experienced one of those moments.

The game reminded me.

This season I have helped coach a u16 and u18 AAA program where hockey is played at a very high and intense level. Let me first state that I love and care deeply for my players. They are extremely good kids. I also work in the hockey advising and hockey agency world. Believe me when I tell you that I know firsthand how competitive and cutthroat the ‘business’ of hockey can be. It is unbelievable at times. The pressure faced by players and families as the season rolls along is something that still amazes me. I even feel it coaching. The quest to win and put a ‘competitive’ product on the ice so Little Johnny can be showcased properly is something that is real and at times very concerning to me. At the time of writing this post in mid November, our teams have won approximately 85% of their games. During this ‘success’, players have quit (only to return), threatened to quit again, some parents have complained about ice time, questioned coaching methods and techniques, worried about National Rankings, and talked negatively about other players and members of the team to anyone who would listen. This at the same time they are spending an incredible amount of time, energy and money to chase the dream of playing hockey at a higher level. Sounds like fun right??

Our team has traveled first class in beautiful buses. Our kids have been fed well. All have top of the line equipment and we stay in great hotels when we travel. Recently at a road game one of our our players couldn’t find his sticks so he said he would just buy a new one at the pro shop…….probably cost about two hundred dollars….

So all these thoughts and things about our teams and parents were running through my mind last weekend while I was standing at a rink in York, PA, beside the bench of a young team who was playing and where our teams were about to play a set of weekend games.
I stood gazing aimlessly out through the glass while I stressed about my lineup. Who would play with who that day so everyone would remain relatively happy and I would limit the amount of pouting both on the bench and in the stands?..…..

Then the game reminded me.

I snapped out of my fog when my eye caught the face of a young player competing in the game right in front of me, (probably squirt age) who was smiling and laughing his ass off!…….on the ice…….He was having the time of his life.
I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the score was 10-0. I just assumed his team was winning.
Then, shortly after that as I focused on that young smiling player, another puck went in. It was against his team…….they were losing. ……11-0.
And he was still smiling.
By this time I moved a bit closer to his bench and as he came off I watched and listened to the interaction with him and the coach, “Good try Nick,” the coached patting him on the helmet.
“Yes coach, I almost had him……!” Another big smile……..
“Nick, we are doing a lot better……keep it up!”
“Thanks, Coach.”
Another huge smile……And he was not the only one. All the players were smiling……

Glancing down at the Jerseys of the team I saw the Snider Youth Hockey Logo on the front and the moment became even more meaningful. The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, created by Philadelphia Flyers Chairman Ed Snider is a fantastic program that has helped young players from all over the Philadelphia area play the game of hockey who may not have ever had the chance to do so. (Please read more Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.) A lot of these young players come from very challenging situations. They certainly aren’t concerned about buying their next two hundred dollar stick……
But this blog isn’t about what these young players are missing, it’s about what they have. Whatever they may lack in financial resources, they certainly showed me they make up for with incredible passion and love for playing the game. They have what our players and our parents at times seem to lack. Joy……

I chatted briefly with the coach and he was kind enough to allow me to go into the dressing room after the game and say hello to the kids. I spent the next five or ten minutes chatting with the kids. We laughed and had a great time talking about hockey, who their favorite players are and who their favorite NHL teams are. They told me repeatedly how much they loved getting to play games. No matter what the score……
The coached thanked me for coming in, but I knew right at that moment that I owed him a big thank you.

That day in York, PA., the game reminded me.

It reminded me that this game is still played in its truest and purest form by kids who are smiling, laughing and having a good time as they learn about life…..not concerned about the score and certainly not worried about their national rankings…….
It reminded me how fortunate we are to be around the hockey and why we got involved in this game in the first place.

It reminded me that in some places and at some ages, it’s still just a game and not a business.

It reminded me to remember to smile. To have fun. To enjoy the real beauty of the game……being able to smile no matter what the score.

I just hope my team and their parents watched some of the game and they too were reminded….

Thanks kids!


snider3 snider2

The Grass Isn’t Greener

The Grass Isn’t Greener

We often think that the grass will be greener somewhere else.

We believe we’ll be happier and more successful anywhere but where we are.

And so we pursue happiness and chase success thinking one day we will magically find them. But rarely will we find happiness and success by seeking them.

I’ve learned if you want success you can’t chase it. Instead you must decide to make a difference where you are… and success will find you.

I’ve learned if you want to find happiness don’t seek it. Instead decide to work with passion and purpose… and happiness will find you.

Too many people want instant success and gratification right now! Too many athletes want to be traded because they think they’ll be more successful on another team. Too many employees complain that their co-workers aren’t working hard enough and this affects their own performance. Too many sales people compare themselves to others and become frustrated and disengaged. Too many people worry about what everyone else is doing instead of focusing on what they are doing. Too many people run from challenges instead of developing stronger roots.

If you are like me, you’ve been one of these people. Most of us have at one time or another. It’s human nature after all.

That’s why I want to encourage you not to worry about things you can’t control. Don’t run away from where you are in the hope of finding greener pastures.

Instead plant yourself like a seed each day and invest your time and energy growing yourself and others. When you plant yourself where you are with a passionate desire to make a difference you’ll grow into the influencer you were born to be.

The greenest pasture is not somewhere else. It’s the place where you plant yourself and create a great environment for growth. When you do this, you’ll produce an abundant harvest filled with real success and true happiness.

Where The Goals Are

Watch these 10 goals from the NHL last night. Focus on the net. Look at the traffic. Look at the bodies in front of the goalie and look at how hard the players go to the net.
Go to the net. That is where the goals are!












Don’t Ruin The Ice Cream

I recently read a great post by former professional athlete Keith Van Horn. A fantastic piece to read when you have time. READ HERE

One part of it really jumped out to me and I think it applies not only in sport but in all areas of life. I felt compelled to share.


The parent suffering from DPD can cause their child to become a bad apple on their team.  John Calipari, the current head men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky and my first head coach in the NBA once told me a story.  When he was the head coach at the UMass, one year he had a top ten team that had a chance to win a national championship.  They were struggling early and he had a very talented player who was constantly getting in trouble, causing problems at practice and just plain being a cancer to the team.  After trying to help the player both on and off the court, his problems continued and eventually Calipari had to kick him off the team.  After dismissing him from the team, the team began to play great and they made it all the way to the Final Four.  Coach Calipari, after telling me the story said, “Our team that year was like a big tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.  All of the ingredients mixed together so well and the result was something great.  But when that player was on our team, he was like a little, itsty bit piece of (expletive that starts with an “S”) in our tub of ice cream.  You put one little, itsty bit piece of (expletive that starts with an “S”) in your tub of ice cream, and all the ice cream is just absolutely (expletive that starts with an “F”) RUINED.”  Parents suffering from severe cases of DPD are like the you-know-what in their child’s team ice cream, causing relationship problems with coaches and teammates.

Whether in sport or in life, it’s great to be part of the ice cream. The challenge is to make sure you are not the little piece spoiling it……

Have a great week everyone!



10 Unforgettable Quotes

When personal development legend Jim Rohn passed away in 2009, he left an incredible gift: his encouraging, uplifting messages and inspiring, thought-provoking quotes, beloved by millions and shared throughout the world to this day.  For what would be his 84th birthday on Sept. 17, SUCCESS celebrates and remembers the life of Jim Rohn with 10 of his most beloved quotes:

1. “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

2. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

3. “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

4. “Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely.”

5. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

6. “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

7. “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

8. “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”

9. “Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”

10. “Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.”

14U/16U: Profiling True College Hockey Prospects

09/02/2014, 4:00pm MDT
By USA Hockey

Michael Cavanaugh, the University of Connecticut men’s hockey head coach and one of the game’s top recruiters, believes that all college hockey coaches initially look for the same things in a recruit: “Skating ability, the ability to make plays and a high-grade hockey IQ.”

Cavanaugh knows firsthand how to evaluate a college hockey prospect. Prior to taking the reins at Connecticut, Cavanaugh spent 18 years as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Boston College, during which time the Eagles won four national titles. In all, Cavanaugh helped groom 22 All-America selections and more than 30 NHL players. A large part of Boston College’s winning foundation was built on Cavanaugh’s ability to not only recruit premiere talent but also find premiere talent that fit his program’s culture both on and off the ice.

Cavanaugh will be the first one to tell you that college hockey recruiters don’t merely evaluate players’ on-ice skill set. To get a full evaluation of their true ability, potential and character, Cavanaugh considers a host of other factors, too.

“We also look at little things like how good of a teammate the player is,” said Cavanaugh. “How well a player handles adversary and criticism and coaching is also very important.”

Cavanaugh offers the following advice on what college coaches seek in prospective recruits:

Style of Play

“I think it’s important that coaches recruit to the style of hockey that they want to play,” said Cavanaugh.

There are 59 Division I hockey teams and all of them have varying degrees of team identity and playing style.

“Union won the NCAA championship with fast and mobile defensemen like Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere,” said Cavanaugh. “The coach decides what style he wants to play and then recruits according to that model.”

The Whole Game

When Cavanaugh watches a prospect, he judges the player’s entire game, not just the highlights. The player’s actions and reactions to negative and positive situations between whistles and on the bench are included in his evaluation, too. This is important for 14U/16U players to remember, because emotions can often run high and then swing low if they’re not in control.

“I watch the player throughout the whole game,” said Cavanaugh. “We watch his body language on the bench. Does he try to lift up his teammates? How does he handle the coach’s criticism during the game? These are the things you can’t see on video.”

Work Hard on the Ice and in the Classroom

At Boston College, renowned Eagles head hockey coach Jerry York has two basic principles for the foundation of the hockey program: Compete for championships and graduate players. Cavanaugh has carried this tradition with him to UConn.

“When I recruit a player, I tell him that if they don’t want to go to class, they should go play major junior hockey,” said Cavanaugh. “If you’re going to come to UConn, I’m going to push you as hard in school as I do on the ice.”

Cavanaugh truly believes that there’s a direct correlation between kids that do well in school and kids that succeed on the ice.

“I know that the teams I coached at B.C. that won championships were always led by a senior class that had guys flirting with 3.0 GPAs or better,” he added. “I think as a hockey player, if you’re going to put the time and effort into school, hockey will be the fun part.”

The Importance (and Unimportance) of Size

Cavanaugh also wants 14U/16U players to know that they shouldn’t be discouraged if they are smaller in stature.

“If you’re good enough, you’re big enough,” said Cavanaugh.

He points to outstanding Boston College alums and current NHL players Nathan Gerbe (5-foot-5), Johnny Gaudreau (5-foot-9), and Brian Gionta (5-foot-7) as examples of players who were often overlooked because of their size but achieved great things through hard work and heart.

Parents’ Role

“The college decision is four years that will shape the next 40,” said Cavanaugh. “That should be the student-athlete’s decision. That being said, it’s important that the parents provide their child with a strong sounding board and guidance. They can express their opinion and present the facts. At some point in their life though, the child has to make decisions on their own.”

Cavanaugh illustrates this point by telling a story about the time he recruited a player for Boston College.

“The player’s dad went to a rival alma mater and I assumed the dad would guide the kid to that school,” said Cavanaugh. “I was pleasantly surprised when the kid committed to B.C. Later on, the dad told me that the one phone call he never wanted to get was from his son asking him why he sent him to that school and not the one he really wanted to go to. That really shaped my views.”

The One Constant

A true college hockey prospect is comprised of many desirable traits, but there is always one constant.

“Work ethic is a given,” said Cavanaugh. “Everybody that plays for me works hard. I would think all 59 Division I coaches would say the same thing.”

The Big Radar

Cavanaugh believes that there are many different paths that can lead to Division I opportunities for a 14U/16U player.

As long as players are dedicated and routinely practice their basic skills, play hard and act as good teammates, good things can happen for any player in any city. After all, college coaches have huge radars and they’re always looking for talented players.

“I flew to Minnesota to watch a certain player,” said Cavanaugh. “But during the game, I noticed two outstanding players on the opposite team. I inquired with the coach of the two opposing players. We took another look at these two kids and really liked them. We recruited them and brought them out for a visit. We couldn’t figure out why these two kids weren’t being heavily recruited. Now, both Johnny Austin and Spencer Naas are on our UConn roster. It all worked out.”

9 Ways To Be A Great Teammate


Posted by Jon Gordon
I recently shared a tweet about ways to be a great team member and was surprised to see that it was my most retweeted tweet ever. It occurred to me that deep down inside we all know we can’t do it alone. We know that Super Bowls are not won by individuals. They are won by a collection of individuals who make a great team. It’s the same with work and life. We are better together when we are surrounded by great team members. In this spirit I want to share 9 ways to be a great team member.

1. Set the Example – Instead of worrying about the lack of performance, productivity and commitment of others you simply decide to set the example and show your team members what hard work, passion and commitment looks like. Focus on being your best every day. (Tweet This) When you do this you’ll raise the standards and performance of everyone around you.

2. Use Your Strengths to Help the Team – The most powerful way you can contribute to your team is to use your gifts and talents to contribute to the team’s vision and goals. Without your effort, focus, talent and growth the team won’t accomplish its mission. This means you have an obligation to improve so you can improve your team. You are meant to develop your strengths to make a stronger team. Be selfish by developing you and unselfish by making sure your strengths serve the team.

3. Share Positive Contagious Energy – Research shows emotions are contagious and each day you are infecting your team with either positive energy or negative energy. You can be a germ or a big dose a Vitamin C. When you share positive energy you infectiously enhance the mood, morale and performance of your team. Remember, negativity is toxic. Energy Vampires sabotage teams and complaining is like vomiting. Afterwards you feel better but everyone around you feels sick.

4. Know and Live the Magic Ratio – High performing teams have more positive interactions than negative interactions. 3:1 is the ratio to remember. Teams that experience interactions at a ratio equal or greater than 3:1 are more productive and higher performing than those with a ratio of less than 3:1. Teams that have a ratio of 2:1, 1:1 or more negative interactions than positive interactions become stagnant and unproductive. This means you can be a great team member by being a 3 to 1’er. Create more positive interactions. Praise more. Encourage more. Appreciate more. Smile more. High-five more. Recognize more. Energize more. Read more about this at http://www.FeedthePositiveDog.com

5. Put the Team First – Great team players always put the team first. They work hard for the team. They develop themselves for the team. They serve the team. Their motto is whatever it takes to make the team better. They don’t take credit. They give credit to the team. To be a great team member your ego must be subservient to the mission and purpose of the team. It’s a challenge to keep our ego in check. It’s something most of us struggle with because we have our own goals and desires. But if we monitor our ego and put the team first we’ll make the team better and our servant approach will make us better.

6. Build Relationships – Relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams are built and great team members take the time to connect, communicate and care to build strong bonds and relationships with all their team members. You can be the smartest person in the room but if you don’t connect with others you will fail as a team member. (Tweet This) It’s important to take the time to get to know your team members. Listen to them. Eat with them. Learn about them. Know what inspires them and show them you care about them.

7. Trust and Be Trusted – You can’t have a strong team without strong relationships. And you can’t have strong relationships without trust. Great team members trust their teammates and most of all their team members trust them. Trust is earned through integrity, consistency, honesty, transparency, vulnerability and dependability. If you can’t be trusted you can’t be a great team member. Trust is everything. (Tweet This)

8. Hold Them Accountable – Sometimes our team members fall short of the team’s expectations. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they need a little tough love. Great team members hold each other accountable. They push, challenge and stretch each other to be their best. Don’t be afraid to hold your team members accountable. But remember to be effective you must built trust and a relationship with your team members. If they know you care about them, they will allow you to challenge them and hold them accountable. Tough love works when love comes first. Love tough. (Tweet This)

9. Be Humble – Great team members are humble. They are willing to learn, improve and get better. They are open to their team member’s feedback and suggestions and don’t let their ego get in the way of their growth or the team’s growth. I learned the power of being humble in my marriage. My wife had some criticism for me one day and instead of being defensive and prideful, I simply said, “Make me better. I’m open. Tell me how I can improve.” Saying this diffused the tension and the conversation was a game changer. If we’re not humble we won’t allow ourselves to be held accountable. We won’t grow. We won’t build strong relationships and we won’t put the team first. There’s tremendous power in humility that makes us and our team better.

For All The Coaches


As many training camps approach I thought I would re-post a blog dedicated to all the coaches getting ready. Have a great season everyone!

Last week I wrote a short piece on Lou Holtz and received a good deal of positive responses from many coaches. One of the best parts of doing what I do is that I get to interact with so many coaches at all levels. I am always amazed at their passion and love for the game and helping young players. I too have been lucky to be an assistant coach with a team at the U18 level this year. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have come to understand what makes this passion come out in people. So I put this together for anyone out there coaching at any level. Enjoy! 

The word derives from the horse drawn carriages that were developed in the 15th century. The vehicles were originally used to transport royalty but in time they also carried mail, goods and common passengers. A ‘Coach’ remains something or someone that carries a valued person from where they are to where the want to be…….
So if you had a ‘Coach’, you knew you would have something (or someone) that would help you end up at your destination.
In other cultures and languages, coaches are known by many other names and titles.
In Japan, a ‘Sensei’ is ‘one who has gone down a path.’ In martial arts it is the designation for ‘Master’.
In Sand script, a ‘Guru’ is ‘one with great knowledge and wisdom.’ Gu means darkness and ru means light. A Guru takes someone from darkness into the light.
In Tibet, a ‘Lama’ is ‘one with spirituality and authority to teach.’ In Tibetan Buddhism, a Dalai Lama is the highest ranking teacher.
In Italy, a ‘Maestro’ is a ‘master teacher of music’. It is short for Maestro Dicapella meaning ‘master of the chapel’.
In France, a ‘Tutor’ is a ‘private teacher’. The term dates back to the 14th century and refers to ‘one who serves as a watchman’.
In England, a ‘Guide’ is ‘one who knows and shows the way’. It denotes the ability to see and point out the better course.
In Greece, a ‘Mentor’ is a ‘wise and trusted adviser’.
All of these words describe the same role and define what a coach is. ‘One who goes before and shows the way’. No matter how you describe them, coaches make a difference in people’s lives. They help them grow. They improve their potential and they increase their productivity. Coaches are essential to help people affect positive change. Players would never maximize their potential without coaching. They may be good, maybe even better than everyone else, but without outside input, they will never be as good as they could be. Everyone performs better when someone else is watching, evaluating and providing positive feedback. Self-evaluation is important but the evaluation from someone else is essential.
There was a great piece on 60 minutes a while ago featuring Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest. It is pretty revealing to hear his answer when asked what his greatest accomplishment was. His answer was this:
“I have helped more people get to the top of Mount Everest than any other person. Taking people to the top who could never get there without my assistance is my greatest accomplishment.”
Guides have died attempting to help other people climb Everest…..and he was asked, “Would they have died if they were not taking others with them to the top?”
“No,” he answered, “but the purpose of the guide is to take people to the top.” 
Then the interviewer asked, “Why do mountain climbers risk their lives to climb mountains?” 
He responded, “It is obvious that you have never been to the top of the mountain…….” 
That about sums it up……
Thanks to everyone helping young players climb their mountain.
Of course I have to include a little coaching gold nugget from the great coach Jimmy Dugan. 🙂