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Hockey

What to Look For in a New Hockey Stick

As your child grabs their hockey stick out of the back of your vehicle, you may not be thinking about how important this piece of equipment is to their success.

Sure, you put decent consideration into their skates, helmet and the other equipment that protects them, but what about their stick?

Many parents think that buying an inexpensive stick is good enough for a youth hockey stick. After all, ‘A cheap stick would be good enough for any young player’ you think to yourself.

In reality your player, no matter his or her level, needs a quality youth hockey stick in order develop the fundamentals of hockey.

So what does a parent look for when getting the right stick? There are several factors to consider when looking for the best youth hockey sticks. Youth players usually are players between the ages of 4 and 10, but really it depends on the size of the child. When it comes to looking for a stick, you will need to think about the material, length, flex, weight, as well as what you need the stick to do for your young player.

Material Matters

While wood was once the only choice for hockey stick material, a lot of great technical improvements have been made over the past 20 years. These days, the best hockey sticks are not just made up of a single material, but are instead comprised of several.

The most popular — and best — material that you should choose for a youth hockey stick is composite. Composite can be made up of several different materials, from heavy plastic to titanium. Even Kevlar is often used in composite sticks because it is so strong and reliable. Regardless of the exact make-up, composite is more durable and lighter than other options which is great for younger kids.

Stick Length

The length of your youth hockey stick will affect your ability to control the puck, your reach, and your shots. The length will also affect how you receive and make a pass. For young players, a mid-length stick would be the most appropriate to learn good stick handling technique.

The average length for a junior hockey stick is 52”, but sticks can be cut down or extended to accommodate an individual player’s height. Youth players have shorter sticks at 48”, but they can also be adjusted to fit the player’s height. The length really depends on height for younger players.

This is one piece of equipment where grow room isn’t a great idea. A stick that is too big can hinder their development and make learning more frustrating. Have it cut to size with just an inch or two of grow room.

Flex

The flex of a hockey stick is the amount of force that is required to make it bend — which creates a whip-like action when shooting. The force is measured using pounds. So this means that a stick with a flex rating of 80 would require 80 pounds of force to bend.
Looking at the flex ratings for youth sticks, younger children will usually start with a flex rating of 20. Slightly older children would opt more for a flex rating of 30. The older they get, the higher the flex rating.

Weight

Most players opt for sticks that are a lighter. The lighter the hockey stick, the less energy is required to move the puck. This will make it easier to control and use around the ice as well. That being said, some players still like the power that they get from a heavier stick. A heavy stick can slow you down, but the shots can be harder. For a child, however, a lighter stick is a safer bet.

Overall, you want to choose a stick that helps your child develop their core fundamental skills. So the one they feel most comfortable with is the best one. Take time to buy from a place that allows your child to try out a few sticks in a shooting range so they can find one they like. 

And one last thing … have a back-up stick. Sticks can break even at the youngest levels. This stick can be a less-expensive one that will later end up as a road hockey stick without you cringing on how much you spent.

The post What to Look For in a New Hockey Stick appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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How Can I Help My Player’s Confidence?

Ask The Mind Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mind Coach, email us!

QUESTION: “My hockey player is very good at skating and stickhandling. To me, she always stands out during practice when they are doing drills. However, as soon as she gets into a game, all of her confidence is gone and she shoots the puck away almost as soon as she touches it. Her coaches have talked to her but nothing has changed. Is this common?”

THE MIND COACH: Yes this is common. It’s a fear-based behaviour and fear is very common in sport.  We avoid things we are afraid of and my guess is, your daughter is afraid of messing up, turning the puck over, looking bad, etc., and the way she avoids it, is to get rid of the puck ASAP.

In other words, she plays it safe to avoid mistakes.

Remember, we don’t change behaviour by addressing the behaviour. Behaviour only changes when we get clarity on what’s driving the behaviour.

My guess it, the underlying fear your daughter tries to avoid is FOPO; Fear Of People’s Opinions.  She plays it safe to avoid mistakes because she believes mistakes will result in disapproval from her coaches, teammates, parents, opponents and on social media.

The irony is, unless we are making mistakes, we aren’t growing, stretching or learning.  See if you can help your daughter see that mistakes are completely normal.  Even professional players make mistakes all the time.

Can you help daughter focus on the process rather than the outcome?  Mistakes are an outcome and they are completely out of our control.  If they were in our control, we would never make mistakes!

Can you help your daughter identify two things she can do with the puck that are in her control (process)?

Her attention needs to be on what she CAN do.  Get her to set a goal of doing 1 thing/shift, that’s in her control when she has the puck. If you are watching, track these things so she can see if she’s improving.

Focus on 1-2 things and after that, the chips fall where they may.  Sport is a gamble; the outcome is always out of our control.

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. Shawnee holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Studies, and she is a Master Coach Developer and Master Learning Facilitator for the National Coaching Certification Program, where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports. Learn more at shawneeharle.com

MORE FROM THE MIND COACH …

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What is Russian Minor Hockey Like?

There will always be small differences in philosophy, training techniques and structure between organizations, leagues, regions and even cities when it comes to youth hockey. But how about other countries? Is hockey really that different outside of North America?

Elite Level Hockey asked Nikolai Salov, a 19-year-old forward currently with the GMHL’s North York Renegades, about his experiences playing minor hockey in Russia.

At what age do most kids start playing in Russia? 

SALOV: I was four years old. All the practices for that team were on roller blades in the summer and hockey skates in the winter. They would teaching us fundamental skills for hockey and physical activity.

How many hours a week are kids expected to practice/play? 

SALOV: After playing on an outdoor rink for two years, I tried out and made the only local AAA team in the whole city of Nizhny Novgorod. My team’s name was Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and it was a part of a big organization that has teams in KHL, junior and minor hockey. From a very young age we had to compete in order to be on the team, because there were many boys who played hockey but there was only when high level team in the area. I first got to play in an organized game in 2009 and by then we had skates up to five times a week. 

What is training like in Russian youth hockey?

SALOV: Starting very young we had regular one-hour or one-and-a half-hour practises. There was a lot of off-ice physical activity, which involved stuff like pushups, squats, core work etc. We also played a bit of other sports like soccer, basketball and handball. We had mandatory acrobatics in our facility, mainly for injury prevention. 

Did you go to hockey camps?

SALOV: Starting at the age of 12, my team would go out of town for a pre-season training camp for two weeks every summer. Training there for three times a day (one skate, two off ice) and without seeing your parents or family.

Some dryland training days could involve sprints, exercises on the hill (running up, jumping up hill), long distance runs (up to 10 kms or completing an obstacle course in military style. Weather conditions were usually ignored, so we had to do it in the rain, storm and even hail.

We only could eat what given at the camp — dietary, healthy meals which weren’t as tasty as regular food at home. All unhealthy snacks brought from outside the camp were taken.

In Canada there are various levels such as AAA, AA, house league etc and kids tend to play for their hometown team. Is it similar in Russia?

SALOV: It is a pretty similar system based on levels of team for youth hockey in Russia, but first teams have to qualify for being a AAA, AA or A team. Also, teams have a chance to move up from AA to AAA or opposite if they were first or last in their division.

Sometimes there were different teams for different age groups but the teams like mine affiliated with KHL organization were usually the top team for example: Akbars Kazan, Niftehimic Nizhnekamsk were the other teams in our group.

Are tournaments part of competition in Russian youth hockey?

SALOV: Tournaments are a big part of competition in Russian hockey. In most of those tournaments I got to play against teams outside of our league such as Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow and even teams from outside of Russia. The most memorable tournament I participated in was the Tretiak Cup in Moscow where my team ended up getting bronze medal and received them by legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak himself.

What does hockey mean to Russians, especially compared to other sports?

SALOV: Even though hockey in Russia is not a whole culture like it is in Canada, it’s a big part of life for many people. Hockey in Russia is growing as well. There are more teams and organizations and levels so more kids could participate in the sport.

Do you notice a difference between what skills are focused on in Canada vs. Russia?

SALOV: Both countries have different player development. In Canada, coaches focusing on skills separately and one at a time (skating, shooting, stickhandling). Russian hockey focuses more on physical strength at youth and minor hockey, especially that game is played on bigger ice surface. Canadian hockey is more physical and you can even find smallest guys go for hits.

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From Russia With Love of Hockey

Hockey isn’t a one-country sport.

The universal love for the game has grown tremendously in the NHL’s 100+ years of existence, and even the furthest reaches of that love are reflected in the league’s player base.

Whether it’s Irish-born Owen Nolan, the NHL’s lone Australian Nathan Walker, or Leon Draisaitl, already the highest-scoring German to ever make The Show, beacons of the sport’s success can shine from around the world.

Despite hockey’s global exposure, however, opportunities within it have always been fairly localized. 

While the aforementioned players all come from different countries, none of them were drafted into the NHL without first appearing with a junior team in North America.

Russian Nikolai Salov, a 19-year-old forward currently with the GMHL’s North York Renegades, has taken a similar route, coming to Canada with plenty of talent and the dream of making the big leagues.

“It was a kind of sacrifice, because when I moved here I had to leave my house and most of my family behind, but it was worth pursuing my hockey career,” said Salov, who moved to Canada at just 15 years old. “The transition from Russia to Canada was definitely the biggest change in my life so far.

“I was nervous but at the same time very excited to start that new page, meet new people and career opportunities.”

Salov became enamored with the sport of hockey at age three after being taken to a World Championship game between Russia and Japan. His connection to the sport was instant, and that New Year’s Eve he was given his first pair of skates. A fan of Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings, a young Salov had early dreams of playing professionally for either the NHL or the KHL, but paved with hardship and constant tests the road there wouldn’t easy.

It’s true that Russian natives are no strangers to NHL stardom; with the country producing a number of elite players that could never see North American ice until they join the NHL, but these successes come off the back of rigorous competition and limited opportunities. Salov was first thrust into this competition at just six years old, battling for a spot on the only AAA team in his town of Nizhny Novgorod. 

“From a very young age we had to compete in order to be on the team, because there were many boys who played hockey but there was only one high level team in the area.”

As hard as it was to make the team, keeping up with expectations would prove to be even harder.

“The environment in Russian youth hockey is more harsh and competitive, where coaches want kids to fight for their spots on the team and ice time from a very young age,” said Salov, who played in his home country until 2017.

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He contrasts this to his experience since relocating to North America, where he’s found that while the play structure in Canada and Russia are similar, the mentality and approach to the players are worlds apart.

“The whole atmosphere in Canadian hockey is friendlier and warmer,” Salov said. “A lot of coaches, players and parents were very helpful when I was adapting to Canada my first years. I find coaches in Canada focus on a players’ development and also make it fun, which keeps it interesting for everyone.”

Canada’s warmer emotional environment and more positive-minded coaching have also led to better relationships between players, without the cloud of internal competition festering their feelings toward each other. 

“During my whole hockey career so far, I came across — or have been friends — with many players of different backgrounds and nationalities. Canadian players in youth hockey are a little more friendly, because the concept of competing for the spot and ice time is not as big up until junior hockey.”

An environment that its focussed on team success also has led to improved play. Since joining the Renegades during the 2018-19 season, Salov has blossomed, totalling 13 goals and eight assists across 37 games in his first full season (2019-20) and returning after a lost 2020-21 season to play above a point-per-game clip so far this season.

Salov’s journey to success in Canada doesn’t just involve hockey, though. The young prospect has had to put in his fair share of work outside the sport, including learning English to better adapt to North American life.

“My last few years living in Russia I was very focused on learning English, with a tutor couple times a week … 100 hours of English at high school in Canada (also) really helped me to adapt and learn about culture faster.”

Thousands of miles from home and away from most of his family, Salov has left a lot behind to chase his dream, but he’s hardly on an island.

Connecting Salov to his roots is teammate and fellow Russian Maxim Noskov, a 21-year-old defenseman also playing for the Renegades. The two didn’t meet before joining the Blyth Academy Warriors U18 team in Canada, but they became fast friends and a positive reminder of their shared origin. “

We didn’t know each other outside of Canada,” Solov said. “I moved here half a year earlier but we attended the same high school in Toronto and I helped him out to adapt a little …  me and Nos are pretty close friends.” 

The friendship between Salov and Noskov serves not only as a reminder of where both of them came from, but also how both of them got there, traveling across the world for a chance to someday set foot on hockey’s highest stage.

Like many others, Salov has dreams of playing professional hockey, and has shown he has the drive to chase that dream to the literal ends of the earth, changing his life and making sacrifice after sacrifice to make it possible.

While he isn’t alone in that dream or that drive, he’s found himself in the right place at the right time, with the right people and the right moves to achieve it.

The Renegades are off to a blistering start to their season in part thanks to Salov, and he’ll look to help them keep winning while doing his best along the way as he hopes to be the latest in a long line of nomads who tirelessly followed one path — the one to the NHL.

Russian Minor Hockey

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How to Stop The Goalie “Blinks”

Ask The Mind Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mind Coach, email us!

“My 14-year-old goalie has a hard time stopping pucks from distance during a game. At first we thought it might be an eyesight problem but that all checked out fine. His coach has chewed him out for not being focussed but it has become clear that he is blinking as soon as the stick makes contact with the puck and then he loses sight of it. Is there a visual exercise he can do to get out of this slump?”

Since he’s wearing a mask, how do you know he’s blinking? And if it were me, and a hard, black object was coming right at me very quickly, not only would I blink, I would run away!!  I would ask him if he thinks he is blinking.  I would ask him if he feels afraid of the puck.  Fear would be a different answer than the one below.

There’s lots of great information about the gaze for athletes.  What are they looking at?  For how long are they looking? For hockey goaltenders, do they track the puck from the moment it leaves the stick of the shooter?  Check out these links:

  1. https://www.grandforksherald.com/sports/quiet-eye-key-hockey-goalies
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/goalie-s-quiet-eye-key-for-big-saves-study-1.603903
  3. https://www.teamsnap.com/community/sports-science/physical-education/watch-the-puck

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. Shawnee holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Studies, and she is a Master Coach Developer and Master Learning Facilitator for the National Coaching Certification Program, where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports.

MORE FROM THE MIND COACH …

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What To Tell A Player When They Get Cut

Ask The Mental Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mental Coach, email us!

“My kid just got cut from his team. It was the first time he has experienced this kind of disappointment when it comes to hockey. What is the best way to offer encouragement? I don’t want him to get discouraged and want to quit.”

Getting cut from a team is what happens when we pursue excellence.  If we don’t want to get cut, then tryout for a crappy team!!  I once coached an athlete that got cut six times from a National Team.  Six times!  On the seventh time she was chosen.  Imagine what would have happened if she hadn’t shown up the seventh time!

Disappointment and discouragement are normal feelings when we don’t get what we want. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to offer encouragement if your intent is to save your player from their feelings. Emotional intelligence requires us to feel our feelings, ALL of them.  Plus, they are called feelings because we are supposed to feel them.  What a concept!  Hold space for your player to feel disappointed and discouraged.

Help them process those feelings rather than saving them from them.  “I know this has been disappointing and discouraging.  I feel those feelings with you.  I want to hear about your disappointment. Tell me more.”  Then you sit and listen INTENTELY without trying to fix or save them. You ask questions that help your player self reflect. Once you have helped them process the feelings, say something like this, “When you feel ready to bounce back, let me know, and I will share some great strategies with you.  I will walk alongside and help you come back stronger and smarter than ever.”

And make sure you add LOTS of hugs!!

Once they are ready to bounce back, help them become a detective.  A detective looks for clues to solve the mystery.  What did getting cut show them?  Where are their gaps?  What does the player need to get better at?  What’s missing compared to the players that were chosen for the team?  Then you help them make a plan and get to work on closing those gaps.

BE. DO. HAVE. BE willing to DO what it takes to HAVE what you want.

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. Shawnee holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Studies, and she is a Master Coach Developer and Master Learning Facilitator for the National Coaching Certification Program, where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports.

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Is Hockey a Safe Sport for Kids?

This is the time of year many kids take to the ice for the very first time. New hockey moms and dads crowd in change rooms helping kids get in their gear and tying up skates. Then off they go to watch from the stands as their little one shuffles around the ice, chasing a puck they can’t keep up with.

Inevitably, this always ends up with a few kids falling creating a domino effect until several kids lay helplessly starfished on the ice waiting for a friendly coach to pull them to their feet. And as new hockey parents watch this comical display, many of us worry about our kids getting hurt.

Is Hockey Safe?

Youth hockey is in fact a quite a safe sport. Kids start off slow by simply learning to skate and then using a stick as they get older. Hockey is a very well-supervised sport because it is complex to learn. It’s a safe, steady progression. Not to mention the levels of protection hockey equipment provides.

While hockey is a leading cause of sport-related injury reported to Canadian emergency departments, soccer actually accounts for the largest proportion of injuries in Canada. Youth hockey players visited the ER less often than kids who play football, soccer, basketball, or wrestle.

Risk of injuries

At the younger levels, hockey injuries are very low. However, they do increase as the kids become more proficient in the sport while getting bigger and faster. Youth players are more likely to sustain an injury in a game rather than during practice. Playing in a league with body checking is associated with up to three times increased risk of all game-related injuries. 

And as players move into rep programs such as AAA, AA, A, the risk increases. This is because players are stronger, shoot harder and are more aggressive. It isn’t just boys hockey that can be rough. The girls’ game at the higher levels is very physical despite body checking being prohibited.

Types of injuries

Minor hockey players are most likely to be injured in the upper extremities (23%-55%), followed by spine and trunk (13%-32%). Lower extremity injuries account for 21%-27% of injuries.
Male hockey players are are more likely to experience fractures and shoulder injuries than female players (27% vs. 8%) due to body checking. Girls on the other hand, sustain more soft tissue injuries such as sprains.

The biggest concern for hockey still remains concussion risk. Head injuries account for 7%-30% of injuries. But the people who oversee the hockey have been working on creating rules to prevent this. The Ontario Government, for example, has enacted Rowan’s Law that brings awareness and sets guidelines for the treatment and management of concussions.

The memories of typical hockey player missing teeth of the past are long gone — at least in minor hockey. Mandatory full facial protection and mouth guard usage reduced the risk for these types of injuries to virtually zero.

Body checking or body contact?

Firstly, let’s differentiate between body checking and body contact. 

Body checking is where the defensive player purposely uses his upper body to hit the opposing player with the puck with force. 

Body contact is a player’s defensive move where rather than hitting the other player, they place their body by leaning into the player, skating, angling, or stick checking to remove the puck from the other player.

Body contact is present in all levels of hockey. Girls hockey at the rep level has lots of body contact and it is up to the referees to regulate it before it crosses to body checking.

Body checking is generally only allowed at the rep level where coaches take the time to teach this skill and how to use it to minimize injury. Body checking has been eliminated completely below the U14 level in Canada and the United States. Many are advocating raising the age even higher, while some believe the age should be lower so kids are taught to hit —and take a hit — correctly before there is a large size and strength discrepancy due to some kids hitting puberty before others.

Although referees provide strict enforcement, body checking is the main cause of injuries, either from direct contact or from being checked into the boards or another player.

Hockey is a great sport but like all sports, is does have some risk. However the risk is very low in the younger years. Mostly little kids sustain and few bumps and bruises from falling.

Now stop worrying Mom and Dad … it’s time to have fun on the ice!

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Cold Realities For New Hockey Moms

When you sign your kid up for hockey, you about to enter a world of fun, friendships and memories.

If you’re a hockey fan you’ve probably already got your warm coat and footwear and are ready to hit the rink bleachers. I

f you’re new to the sport, you are about to become a hockey fan because your favorite player is now playing, which quintessentially makes you a hockey mom. Now as a hockey mom you need to understand that your life is about to change. Here is what to expect …

Your social life and social circle will change

Hockey life becomes your life. You will be turning down activities and invitations because “my kid has hockey”. As a result you will soon find that you find yourself hanging out more with other hockey moms. Your non-hockey moms won’t always get your family’s dedication to the sport, but other hockey moms will.

You will work differently

You will make sure you don’t schedule any work meetings after 4 p.m. You will be taking calls in the car on the way to hockey. You will work in the rink while your player practices. Yes … it’s a balance but it is all worth it to see your kids play.

Your typical day changes

It looks like this: Go to work, leave work early, pick up kids from school, go to practice, make dinner, help with homework, hound kids to shower, prep hockey bags for next day, put kids to sleep, finish work report (because you left early), make lunches, go to sleep. Wake up, start again.

Say goodbye to shopping for yourself

You will spend $200 dollars on a hockey stick instead of the season’s “must have” handbag. If you do buy something for yourself you will evaluate it in terms of “Can I wear this to work and is it warm enough for the rink?” Yes, hockey gear will come first!

Your purse will be huge

Remember that diaper bag you carried in your kids’ early years? You may want to dig it out from storage. Your hockey mom purse will contain, snacks, extra socks, hockey tape, hair ties, skate laces, change for the vending machine, first aid kit, Advil, thermal coffee traveler, a hat, a scarf, gloves, blanket and seat warmer.

You will keep your winter clothes in the car

It’s July and your trunk contains a winter coat, warm footwear, hat, scarf and gloves. A Hockey Mom is always prepared for a cold rink. Flip flops and shorts don’t cut it in the rink. Trust me … I have been stepped on by skates while wearing sandals and it wasn’t fun.

You will know every rink within an hour’s drive

Getting to the local rinks, you are on autopilot … including the coffee shop stop on the way. For out-of-town rinks, your GPS has them all programmed. Now just pray the traffic cooperates. There is nothing worse than the panic that sets in when you realize you are going to be late.

Your house and car will smell … bad

There is no smell as awful as the sweaty hockey gear that now airs out in your dining room. You will also find yourself cracking the windows in the car in the middle of February to stop from gagging. Hockey gloves smell and the hands that were in them smell worse. You’ll get used to it. Air fresheners can help.

You will never sleep in again

Weekends are for sleep … says no Hockey Mom ever! Weekends are now for early morning practices, games and tournaments. And I mean early, as in before breakfast.

You may gain weight

While you may have a great workout routine now, it will be tougher to get a visit to the gym in your hockey schedule. Pair that with the lovehandle-inducing rink concession food and you might see a change in your waistline. To negate this, eat before heading to the rink so you won’t be tempted and take a walk while your kid practices for an hour.

Yes, being a Hockey Mom means sacrificing a few things, but there is nothing like watching your kid beam at you from the ice when they hear you cheering for them.

You are so proud of them, and they are proud of your, too. After all, you are THEIR Hockey Mom, and Hockey Moms rock!

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Another Point on Why I Love Hockey

Sometimes it’s the little things that can remind us about the joy of sport.

Especially for us old and somewhat jaded folks.

My youngest son, Ryder, turned nine at the beginning of August and we had some plans for the afternoon to celebrate as a family, including a trip to the local amusement park.

Those plans, however, abruptly changed when I received an email from his minor hockey association (Blackfoot Hockey) informing parents that hometown boy Brayden Point would be at one of the local rinks here in Calgary with the Cup that afternoon, and that kids were invited to drop by for a picture.

Point — a Blackfoot alumnus — was making the stop as part of his tour of the city for his day with Lord Stanley’s sacred chalice.  

It just so happened that given his local roots – and recent heroics during Tampa Bay’s second straight Cup run — he was already Ryder’s second-favourite player, sitting closely behind Calgary’s Sean Monahan.

And the Lightning already had a coveted spot in our family – not for me, but my boys. As a Flames fan, I’m still bitter about 2004. IT. WAS. IN. 

Some years back, courtesy of a relative of ours, Steven Stamkos surprised my oldest son Aidan by sending some signed Lightning stuff, including a picture with a nice personal message. 

It arrived in the mail and after he opened it, he was an instant fan of the player and the team. This trickled down to Ryder, who considers Tampa his second favourite team, again, after the Flames. 

Needless to say, he was rather excited the last two years when they won back-to-back Cups.

So when I read the email from Blackfoot I could not believe the timing. It was too perfect. When I told Ryder about Point and the Cup, he gave that look that parents adore, the one they get on Christmas morning: Sheer unbridled joy.

Of course, there’s nothing better than sharing an experience like that with a pal so we picked up his best friend Matthew and headed to the rink about 45 minutes before Point was slated to arrive. A lineup had just started forming, with everyone hoping for an autograph as well.

Point arrived a bit late but the crowd of kids erupted when he walked in and held the Cup above his head. His dad asked everyone to flood out on to the arena floor for a big group picture. 

It was bedlam – but the good kind.

Ryder and Matthew managed to get close to him for the picture, Point even rubbing Ryder’s head and saying ‘Hi pal.’

After that, Point announced they had to get going as it was a packed day with tons of stops. However, outside near their rented bus, he stopped for another chat with some kids. Ryder and Matthew found their way right beside him again, both getting to touch the Cup and his ring from 2019. They were beaming.

One little guy asked Point ‘Why does the Cup smell like beer’ – leading to laughter amongst the pint-sized group that had formed around him.

He replied something along the lines of ‘you know why,’ and this time it was the dads turn to chuckle.

Needless to say, Ryder’s feet didn’t touch the ground for the rest of day – he was on Cloud 9.

I work for the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (the Flames, Stampeders, NLL Roughnecks and WHL Hitmen) as the Director of Digital Content and Social Media, and before that was in the newspaper business for nearly 20 years, most of the time in sports. I’ve spent a lot of time around pro athletes and have become numb to the experience. 

Sure, I see all the work they do behind the scenes with charities and hospital visits, along with regular interactions with young fans. I know firsthand they make a big difference in a lot of young lives.

It’s special, but I think I forgot just how special till I saw it again as a dad through the eyes of my child.

On my first trip down to Tampa after I joined the Flames, I found a few minutes to chat with Stamkos in the Lightning dressing room after his media scrum to thank him. I recounted the story of what he did for Aidan and how that small act of kindness made my child a lifelong fan. He was gracious and smiled when I explained the details, and I’m sure he’s heard a thousand similar stories in his life.

I hope I have the chance in the future to tell Point what that one day and quick exchange meant to a nine-year-old who idolizes him, on his birthday nonetheless.

And also what it meant to me. 

The post Another Point on Why I Love Hockey appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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Tips on Getting Started in Rep Hockey

At the start of my daughter’s second year of hockey, she noticed the older rep team girls playing a style of hockey that was much faster than her houseleague counterpart. Within a month she had her heart set on being a part of that world. Tryouts for next season came and to our surprise she made a rep team. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If your little player has graduated from the house leagues to rep and you’re finding yourself leaving work early, sitting in rush hour heading to a game across town wondering what you’ve signed yourself up for, here are some tips to help survive your first season of rep hockey:

Rep hockey is pricey

You’ve probably already heard that hockey is super expensive. It’s definitely not cheap. For rep hockey, you can expect to pay around four times your house league fees.  Hockey will also cost more as kids get older, and depending on how competitive your team is, and if they travel to many tournaments, fees can be much higher. Expect to be doing some fundraising to help supplement the costs.

Your schedule is dictated by hockey

From September onwards, my response to any invitation is “I’ll check the hockey schedule and get back to you.” There will be a commitment expectation for your team that hockey comes first over almost everything. Which means short of a family wedding or a death, you are expected to be there. Playoffs conflict with March Break vacations. Long weekends are for tournaments and your child may have to miss birthday parties for hockey practice. You need to realize that you are not anywhere. Family events will be scheduled around hockey.  Some leagues/teams publish their scheduled games and tournaments months in advance, making it somewhat easier to plan your life. Last year, my child’s team used the Team Snap app.  I should totally buy stock in it as it really is a God-send for keeping track of the hockey schedule.

Other sports may have to drop

My daughter plays rep hockey and also is a competitive figure skater. It is a crazy balance. Skating has to “skate” around hockey. Hockey comes first so we sometimes miss skate practices and have to forgo competitions for tournaments (which sometimes fall on the same weekends).

There are days when we have gone from skate competition straight to a hockey game back to back. So you will likely have to sacrifice one. We had an upfront conversation with her coach and committed that hockey would always take the upper hand. In most cases, coaches won’t want you doing two competitive sports in the same season. Ours only did as skating skills complimented hockey. 

Your hockey family will help

I work full-time and so does my husband. We are fortunate to have some flexibility in our jobs. But most workplaces don’t consider hockey a good excuse for cutting out of work early. In order for me to make my daughter’s mid-week 4:30pm practices, I sometimes rely on other hockey parents to get her there after school. After work, I meet them at the rink. Don’t worry, everyone is in the same boat. You will spend more time with hockey parents than your other friends and family during hockey season. They won’t be strangers for long.

Feeding your athlete

My daughter’s hockey is almost always right at meal time. Considering that we need to be at the rink 1 hour before the puck drops, and it can take up to an hour to drive there, it’s a constant struggle for me to figure out what she can eat. My player is very picky so finding ‘on-the-go’ food is a challenge. But here’s the good thing, hockey has helped her understand the importance of healthy food as fuel for up for hockey. I now stock up on the healthy snacks and granola bars and a protein shake can sometimes fill in when there isn’t time to eat or hydrate. Some nights they are my dinner, too. I’ve learned that I need to stay away from the poutine or as Christina Aguilera would say, “my hips don’t lie”. Look for snacks that travel well, make-ahead meals and make at home meal kits to make sure the whole family is eating well.

You need a reliable car

You need access to a reliable car and you’ll be spending a lot of time in it. Expect to rack up some miles on your car and sometimes feeling you are completely lost. Driving in bad weather to remote parts of the city require a GPS.  Snow tires are a must if you live within a snowbelt where a storm can sometimes provide you with whiteout conditions and a white knuckles grip. Word of advice … make sure you’re topped up on gas and wiper fluid and have clear directions the night before you leave for the rink and leave early. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Make sure you have cash and coins

After scrambling for change at the bottom of my purse a few too many times, I learned to keep a change and small bills in the car. Most arena snack bars are cash-only. So it’s important to make sure you have cash on hand before promising that post-game slushie. Plus … some places charge for spectators. Yes, you may have to fork over $5 or more to watch your own child play.

Being a rep hockey mom is a lot of work. There are days when as I sit in my sixth rink of the week and I’m fretting over the pile of laundry at home or assignment work I will have to finish later. But it’s worth it. My daughter pours her heart into something she loves. She works hard and if she’s willing to put in this work then I’m willing to support it.

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