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Welcome To Our Latest Newsletter

 

I hope that this issue of our newsletter finds you well.

DavidatDeskBlueShirtI do not have too much to say in this issue, because we are “flat out”, and putting in some very long days…. However, I wanted to make sure that I shared some good articles that I have read over the past week.

It is coming up to the time when a lot of very important decisions need to be made by young players and their families.

In many cases, there are no “off the shelf” right or wrong answers….,

I often get calls from families who want to know what is the best decision for their son(s)…., and I almost always respond with “There is no right or wrong answer….. but you really need to know what the potential consequences might be by choosing one situation instead of another….”

Last week, I used the quote “It’s the things that you don’t know that you don’t know…” and unfortunately, it is the those things that end up causing  the most pain in the long run for players and families. It’s the things that catch one “blindsided” 2-3  years after the fact that cause the most pain in a player’s situation.

In the hockey world, players often make a series of short-term decisions, hoping that things will work out, when in fact they rarely do.

We suggest that all players take a long-term approach to their young hockey and academic careers, and plan carefully…. while keeping all their options open for as long as they can.

There are no right or wrong answers, just right or wrong decisions….. Wrong decisions are generally those precipitated by little or improper research and/or advice….

I’ve included a few articles in this newsletter to help generate some of the questions that players and families might like to begin looking for answers to, as they go about  making important (and potentially) long-lasting decisions.

If you ever think we can help, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Sincerely,

David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor


 

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Posted in Newsletter

CHL vs. NCAA: the battle rages on

By Tim Pigulski

Right wing Connor Honey left his USHL team midway through last season to join Seattle. (photo courtesy of WHL.ca)
Right wing Connor Honey left his USHL team midway through last season to join Seattle. (photo courtesy of WHL.ca)

 

Tate Martell has become somewhat of a celebrity in Seattle. The 14-year-old phenom committed to the University of Washington before he even began his eighth grade school year. Despite the verbal commitment from the young star, Martell won’t be allowed to make a final decision on where to attend college until Feb. 1, 2017 — approximately four and a half years from now.

It won’t even be until Sept. 1 of Martell’s senior year in high school that the UW will be able to make an official commitment to him. Universities aren’t permitted by the NCAA to offer a written scholarship to a player until the beginning of their senior year of high school.

Pundits and analysts have asserted that Martell’s commitment, and his pursuit by the UW, came when he was far too young. After all, who knows who will be coaching the Huskies in four and a half years? Will Martell continue to develop on his current track? How much stock can be put into a 14-year-old’s commitment?

Welcome to the world of Major Junior hockey.

For those pursuing a professional hockey career, decisions such as Martell’s are the norm. Players are often noticed in their bantam years when they’re about 14 years old. At that time, the player is preparing for the Canadian Hockey League draft, where they hope to be selected shortly after they turn 15.

Having the draft occur while players are so young offers risks and potential rewards to both the player and the organization that selects him.

For the player, they have the obvious benefit of playing in the top developmental league in the world and therefore giving themselves the best chance of being noticed by a National Hockey League team. Getting drafted to play for a team in the CHL acts as the first major stepping stone in a young hockey player’s career.

However, the decision to commit to playing in the CHL, which is comprised of the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, also means that the player forfeits his NCAA athletic eligibility. College sports’ governing body considers the CHL a professional league, meaning that as soon as a player suits up for a CHL team, they begin to eat into their NCAA eligibility.

It’s a huge amount of pressure to place on an athlete who just began high school.

For the organization that drafts the player, the team seeks to select an athlete that will sign with the team and perform at a high level.

They also run the risk that a player will make the decision that they would prefer to attend and play hockey at a university, meaning that the team essentially wasted a draft pick. When high draft picks don’t sign, it likely means a less talented roster, leading to fewer wins, a less devoted fan base, and ultimately, less money for the organization.

Look no further than right here in Seattle, where in 2011, the team selected Kamloops, British Columbia-native Ryan Gropp with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Gropp, a talented left wing, is now 16 years old and has yet to sign with the Thunderbirds. With each passing day, his commitment becomes less and less likely.

Gropp, while continuing to leave his options open, has expressed interest in pursuing the NCAA hockey route and his current actions attest to the speculation that he’ll pass on the WHL.

Carlos Sosa, a practicing attorney in the state of Washington and co-founder of Turning Point Sports Management with former NHL player Darcy Tucker, has worked with players at every level of major hockey, ranging from the NHL to the CHL to the NCAA.

“Ryan Gropp is an exceptional hockey player,” said Sosa, the former Thunderbirds radio color commentator. “Everybody in the business knew that [Gropp’s] family was very educated and really believed in university education. On top of that, the father played university hockey. Given those facts, it was probably reasonable to expect that Ryan would choose the NCAA route.”

The Thunderbirds ended up liking Gropp so much that they decided that drafting him with their first-round pick was worth the risk — a risk that’s taken with every single choice in the Bantam Draft.

One can view a similar situation with current Chicago Blackhawks superstar and former University of North Dakota center Jonathan Toews, who was drafted by the Tri-City Americans first overall in 2003.

Seminar“They thought he was coming a few years ago and he didn’t. They made a calculated choice and it didn’t work out,” Sosa said. “Sometimes you roll those dice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Just up the road from Seattle, the Everett Silvertips found themselves on the losing end of a comparable situation. One of their 2009 first-round Bantam Draft picks, Seth Jones, is now projected as a top-5 pick in next year’s NHL Draft. Unfortunately for Everett, Jones hasn’t suited up for them and won’t, barring a huge and unprecedented move.

Jones spent two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program and let the University of North Dakota know that if he chose to play in the NCAA, it would be for them. The talented defenseman never technically committed to UND, but Jones’ representative let the Silvertips know that his client had no interest in playing for Everett. As a result, they traded his negotiating rights to rival Portland and he signed with the U.S. Division powerhouse a few short weeks later.

Everett acquired two players, the rights to two others, and a draft pick, but it’s tough to say they came out on the better end of the deal, losing a highly touted NHL prospect to an opponent they’ll face at least 10 times this season.

As the Americans did with Toews and Everett did with Jones, the Thunderbirds took a calculated risk on Gropp. Had he signed in Seattle, they would have gained a talent that registered 128 points in only 58 games while playing in a top-notch Bantam league. Shortly before his draft, Gropp expressed interest in playing in the WHL to Seattle general manager Russ Farwell. His talent, combined with a sort of “soft verbal” commitment, led Seattle to believe that the potential reward outweighed the risk that Gropp would follow in his father’s footsteps.

In the middle of the 2011-2012 season, the Thunderbirds found themselves on the opposite side of the equation. Right wing Connor Honey, at the time a 17-year-old hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, had attended Thunderbirds training camp prior to the season. After the camp ended, Honey chose to keep his NCAA options open, deciding that he would play a couple of seasons in the United States Hockey League (what Sosa describes as a “developmental league” for the NCAA) before he would be eligible to suit up for the University of Denver, where he’d offered a verbal commitment.

Midway through the season, Honey contacted Farwell, stating that he’d like to rejoin the Thunderbirds, thereby sacrificing his NCAA eligibility.

“A [verbal commitment] is no commitment. It’s nothing,” said Sosa, referring to the oral pledge that young players often make. “In this world, a verbal commitment is nothing because it can be discarded by both sides. Now, if it was the written one after he’s turned 18, and he signed his Letter of Intent, there might be an argument there.”

The argument Sosa refers to is whether or not Honey, who had been playing for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, was obligated to follow through on his spoken commitment to Denver, which he had made when he was 16. As is the case with top notch football and basketball players who offer a verbal pledge to one school and sign with another, seeing a teenager change his mind really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Fitting somewhere in between Gropp and Honey is Bonney Lake, Wash. native Dylan Gambrell. Having gone undrafted in the WHL’s Bantam Draft, Gambrell turned some heads at Thunderbirds camp last month as a 16-year-old.

Another “soft” verbal commitment to the University of Denver, many have been curious about the likelihood that Gambrell instead chooses to play for the Thunderbirds. Turning Point Sports Management acts as Gambrell’s advisory committee, offering advice to both the player and his family to help them make the best decision’s for the player’s future.

“Dylan is a special case. I’ve known him since he was 7 years old. I’ve coached him and I’ve coached with his father. He’s an exceptional player that has really developed in the last two years into an extraordinary player,” Sosa said.

Having gone undrafted, Seattle chose to add Gambrell to their protected list, indicating an interest by the team in closely watching his development.

“He has options and he’s going to keep those options open. Him and his family are going to make a decision at the time and place of their choosing as to which options they’re going to accept,” Sosa said. “They’ve made a verbal commitment to Denver and their intent at this point is to honor that commitment. But again, anything can happen. All options are open.”

The circumstances surrounding Gropp, Honey, and Gambrell are all unique in their own ways and point to the constant competition between CHL teams and American universities to attract top-level hockey talent.

Should a player choose to play in the CHL, they gain the highest level of exposure and, unbeknownst to many fans, also receive one year of scholarship money for each season played in the league, up to a maximum of five years (for full information on the WHL scholarship program, visit http://www.whl.ca/prospects-central-whl-scholarship-program)….. (David’s Note: But read the fine print)

Of course, they won’t be able to play hockey while attending college in the United States but they still are able to pursue an education. If a player decides to use his scholarship to attend school in Canada, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (Canada’s equivalent of the NCAA) still allows the player to play competitive hockey for the university.

Those athletes who choose to bypass the CHL and play in the NCAA, like athletes in other major sports, likely will receive at least a partial scholarship and will be able to enjoy a somewhat “normal” college experience.

If an elite-level talent wants the fastest track to the pros, the Canadian Hockey League is generally the preferred option for players.

“It’s the most pro-like scenario and they have the best record of producing professional players in the world,” Sosa said about the professional development league.

For those players whose development situations may take longer, Sosa believes the NCAA may be a better choice, but still says it’s ultimately a personal preference and the choice of the player.

“Usually players in that type of development model are not the high end, dynamic players that college hockey makes their commitments to early,” he said. “College hockey makes a lot of later commitments at ages 18, 19, and 20. The early commitments you see at 15, 16, or 17 are for the top guys that could play anywhere they want, whether it’s Major Junior or college. They’re not for role players or supporting players, the type of players that every team at every level still needs.

“If your choice is purely ‘I want to get an education,’ then go to college. Just realize that if you’re not one of the top end guys, you’re not going to get there very quickly. It may even get to the point where you can’t start college until you’re 19, where most non-hockey college students are starting at 18.”

Each option remains a great path that may eventually lead to hockey stardom. However, with such even competition, both sides are constantly trying to gain the upper hand and things can get ugly.

Jacob Trouba, drafted by the Kitchener Rangers in the third round of the OHL’s 2010 Bantam Draft, is currently playing for the United States National Team Development Program — the top team for American players under the age of 18 outside of the CHL.

Despite being 18 years old and his commitment to the University of Michigan, Trouba continued to be heavily pursued by Kitchener. In July, reports began surfacing that he may have been wavering on his college commitment. The university’s newspaper released an article stating that the stud defenseman was offered $200,000 by Kitchener to bail on the Wolverines — an obvious violation of OHL rules.

Kitchener is firmly denying the allegations and has filed a libel lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages from the student newspaper.

While the situation is still a hot topic and has yet to be decided, it’s a perfect example of the battle between the two organizations. Trouba is an elite athlete, highly desired by a number of teams, including the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, who selected him with the ninth overall pick in June’s Entry Draft. To date, he maintains a firm commitment to play for Michigan.

Being a northern border state and very close to Canada, Michigan often finds itself in similar situations. Prior to the 2010-11 OHL season, star goaltender Jack Campbell, a first-round NHL draft pick by the Dallas Stars, decided that he would not attend the University of Michigan, as he had previously stated, and would instead sign with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.

Often finding themselves at a disadvantage due to NCAA recruiting regulations, commissioners of the men’s Division I college hockey conferences established an organization independent of the NCAA, College Hockey, Inc. (CHI), intended to promote education and the college hockey experience. Because CHI is not technically affiliated with the NCAA, it is able to contact recruits much sooner than schools would normally be allowed, somewhat leveling the playing field between them and the CHL.

CHI hired former NHL Players Association Executive Director Paul Kelly to accomplish the difficult task of establishing NCAA hockey as a viable alternative to the CHL. Kelly claimed that under-the-table payment, particularly for the services of American players, is a common practice and anyone who doesn’t see it “has their head in the sand.”

A bold claim by Kelly, who has since resigned from his position with CHI due to a power struggle with the NCAA’s commissioners, that has not been proven.

The debate boils down to whether or not the NCAA will be willing to change its rules. Prior to the early 1980s, players were allowed to play Major Junior hockey in Canada and could eventually, when they were 17 or 18, move down to the United States to finish their amateur hockey career at a university.

As Sosa puts it, “before the NCAA created an absurd rule saying that you couldn’t play Major Junior and NCAA, the player had it all. It was great. You could play Major Junior for a couple of years, then move down to the States to play in college.”

Ultimately, the NCAA’s decision forced athletes to make the difficult decision of where to play at 14 or 15, rather than 18 or 19.

“I would love to see them go back to [the old system],” Sosa said. “But I doubt they will.”

The situation, as it stands, is extremely difficult and sensitive for everyone involved and not as black-and-white as many perceive. In the cases of Gropp, Honey, Gambrell, and first overall pick Mathew Barzal, each comes from a different background and has different influences.

Often a front office can have a good idea about where a player is headed, but until it’s in writing, and even sometimes after, nothing is set in stone.

 

 

“No Excuses Culture”

 By Ryan Walter

RyanWalterOutcomes are important; we don’t play to lose! Countries do not go to war to tie. Hockey teams do not play to be average. Our Heat team doesn’t work to lose money. Life is about outcomes. You can dream about getting married, but until you muster the courage to ask your partner, promise to be committed to them in front of the world, and then risk a relationship going wrong… you are not married (an outcome).

If there is one thing that I have noticed over my last 50 seasons of participating on teams and identifying why certain players rise to the top, it is that these people know that they must generate positive outcomes, but at the same time understand the importance of pressing beyond the outcome to focus on growing or developing the habits that help to deliver the positive outcomes.

Over my 30+ seasons around professional sport specifically, it has become clear to me that superstars share a number of common qualities. The quality I wish to focus on in this article always differentiates the best in any field from those who are never quite the players that people had hoped they would become. This single quality is the key to not only being a better player, but also to having a better life.

What I am talking about is Not Making Excuses.

The very best in any field refuse to make excuses. As a matter of fact, they don’t even use this word. The best-of-the-best choose to take responsibility for their actions, their attitudes, and their mistakes, and never offer an excuse for not accomplishing their goal or being their very best. They just find a way to do it.

The greatest gift we could ever give ourselves and each other is to help our team continually apply both sides of the success coin:

1- Never offer an excuse for our attitude and actions.

2- Always take responsibility for our attitude and actions.

Hockey players frequently use the excuse that the refereeing wasn’t very good. I have conservatively calculated that over my 15 NHL seasons as a player I took around 12,000 face-offs (including playoffs). In my day, players were allowed more leeway in cheating their positioning, and the linesman dropping the puck had a lot of influence on which centre won the face-off. Early in my NHL career I focused on the linesmen and complained that they were negatively affecting my faceoff percentage.

My trade to the Montreal Canadiens, with its culture of intense media scrutiny combined with a high expectation of winning, changed all of that. I decided to adopt the principle of No more excuses. Instead of blaming the linesman or becoming upset with my opponent’s cheating, I focused on adjusting my approach to win the face-off. As a matter of fact, during NHL home games when I had the advantage of placing my stick in the face off dot last, I found that I was moving too quickly and sometimes got kicked out of the faceoff circle. So, I adjusted. I placed my stick on the ice first (giving up my so-called advantage) and forced my opponent to move into the face off dot last, where he often got kicked out of the circle instead of me.

No excuses… just find ways to adjust and accomplish the task.

John McEnroe was the world champion of tennis for 4 consecutive years, but McEnroe has acknowledged that he didn’t maximize his potential. He has admitted that he could have performed better for longer. In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck itemizes the various excuses McEnroe gave to account for his failures over the course of his career:

“- Once he lost because he had a fever

– Once he had a backache

– Once he fell victim to expectations and another time, the tabloids

– Once he lost to a friend because the friend was in love and he wasn’t

– Once he ate too close to his match

– Once he was too chunky, another time too thin

– Once it was too hot, another time too cold

– Once he was undertrained and another time, over trained”

Can you feel where this is going? When we do not take responsibility for our actions, attitudes and mistakes, the typical first resort is to find someone or something to blame for our underachievement.

John McEnroe suffered his most agonizing defeat at the 1984 French Open, losing to Ivan Lendl, two sets to none. According to McEnroe it wasn’t his fault because an NBC cameraman had taken off his headset, resulting in a noise originating from that side of the court. Since it wasn’t his fault, McEnroe didn’t train to improve his ability to concentrate or his emotional control.

When we dole out blame, we refuse to see the need for our improvement or our growth. In a world where our opponents are constantly improving, if we hold on to our excuses, we will fail!

The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, said, “You aren’t a failure until you start to blame.”

The No-Excuses and No-Blaming attitude changes everything. We can choose to change the way we do things (focus on improvement) or choose to actively focus on the alleged reasons why we were prevented from doing what we were supposed to do. The philosopher Aristotle said; “We are what we repeatedly do.” Blaming others has an outcome. Developing a No Excuses attitude also has an outcome.

According to Wooden we remain in the process of learning from our mistakes until we deny them. I have observed that the best in the world make slight adjustments to their vocabulary to help them sustain the proper focus. They talk a lot about what they want to accomplish, how they are going to accomplish it, and how their teammates are amazing people.

The best in the world also omit some things entirely from their vocabulary: things like complaining about negative circumstances, blaming others and, making excuses.

 

Posted in Attitude, Mental Game, Tips

2012 NHL Draft – #21 Pick Overall – Mark Jankowski – Calgary Flames

jankowski

Mark Jankowski (born September 13, 1994) plays for the Providence Friars of Hockey East (Div-1).

He is a prospect of the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Calgary Flames, selected in the first round, 21st overall, at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He is the highest selected Canadian high school player in draft history, having played for Stanstead College for two seasons leading to the draft.

Jankowski was a top scorer at the midget AAA level, where he played for the St. Catharines Minor Midget AAA Falcons of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s South-Central Triple A Hockey League. However, he went unselected in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) midget draft as teams were concerned that at five feet, eight inches tall, he was too small to play the top level of junior hockey. He chose to play at Stanstead College, a prep school based in Stanstead, Quebec. He played two seasons for Stanstead, scoring 31 goals and 73 points in the 2010–11 high school team’s season and 53 goals and 93 points in 57 games in 2011–12. During his second season at Stanstead, Jankowski committed to play college hockey for the Providence Friars. Boston University, Cornell, Harvard, Maine, and Penn State were also interested in his services, but he decided to follow Friars coach Nate Leaman, who had previously shown interest in Jankowski while coaching Union College, to Providence.

During his two seasons in Stanstead, Jankowski quickly gained height, growing to six feet, three inches tall while his play caught the attention of scouts. He was eventually selected in the 2012 OHL draft, taken as the 11th pick in the 7th round by the Saginaw Spirit though he declined to join the team. The National Hockey League (NHL)’s Central Scouting Bureau ranked Jankowski as the 43rd best prospect for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in its final ranking, an improvement from his 74th place rank in previous reports. Other analysts ranked him higher, including Craig Button of The Sports Network, who placed him 14th. The Calgary Flames selected him in the first round, 21st overall. He is the highest-ever draft pick out of a Canadian high school. The Flames received some criticism for going “off the board” and selecting Jankowski well above his expected draft place, but assistant general manager John Weisbrod stated that while Jankowski’s talent was “raw”, other teams were certain to select him in the first round if the Flames did not. General manager Jay Feaster argued that Jankowksi was one of the most talented players available in the draft.

Jankowski initially committed to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL) in 2012–13 before for Providence. However, he decided to bypass the junior league and move directly to college following the Flames’ 2012 rookie development camp, stating he believed he was ready despite the fact that he will be one of the youngest players in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

 

Omega 3’s – Essential means Essential!

By Ryan Dennis

Oemga3

 

We see it on boxes, bags and jugs all over the supermarket. Omega 3 – that increasingly famous “EFA”. But what exactly are Omega 3’s, and what does EFA really mean anyways? What are they good for? Where are the best places to find them? Let’s take a closer look and put these questions to rest once and for all!

 

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Firstly, we call Omega 3’s EFA’s as a short form of “Essential Fatty Acids”. What is a fatty acid? It is a technical word for (in this case) a dietary fat. Omega 3 refers to the actual shape of the individual fat molecule. While the technical details beyond that are nice to know, they aren’t critical to you. What is critical is that you understand that essential means essential! These fats are found only in the diet. If we do not get them in sufficient amounts, we will (sooner or later) experience deficiency through illness.

 

What Are They Good For?

To better understand why we need them, let’s look at the role that Omega 3 EFA’s play in our bodies every day. We need Omega-3 fatty acids for: Controlling blood clotting and inflammation Building brain-cell membranes Normal Growth & Development There is also growing evidence that suggests they play an important role in reducing heart disease risk as well as decreasing the risk and severity of such conditions as high blood-pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes (among others).

 

Where Do We Find Them?

Omega-3 EFA’s can be found in abundance in the following foods: Flax Seeds, Walnuts, Hemp Seeds, Salmon, Sardines, Soybeans, Halibut, Scallops, Shrimp Chia Seeds, But remember, these fats are delicate, and go bad quite quickly! So be sure to buy them in small containers only, and keep them tightly sealed (and out of the light!).

So there you have it: Essential Fats, an important but often neglected portion of our diet. Add them to yours today to ensure you hit your peak – day in, day out!

References: The University of Maryland Medical Center

 

Posted in Body Fuel, Health, Nutrition

Strengths & Weaknesses

By Dr. Paul Dennis

Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks

 

Are athletes confident because they are successful or successful because they are confident? Simply put, yes! There is a recurrent theme involved because the more confident the athlete is, the more success they’ll achieve, and the more success they achieve, the more confident they become. But what role does talent play in one’s confidence and success?

How Should We Address Our Weaknesses

During my tenure as the Player Development Coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I witnessed the organization draft several young men that were identified by the scouts as “talented”. Some of these young athletes were told that “unless you work on and improve your weaknesses, you’ll never play in the NHL”. That advice may not help athletes to achieve their goals.

Use Your Strengths

It’s important to improve upon weaknesses, but if an athlete spends too much time and effort on weaknesses they might become preoccupied with them and compromise what they’re already good at. When that happens, athletes quickly lose confidence in their overall abilities and became discouraged with the constant negative feedback they receive from coaches. Their strengths become neutralized and their weaknesses become more pronounced. Athletes should always focus on their strengths, understand their weaknesses, and try to minimize them.

I’ve met some athletes who were projected to be stars but ended up quitting because they didn’t refine their innate abilities. These players were told to spend an inordinate amount of time improving their weaknesses. There needs to be a balance between the two during practices. It’s important to realize that all athletes are talented in different areas. If they continue to work very hard at nurturing their strengths and they receive positive feedback from their coaches, trainers, teammates and parents, only then will they reach their true potential.

 

Hockey Concussions and the Effect on Hockey Recruits

This Post was Generously Sponsored by the Personal Injury Lawyers at Pannone.

ConcussionWith Sidney Crosby’s concussions came a swarm of media coverage about concussions in hockey and the immediate and long-term damage. What often goes unreported are the thousands of concussions suffered by minor hockey players each year and the effect on their ability to get recruited.

The Short Term Impact of Concussions for Hockey Recruits

Don Gilmor recently wrote about Nicholas Eustace of the GTHL’s Mississauga Rebles, a promising young hockey player who had his sights set on an NCAA scholarship:

Nicholas Eustace got his first concussion playing for the Minor Midget Mississauga Rebels in September 2011, at the beginning of the season. He got an elbow to the head, then later in the game another player fell on him when Nicholas was down, banging his head against the ice. Nicholas was out for six months, returning only for the quarter-finals in February. The team won the OHL Cup, beating the vaunted Marlboros. Fifteen players from the team were drafted by the OHL, but Nicholas was undrafted because he’d been out all season.

Nicholas returned the following year to play Midget with the North York Rangers, with the hope of attracting a scholarship offer as well. “I knew I wouldn’t make the NHL,” he says. “But I wanted to get an NCAA scholarship.” Instead, he suffered a second concussion last autumn. “I can’t really pick out a specific hit,” he says. “I just had a huge headache after a game with the Marlies, but I didn’t say anything for three weeks.”

Some point to a lack of education given to coaches, trainers, parents and players in the past to detect concussions.

Others point to the false sense of security provided by protective gear. While the helmet protects the head from skull fractures it has little impact in protecting against concussions. Perhaps even more important is the change in elbow and shoulder pads from cushions to armour.

Thankfully concussion education is spreading throughout minor, junior and pro hockey leagues with players and parents becoming aware of the possible implications of hiding a concussion or avoiding a proper diagnosis.

Max Taylor

Take the case of JHR Member Max Taylor who suffered repeated concussions, over a two year period while playing in the ECHL and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The concussions led Taylor to retire after not being able to recover from them symptoms. He spent months in a dark bedroom in Toronto feeling queasy just to get up for a light walk down the street.

Taylor was featured in MacLeans Magazine recently along side Eric Lindros where Cathy Gulli wrote:

Max Taylor also felt imprisoned after he received four concussions over two years while playing centre in the AHL starting in 2008. “It was a huge roller-coaster ride. I was really depressed and even suicidal. It freaked me out,” he says. “It just didn’t seem like my life was going to get any better.” The physical symptoms were so bad that Taylor, 27, took to sleeping 12 hours straight just to avoid feeling the pain. Where he used to run a mile in six minutes, he now got dizzy walking down the street to the nearest stop sign. He’d avoid sports news because it reminded him that his NHL chances were slipping away. “There were days that I would lose my mind.”

Like when he learned that the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favourite team since childhood, were looking for a centre. Taylor was invited to the training camp, but couldn’t attend because he was still experiencing concussion symptoms. He became delirious. “I did a mini-circuit in my bedroom—push-ups, body squats and sit-ups,” repeating one mantra: “Just do whatever it takes to stay in shape so that when I’m ready, I’ll be ready.” Instead, the frantic workout set him back. “I ended up throwing up and feeling dizzy for the rest of the day, and having to lay on the couch with a cold pack on my head.”

In Taylor’s case, its believed he suffered multiple concussions in a single game, which begs questions about the ability of doctors and trainers to detect concussions even at the professional level, and look out for a players best interest. The consensus seems to be that unless your a superstar, you are disposable. Concussion or not, its time to get back on the ice.

Conflict of Interest?

At the professional level team doctors are in place to help with the diagnosis, but come under competing pressures. On the one hand team doctors, paid by the teams, are under pressure to clear players to play, while on the other hand they have an obligation to the players to protect their best (longterm) interest.

At the minor and junior levels its important for players to take account of their own interest. Its up to players and their parents to decide when (or if) they should be back on the ice; regardless of what coaches and trainers say.

Without the proper education to coaches, trainers and parents, players risk returning to the game too early and finding themselves in the same situation as Nicholas Eustace or Max Talyor.

Long Term Effects of Concussions for Hockey Recruits

Boston University Neurosurgeons recently conducted a study to find if there was a link between athletes who have participated in contact sports and reported concussions throughout their careers, and long term brain impairment that could be the cause of early death or suicide. The study worked on donated brains of athletes from a number of different sports such as NFL, NHL, and high school football. During their study they examined the brain of former enforcer’s Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert (Detriot Red Wings), who died at the age of 45.

The study conducted found that both Fleming’s and Probert’s brain showed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerate form of Dementia that is caused by repeated blunt trauma to the brain [read punches to the face in Probert’s case]. CTE has strong connections to Addiction, Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Sleep problems, suicidal thoughts and impulse control.

Its no coincidence that during 2011, three NHL enforcers died tragically after careers fighting their way thought the NHL and minor leagues suffering serious head trauma throughout. Derek Boogaard died from a combination of too many painkillers and alcohol (linked with depressions). Rick Rypien, was found dead in his home in Alberta, an apparent suicide, and Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto hotel room. An interview conducted in 2011 with Wade Belak’s mother confirmed that her son had been suffering with depression in the months leading up to his death.

The Pressure on Hockey Recruits

In Nicholas Eustace’s case, as a player preparing for an NCAA scholarship, there was pressure to be on the ice and producing in his critical years when NCAA, OHL and even NHL scouts were watching. In Taylor’s case, he was inches from his dream of playing in the NHL. He couldn’t risk being out of the line-up at age 27 and miss the opportunity to make the big leagues. In both cases, they returned to soon.

For both minor hockey and professional players the incentive, in pursuit of the dream, is to get back on the ice as soon as possible at the risk further injury. While doctors, trainers and coaches may be in a position to help detect concussions, players and parents need to take their own measures to protect their future.

The current treatment for concussion is simply known as the “rest and wait” approach. As former NHL Jeff Beukeboom notes:

The most important thing is to be honest with yourself …You’re the only one who knows how it feels.

In Crosby’s case the team, doctors and trainers didn’t hesitate to look out for his longer-term interest by hitting the sidelines for almost a complete season. Recruits and their parents shouldn’t hesitate to take the same precautions.

 

Posted in Health, Injury

NCAA College Hockey vs. CHL Major Junior

From the College Hockey Inc. Website

Talented college hockey players face a choice at a young age as to where to pursue their dreams – two paths that can both lead to the NHL, but have a number of differences between them.

ncaaOn one hand is college hockey, more specifically the 59 teams that make up NCAA Division I. On the other is major junior, or the 60 teams in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL that make up the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).

“That debate’s always going to be there,” said Ron Wilson, longtime USA Hockey and NHL head coach and a former player at Providence College. “I think the chances of playing in the NHL are just as great playing college hockey as they are playing junior.”

With that in mind, here are a few things for players and parents facing that choice to consider:

Eligibility

Because the CHL includes players who have signed professional contracts, the NCAA considers it a professional league. Therefore, players who have played a game – even an exhibition game – in the CHL are deemed ineligible for NCAA competition.

ncaapracticeThere are paths to have NCAA eligibility reinstated for players who have played a limited number of CHL games, but they are not guaranteed and must be initiated by an NCAA school.

 

Player Development

A big reason college hockey is producing more than 30% of all NHL players is its success in player development. That stems from a number of factors:

Coaching and training staffs: College coaches are dedicated to their players and helping them achieve their fullest potential. Staffs include assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and equipment managers who give players the ideal environment to improve.

Facilities: College facilities are first-class and constantly being constructed or renovated to meet the needs of the student-athletes. College facilities typically include weight rooms, video rooms, hydrotherapy tubs and other features to help development such as off-ice shooting bays.

Practices and conditioning: The college schedule of approximately 40 games allows three or four days per week to focus on practice and off-ice conditioning work. Practice – with players getting more ice time and having the puck on their stick – has proven to be a much better environment for talent development than games. The additional time in the weight room allows players to add significant weight in muscle during their college careers.

ncaanickjohnsonIntense games: With fewer, more meaningful games, college hockey is intense and hard-fought. Alums often marvel at the intensity of their college games relative to their pro experience.

Older competition: College hockey features players ages 18-24, rather than 16-20 in major junior hockey. That older, faster, stronger competition helps players elevate their games.

Additional time: Since college players can remain in school until graduation – as opposed to having to sign pro contracts at 20, like major junior players – they have more time to develop. That allows players like Chris Kreider to jump right from college into the NHL, and also gives players who may not be ready at 20 more time to pursue their hockey dreams in a development system.

“In a word, maturity,” Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of what he sees from former college players. “On-the-ice maturity. You get a player that’s had longer to develop physically and mentally.”

Education

College hockey is played at some of the finest institutions in the world, and the NCAA model allows student-athletes to progress toward their degree while pursuing their hockey dreams at the same time.

While the CHL’s education program has made strides in recent years, it comes with restrictions that families need to consider. Expenses covered can be limited and packages can be eliminated if players sign certain pro contracts or fail to begin pursuit of their education in a certain timeframe.

A recent NCAA study showed that 88% of men’s hockey players earn their degree. Published reports have shown that fewer than 20% of major junior players go on to earn their degrees.

Campus Life

College students – not just hockey players – often call their time on campus the best years of their life. NHLers who played in the NCAA are no exception.

The ability to socialize with thousands of other students the same age, to make lifelong friendships and to live on their own makes for a great experience, and prepares college hockey players to be more mature when they move on from school.

 

Six USHL teams will travel to the East Coast to compete in the USHL Atlantic Challenge…

USHLOur friends at the USHL have announced a new event to inaugurate 2013 preseason play, as from September 6-8, a total of six USHL teams will travel to the East Coast to compete in the USHL Atlantic Challenge.

This represents the largest exhibition of USHL talent outside the Midwest in League history. Hosted by three well-respected Eastern youth and junior hockey organizations, the Long Island Gulls, New York Bobcats, and New Jersey Avalanche, the Challenge will also feature an invitational youth tournament for some of the region’s top under-14, under-16, under-18, and junior teams.

The USHL Atlantic Challenge marks the first time that USHL teams will play games on the East Coast, a region that is sending an increasing number of players to the League. Participating teams and a full schedule for the event will be announced at a later date.

The Metro New York-New Jersey area might just be the right spot for a USHL team(s) because there is just one D1 program at Princeton to compete for gate. The area is next to New England the key developer of talent in the east producing players for most of Hockey East, ECAC and Atlantic leagues. Also likely to hold some top talent from going north to Canada keeping them in the US to play college hockey.

 

10 of the Weirdest Hockey Superstitions

By Catherine Faas

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey DevilsHockey is perhaps the most superstitious sport of them all. When a player has a good game, they quite often attribute their performance to something they did, ate, or wore earlier on in the day. It’s not rational, but it’s a time-honoured tradition. Over the years, superstitions have ranged from the slightly peculiar to the downright weird. Here are ten of the strangest hockey superstitions ever.

1. Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner has been known to tap his stick 88 times during the national anthem and trace the outline of the Canadian maple leaf in time with the music.

2. Patrick Roy is one of the greatest goalies of all time. He was also one of the most superstitious players over the course of his career. He would have long talks with his goal posts. He would also carefully lay out every piece of his equipment on the floor of the locker room before putting them on in a specific order. Also, during intermissions he  would juggle a puck and bounce it off the ground. Those are just three of his many weird superstitions.

3. As a joke, the San Jose Sharks once changed former defenseman Kyle McLaren’s visor to a yellow-coloured one. Since he was colour-blind, he had no way of knowing. That game, he scored the winning goal and he decided to keep the yellow-tinted visor for good luck for the majority of his career.

4. The great one, Wayne Gretzky, would never cut his hair before a game. He did once, and his team lost that night.

5. Ever since the 2002 Olympics when Team Canada won hockey gold, it’s become a common good luck tradition in Canada to bury a Loonie under the ice before a big game.

6. Former player and current General Manager of the Dallas Stars, Joe Nieuwendyk, always ate two pieces of toast with peanut butter before every single game.

7. It’s a serious belief that touching the Conference Final Trophy cause your team to lose their chance at winning it. For instance, the last time the Kings won the West, they touched it and lost! So hands off!

8. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins allegedly has a laundry list of superstitions. Here are three of them. First, he won’t call his mother on a game day because in the past he did and wound up with broken teeth and other injuries. Second, after he tapes his sticks for a game, no one else can touch them or pretend to touch them. If that happens, he will re-tape the sticks. Third, if the team ever travels on a bus, Crosby lifts his feet off the ground whenever they go over a railroad track

9. The New York Islanders are often credited for starting the playoff beard superstition during their run for the Stanley Cup in the early 1980s. They won four cups in four years! Now that’s some lucky facial hair!

10. They say that former Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque used to change his skate laces during every intermission and would throw away the used laces. He played nearly 2,000 games in the league, which means he went through close to 11,000 sets of laces.

Do you have any hockey superstitions? Tell us what they are!