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Welcome To Our First Newsletter of 2017



portraitSuitcoat100Welcome to our our first newsletter of 2017.

There have been a few changes within our organization, which are very exciting.

I am extremely pleased, and proud, of the fact that John MacDonald has now joined us, full-time, as an advisor, and as a full-fledged partner in our professional advisory firm.

Many will recognize John as my oldest son, who has worked part-time over the past few years for us, primarily during the summer months.

JohnPortrait100In the past John has been very involved in one-on-one counseling, on-ice training, and with administrative work with the College Hockey Atlantic Combine event, which is an event that we help organize each summer in Halifax.

John has grown up playing hockey at the highest levels. As a 5’8″, December-born player, he had his own set of unique challenges that required very strategic decisions, which led him to a US-based prep school, a Canadian Junior-A team (on which he eventually became it’s captain), and eventually onto play university hockey. In his spare time, he is currently also coaching a Major Bantam team in Canada.

Over the past couple of years, John has been involved as a support role within our firm, and he has built up a terrific number of personal contacts within the hockey community that far outreaches those, with whom he developed during his playing days.

Over the past 4 years, John has helped coach summer showcase events throughout North America, and has been on the bench with prep school, junior and college coaches from as far away as California, British Columbia, Florida and New England, and from everywhere  in-between, and he has worked with student-athletes from throughout North America, and from Europe, and Russia.StorefrontSigns

John welcomes those past contacts to reach out to him, and for any prospective  players and parents who think that they could use his help to contact him at john@hockeyfamilyadvisor.com.

As another recent change that has happened within our firm, we have just set-up a new office at 109 Ilsley Avenue (Suite 12-A), in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, from where we will service all of our international clientele, and if you are every in the area, we invite you to drop by and have a chat.

If you ever think that we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to drop us a line at info@hockeyfamilyadvisor.com.



David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor






Posted in Newsletter

Hockey needs more Einsteins 

By Jack Blatherwick
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

Hockey is becoming a game of robots with talents so hidden we never get to see how brilliant the players really are. Why? Coaches feel comfortable when they’re in control.

What we really need is more geniuses – independent geniuses, who aren’t so easy to control because they think outside the box. After a coaching seminar, we might think we can teach everything a player needs to know, but imagine coaching Wayne Gretzky as a 12-year-old. In every shift, he did several things we never thought of, so he made hockey better simply because he didn’t wait for someone to teach him the game.

Ad-JeffLewisThat’s what Albert Einstein did for physics. As I was driving south recently – yes, I saw the forecast and got out of Dodge in the nick of time – I saw a huge billboard with a picture of Einstein. It read: “As a young student, this kid was no Einstein.”

Whoa! I had to read that one twice, even though I was driving. Are we failing to identify the potential geniuses in our classroom or hockey rink, just because at 10 or 12 years old they don’t test well? They haven’t been programmed yet with the required skills?

Never an “A student,” Einstein rebelled against rote memorization of facts. “Conformity,” he called it later, when he lectured. If he were 18 years old today, he’d do poorly on SAT/ACT tests and would get a lot of rejection letters from colleges. Standardized tests are speed contests with no time to look for creative solutions that teachers and test-makers never considered.

Do we think education is nothing more than mastering old ideas and skills – whether it’s hockey or math? The world’s greatest physicist would fail our tests if he lived today, but in reality, it’s the standardized tests that fail.

What is the fate of a generation of young Gretzkys who out-think and out-score their friends in a pond-hockey game, but don’t do well in structured drills carrying pucks around cones? They might be rejected as Einstein was because the drills fail to identify creative genius.

Gretzky himself has said he’s not sure he could make it to the NHL today because his game wouldn’t fit into the box – that’s the box of X’s and O’s that coaches brag about after a win. “We played our game tonight,” they say on TV. “We played with discipline and stuck to the system.” Ugh.

That NHL/college model – disciplined defensive hockey and low-risk offense – doesn’t feature the awesome skills of our greatest players. Worse yet, their emphasis on winning trickles down to youth hockey and suppresses creativity at an age when brains should be stimulated by unlimited, magical playmaking.

Coaches and teachers could learn a lot from Einstein’s educational philosophy. To nurture creative problem solving, he advocates a simple approach, “I never teach my pupils,” he said. “I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.”


Overbearing parents scare off college recruiters

By Kevin Hoffman

Parents have a tendency to meddle in their children’s high school teams, lobbying for playing time and preferential treatment. It’s typically part of a campaign to earn a college scholarship for their young athletes, but their efforts may be counterproductive.

While college recruiters are interested in talent, size and grade point averages, it turns out they’re also mindful of a prospective athlete’s parents. A parent’s reputation among the varsity coaches and school provides some insight about the type of person they’re recruiting into their program and the potential headaches that might come with it.

Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald is among those who evaluate parents during the recruiting process. If his assessment raises red flags, he won’t hesitate to move on from a talented player.

Ad-RobRassey“An increasingly large part of the evaluation process for us is evaluating the parents,” he said. “When we talk about our fit we evaluate parents too, and if parents don’t fit, we might punt on the player and not offer him a scholarship. And that has changed over a decade. Ten years ago I’m not sure that was as big of a role, but now that’s a big part of it.”

Fitzgerald isn’t alone. Over the past couple of years, I’ve spoken with college coaches about their experiences with parents and each had varying degrees of concerns. Some might completely move on from a player whose parents carry a bad reputation, while others might go out of their way to limit the contact parents have with the coaching staff. What helps college coaches is they’re not as accessible as their high school counterparts, so they don’t worry about parents showing up to practices or cornering them after games.

But it’s not all about direct conflicts with parents. College recruiters fear that the personalities and actions of parents could offer a glimpse into what they can expect from their children. A mom who has the tendency berate officials from the stands could have influenced her son or daughter to do the same, and that creates a problem for coaches.

This is all ammunition for high school coaches who have exhausted all methods of silencing the most vocal parents in their programs. Preseason meetings and codes of conduct may not make a difference, but when you consider that parents are motivated by athletic scholarships, the idea that they’re interfering could encourage them to adjust their attitudes.

Recruiters want parents who help their children with homework, but not those who do it for them or complain to teachers about grades. Recruiters want parents who cheer from the stands, but not those who constantly yell obscenities and hound referees after every missed call. Most importantly, recruiters want parents who trust the coach and don’t leave angry voicemails or send emails when their child isn’t getting enough playing time. Parents must embody what recruiters want in student-athletes.

Parents don’t want to be the one thing standing between their child and an athletic scholarship, and helping them to see that their actions have severe consequences could be beneficial to high school coaches struggling to control the parents in their programs. When they act out, the kids end up paying the price.


Posted in Coaching, NCAA, Parents

Inside College Hockey’s Fierce Recruiting War

By: Ryan Kennedy


Competition in the college ranks begins long before teams hit the ice. The initial battles are fought in the increasingly-competitive recruiting war.

There has never been a more competitive time to attract talent in the NCAA. Arizona State and Penn State have added big-name status to a field of 60 Div. I schools, while the CHL constantly threatens to pull a hot young talent over to major junior.
So recruiting isn’t just a big part of the job now for college coaches – it’s a constant job.

“You’re recruiting every day, to be honest,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “If you’re not making a phone call, you’re at least thinking about it.”
Montgomery estimated he’s on the road 15 percent of the season, while his assistant coaches are on planes or in chevy silverado as much as 40 percent of the time. Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said that even a couple weeks every summer month are dedicated to recruiting. “It’s become year-round,” Pearson said. “It’s not only your immediate class, it’s the class after that and the class after that.”
Ad-LeighMendelsonOver the years, the recruiting arms race has reached incredible heights. Kids are committing to schools at 13, even though they know they won’t be donning the jersey for another five years – if that. “We try to wait as long as we can,” said Boston University associate head coach Albie O’Connell. “Some kids aren’t even shaving yet and they’re committing to schools.”
Practically speaking, though, the chances of that 13-year-old sticking with the commitment are low. Coaches change, players change and the lure of major junior is enticing – especially since players can join a CHL team at 16.
The same goes for the women’s game. Boston College coach Katie Crowley just added a second assistant (Canadian Olympian Gillian Apps) to help with all the scouting her Eagles have to do. The battle for talent is just as feverish, even though the women don’t have a major junior circuit to reckon with. “It’s getting more challenging,” Crowley said. “We’re following the men, sadly. Kids are committing earlier – 13, 14, 15 – it’s getting crazy.”
There are strict rules about recruiting, which adds another layer of difficulty. Coaches aren’t allowed to contact a player until Jan. 1 of the teen’s Grade 10 year. But the players – and their parents – can call a coach anytime. So being proactive is important for a potential student-athlete. Campus visits allow families to see what kind of environment their kid will be in, but it also gives the coaches a look at the still-forming human being they’d be welcoming to their program. “It’s a feeling-out process,” O’Connell said. “We try to find kids who are intelligent, with stable families and good support networks.”
Ad-MikeChiellinoThe competition is fierce. Recruiting used to largely be regional, with Minnesota or Michigan getting most of the best in-state kids and Clarkson (which is in New York state) venturing into nearby Ontario and Quebec, for example. Now the game is wide-open. “Back in the day, you’d go to a BCHL game and there would be five schools there,” Pearson said. “Now there are 60. Everybody is everywhere.”
And Europe has become a new frontier for the NCAA. Montgomery said that landing eventual Florida first-rounder Henrik Borgstrom was a six-month process that included assistant coach David Carle going to Finland. O’Connell went to the Ivan Hlinka tournament in Czechia and Slovakia this year, while other BU coaches made sojourns to Finland and Sweden. Fortunately for the jetlag weary, more European players have been coming over to the USHL and NAHL lately. But ask any coach about travel horror stories and you’ll get your fill. “Like the motel room I got in Yorkton, Sask., for $16.95?” Pearson said. “You jumped in bed and it would just sink around you.”
Carle made a big mistake last year, en route to seeing hot prospects Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro in Penticton, B.C. He flew into Seattle in mid-February, landing at 8 a.m. Renting the smallest car in the lot, he set out for the B.C. interior, only to get walloped by a storm on the Coquihalla highway. Carle got there – more than 10 hours later – on what should have been a five-hour drive. “I’ve been to Alaska,” Carle said. “But never in a storm like that.”
Pearson, who was Red Berenson’s longtime assistant at Michigan, also recalled sending his boss down the Coquihalla with similar snowy results – and Berenson couldn’t even rent a car right away because he forgot his wallet at home. Berenson finally got to Vernon to see David Oliver, who ended up a four-year man with the Wolverines. After more than 200 games in the NHL and stints in the AHL and Europe, Oliver retired. Now, he’s director of player development for the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted Jost this summer.


My Brother Dave

Paul Holmgren, Team President / Philadelphia Flyers - The Players' Tribune

When I was 12, I asked my parents to send me to a week-long hockey camp at Bemidji State University.

The school is three hours away from where we lived on the east side of St. Paul. My dad, Edward Holmgren, worked for the U.S. Post Office while my mom stayed home to raise the family. Finances were usually pretty tight. There was certainly enough food to eat, but we didn’t have $110 to spare for me to go to hockey camp. In 1967, that was the equivalent of nearly $800 today.  It’s not that we were poor, but there wasn’t much left for extras.

I was the baby of the family, the reason why my family would check the baby-stroller reviews, the youngest of four kids. My next-oldest brother, Mark, had just 15 months on me, and I got a lot of his hand-me-downs — old sweaters, pants and shoes always came my way whenever Mark grew another size. But of all the used stuff he gave me, I cherished skates the most. I was almost 11 before I was gifted a new pair of my very own. We lived in a house with one bathroom, no shower. It was a classic St. Paul-style home. Dave, my oldest brother by eight years, shared a bedroom upstairs with Mark and myself. I’m sure it couldn’t have been that fun to have two little kids for roommates, but Dave was selfless.

I had pretty much given up on my dreams of going to camp, until my dad surprised me one morning. “Your brother Dave is going to pay for the camp,” he said. “Make sure you thank him.”

But Dave never got to see me enjoy the benefits of what I learned at Bemidji State.

Two years earlier, he had gone blind — a complication of his diabetes.

When he was eight, Dave had gone away to summer camp in Northern Minnesota, where he suddenly became very ill and almost died. Doctors eventually diagnosed him as a diabetic and were able to get his diet and insulin usage under control. He lived a fairly normal life for a few years after that. But as he got older, it seemed like anything that could go wrong for a diabetic seemed to happen to Dave.

Dave was the brains of the Holmgren siblings, a whiz in math and chemistry. He wanted to get into the sandwich shop business, hoping one store would turn into a chain. But his eyesight began to fail and eventually became a real impediment. He was also in almost constant pain all over his body — something that only got worse as time went on. He was 19, two years into college, when he came home crying one day because he had crashed his souped-up ’62 Chevy Nova. “I can’t see anymore,” he told my parents.

 Ad-KyleWallackDave never got to see me enjoy the benefits of what I learned at Bemidji State. Two years earlier, he had gone blind — a complication of his diabetes.

But even when he was struggling, I always remember Dave having jobs after school or over the summer. He worked at a car wash one year, and a restaurant the year after. I don’t remember him ever not working.

He had some money saved, he said, and he wanted to do this for me.

I would go on to play football and baseball at Harding High, but this being Minnesota, I also played hockey. Hockey was everything there. Hockey is everything. If I wasn’t playing in the street in front of the house, I was at the outdoor rink at East View Playground two blocks away. On the weekends my friends and I would play from nine in the morning to eight at night — with maybe a break for lunch. And after we finished our homework, we would go back out there again.

On career day at school, I wrote hockey player on the questionnaire that everybody had to fill out.

Because of the age differences, Mark and I were closer to each other than we were to Dave and my older sister, Janice. We were more into sports than they were. If I talked to anybody about hockey, it was Mark. I just don’t remember talking to Dave much about my interest in the sport. But thinking back, he was obviously paying attention. Why else would he have paid for me to go to hockey camp?

The Bemidji State Camp was one of the best in North America. It was run by Bob Peters (the coach at Bemidji State from 1967 to 2001) and Murray Williamson (a two-time coach of the U.S. Olympic Team and a silver medalist in 1972). One of the camp’s instructors was Larry Pleau, who was about 20 then and playing junior hockey in Montreal. He was one of the few U.S. players thought to be a top NHL prospect at the time.

This being Minnesota, I also played hockey. Hockey was everything there. Hockey is everything.

I can’t recall the specifics of what was taught, but the camp certainly covered a lot. Most important to me at that age was being on the ice every day. It was bliss. I remember winning some kind of award for achievement and coming home more enthused about hockey than ever before. Going to that camp made me more motivated than ever to pursue a career in the game.

Perhaps without Dave’s gift, I might still have gone on to play in the NHL — but I doubt it. Everything that I went on to do in hockey (including being a coach and a general manager) I owe to Dave.

To this day, it haunts me that I may have never properly thanked him for that.

I’m also tortured by something that happened a few years after that — something that Dave and I never cleared up.

When I was 13 or 14, Dave wanted to go downtown to buy tickets to a concert. This was in the days before it became the law to provide access for the handicapped to public transportation. Dave needed to take a city bus to get to the box office, but he wasn’t allowed to take his guide dog, Prudy, on the bus. So he asked me to accompany him instead. You must also know who fake doctor note for service dog. Visit onlinedogtor.com to learn more.

I probably didn’t want to go, but I did anyway. When the bus pulled up at the stop a few blocks from our house and the doors opened, I said to Dave, “Do you want me to go?”

What I meant was, “Do you want me to go first up the steps?” That way, I would be able to help him board. But I think because of my attitude, he took it the wrong way. He said something like, “If you don’t want to go, I’ll go myself.”


We rode the bus together in silence. I never explained to him what I had actually meant — and I have carried that around with me ever since. I know that it may sound like something small, but it stuck with me because I felt I had let him down. He was a rock, and he had always been there for me. In his time of weakness, he had asked a simple thing of me … and I took him for granted.

My memory of that day has always weighed on me. It’s the reason why I have always wanted to share this story. It’s so important for people to resolve issues, speak their minds and try to clear up misunderstandings. Once it becomes too late to do anything about something — even something minor — the guilt is impossible to shed.

I don’t know how much that incident bothered Dave. Perhaps a little or maybe not at all. He was a tough guy — from a generation that believed you were supposed to keep your disappointments inside. My dad never talked about being in World War II, and after I saw Dave crying to him and Mom that day he crashed the car, he never talked about how much pain he was in or what a s***** hand he had drawn in the game of life.

I can still see him sitting in his chair in the evening, with Prudy by his side, while we all watched Gilligan’s Island or Hogan’s Heroes. The latter was probably our family’s favorite show. Even my dad would laugh. Dave’s eyes would be closed and it looked like he wasn’t paying attention, but then he would laugh along with us.

 It’s so important for people to resolve issues, speak their minds and try to clear up misunderstandings.

But the grin on his face was actually more a grimace of pain. He was struggling. His headaches were horrendous. He had to sit in a hot bath just to be able to relieve himself. His organs were shutting down. He was dying right in front of our eyes. But when you’re a kid, you just don’t think about the people around you.

Near the end, I knew how bad it was. At one point, doctors gave him two years to live. I don’t remember if he made it that far or not, but when he finally went to the hospital there wasn’t much expectation he would return.

Nobody ever said that, but we all felt it.

On December 3, 1970, one day after my 15th birthday, I came home from school and saw Pastor Lindquist’s car in front of the house. My stomach dropped — I knew what it meant. Mom had been with Dave in the hospital when he died that day. He was just 23 years old.

His girlfriend, Karen — whom I had assumed he would marry one day — stuck with him until the very end. Mom and Dad were as stoic as as they could be about it; they said that Dave didn’t have to suffer anymore. You hear that all the time after somebody dies, but I had never experienced death before — I don’t know if it was of any comfort to me that Dave was no longer in pain. My brother was gone. That was all I could see at the time.

Even Prudy understood what had happened better than I did.

She died the next day.

“Her job was finished,” my mother said.

He was dying right in front of our eyes. But when you’re a kid, you just don’t think about the people around you.

We all have difficult times in our lives, but whenever I hit one of life’s bumps in the road, I think about Dave. The manner in which he dealt with life, as terrifying as it must have been — one day at a time, with dignity — is something that has stuck with me all these years.

I have known a lot of tough people in my life, but none tougher than my brother Dave.

One of my biggest regrets is that he didn’t live to see me play in the NHL. It was such a big deal for everybody in my family. He would have been proud.

As I get older, more about his final years seems to come back to me. Thinking about him so much has only increased my feelings of guilt, and my need to share our story — and the story of why I got to go to the camp at Bemidji State. I don’t remember thanking him, even though my father had specifically told me to. And even if I did, I’m convinced that I didn’t thank him enough.

After all these years, there are not many days that I don’t think about Dave. His gift started my journey, and I will always be grateful to him.


Athletes: Focus on What YOU Control – Preparation, Effort & Attitude

By Stephen Walker, PhD




Athlete’s Dilemma: With So Many Variables in Training – Overwhelm is a Common Occurrence

Ad-BenGuiteNot too long ago Podium Sports Journal conducted an interview with Dr. Sam Maniar, former staff Sport Psychologist with The Ohio State University.  In that Podcast Dr. Maniar illustrates the difference between “choking” and “anxiety reactions” in an athlete’s performance.  The most interesting thing to note about this, is that the casual observer can not tell the difference.  Maniar defines choking as a state of “overthinking” the challenges an athlete is engaged in.  With so many technique driven tasks, situations that call for different responses, or circumstances that are confusing and no clearly identifiable course of action is understood by the athlete…they shut down and oftentimes look like they just ‘blew the assignment.’  This situation is what one experiences when the athlete’s brain becomes “gridlocked” and there are too many competing thoughts going on.

On the other hand, an anxiety reaction involves the experience of an athlete going “blank”, unable to recall their assignment because the stress levels have shut them down.  In both cases, the athlete experiences a case of “Overwhelm” – a very common occurrence in sport at every level.  So what is the antidote?  It seems they are different problems.  Fans, and sometimes coaches, just can’t understand because the athlete’s performance might just look exactly the same even though the cause is quite different.  So – what is the solution to these performance problems?



Keep it Simple – Focus on What YOU Control”




One of the first things to examine is “how” these two problems are similar.  First off, they both look much the same when observing the athlete’s performance.  And, they both involve a high degree of stress in how the athlete perceives their situation.  Hence, one of the key components to any solution is to better manage the stress load involved.  Podium has contributed several articles focused on how athletes can better manage their “jitters” before and during competition.  Coaches offer help and can be key when identifying those key moments when the athlete has the most trouble.  By training “with a Purpose” through these circumstances the athlete can address them productively.  There are times when parents can provide one or more forms of assistance also.  Practicing techniques designed to equip each athlete with arousal control is huge, and there are many opportunities to apply these skills to develop expertise.  In virtually every case, that situation and the triggers for overwhelm should be reviewed with each athlete, either with a teammate, coach, parent or sport psychologist.  There is no substitute for having specific antidotes that you developed for your own situation.  Still, it is critical for each athlete to have the ability to break things down into “bite-sized” pieces.  No one play will determine a college scholarship or life success, but the methods we train with for overcoming “overwhelm,” exercised day in and day out – just might.  Once again, we get back to….

“FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CONTROL.”  This is a common piece of advice given to athletes throughout many years in virtually every sport invented.  But what does that really mean?  After all, some sports are amazingly complicated.  Some have all kinds of gear, even multiple sports per event.  There are details to execution, details to strategy and tactics, nuances and special circumstances that determine implementation, factors that involve strong emotions, tons of hard work, important relationships, sponsorships, scholarships, seeding – whew!  When you consider all the things there are to think about, it is even “more” IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CONTROL.


I define these factors as the P – E – A of sport.  Lets take a closer look……..


The Athlete is almost always in control of their preparation.  The appropriate time to train, to study the play book, to practice for a certain type of scheme you’re likely to face, a well designed diet for fueling yourself properly, film study of your opponent’s skills and execution, making the most of your recovery time…..the list goes on.  It is clear that those athletes that are known to prepare efficiently and competently for competition tend to do well even when conditions are less than optimal.  Truth be told, athletes that PREPARE experience fewer “surprises” in competition, know “how” to play against obstacles their opponents throw at them, and perhaps most importantly, understand the “level and intensity” required of them to be successful when success or failure is on the line.  Are you that athlete?  The one who prepares meticulously?

Ad-BillRigaPreparation is not just the job of the athlete, but athletes bear the burden of responsibility to demonstrate they can play with their opponents.  Coaches have an equal responsibility to identify and articulate the challenge and the training required for their team or athlete to be successful.  And so it is – that TEAMWORK – is not just the collaborative effort amongst athletes.

Coaches, position coaches, coordinators, strength and conditioning experts, trainers, sports medicine professionals and parents ALL CAN AND DO play a key role in an athlete’s preparation for competition.  In what way do you as an athlete RELY on the counsel or training of others to become successful?  Is your communication with these important role players a good one?  Do they want to help YOU succeed because you are appreciative of the input, are coach-able, listen well and practice the strategies provided?  Sometimes an athlete will look like they “don’t care”, indicate they don’t value the contribution of every individual charged with the task of making them better, or worse, they appear “annoyed” by the helpful “input.”

Bottom line – athletes that prepare well are far more capable of performing what they practiced.  Hence, they’re more likely to deliver the goods at the right time.

So, what’s next?



Effort is .one thing an athlete is in complete control of.  You either know what is required to master a skill or you don’t.  You either do the work or you don’t.  You work at it or you don’t. You put the time in or you don’t.  You eat right or you don’t.  You listen or you don’t. You study film or you don’t. The opportunity to be successful in a competition is not limited to the 60 minutes, or distance of a race.  The OPPORTUNITY is experienced everyday in training, every off hour in how you recover and in the quality of relationship and teamwork you exhibit in “helping” your teammates, coaches and supporters to bring their best, both to you and the team.  Athletes that train well, practice well, and prepare well demonstrate an effort level that often makes a big difference in the way you feel when the sun sets on competition day. When all the individuals that make up a team work together, and in concert with one another, team goals are much more likely to be accomplished.  There is nothing in sport quite so enjoyable as accomplishing goals set as a “team.”  As one philosopher put it, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Pond Hockey at Silver Sticks


Attitude is defined as your “mind-set” in approaching, preparing for, and performing during competition.  There is no substitute for being coach-able, whether you are the coach or the athlete. A positive mental attitude changes your perspective on the grind…(you know the grind…practicing in the heat or cold or wind, doing your umpteenth repetition of a drill…one that could easily cause you to bitch and moan…if you let it.) Attitude is what builds cohesion, brings leaders to the front, and sees “every” player on the team contribute at the right time.  A great ATTITUDE requires a constant desire to improve, not just for yourself, but for your teammates.  A positive mental attitude is evident when one experiences a bad break, and they find a way to overcome.  Some make a science of learning excuses or finding ways to say “I can’t.”  Athletes who have the right attitude know “how” to turn a negative into a positive.  The spirit that can’t be defeated provides inspiration, guidance and leadership amongst your teammates.  At the very least, they will respect the way you learn from your mistakes, and make the most of your difficulties, to overcome those liabilities that you do not let “define you.”  UCLA’s famous coach John Wooden once said, “Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.”

Virtually every marquis player in the NFL covets the “RING”… the SuperBowl Championship.  Every college basketball player is focused on being in the FINAL FOUR – or better yet – cutting down the nets with an NCAA Championship under their belt.  The special nature of striving together to accomplish greatness in such a venue is simply “unforgettable” and there is not one athlete who has been a part of such success – that later regretted how hard they worked to earn that success.  Champions at the highest level can understand how Coach Lou Holtz could say, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you actually do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

I like the way our 26th President and fearless leader Teddy Roosevelt put it:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
– Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919)

The point being that competitive results themselves – overvalued in our winning obsessed culture anyway – are ultimately not in the competitor’s control and should not be the way the athlete (or coach or parent) judges “success.”   The athlete’s quality of competing – the PEA  – should be the way the athlete (or coach or parent) judges whether the competitive process was “a win” or not.   I think “the overwhelm” can often be triggered by a counterproductive focus on the importance of a winning result, which distracts from what the player actually controls in the heat of battle – a winning process.   This seems especially true of youth or recreational athletes, like myself, who have a tendency to get unduly distracted in competition by imagined consequences of winning or losing, and unduly bummed out by losing, instead of just focusing on competing to the best of one’s ability and calling that a “win.”   Even star athletes are not immune to getting “tight” in the clutch and performing poorly at times but they are usually better at battling that and refocusing on the PEA of the moment and brushing off defeat as part of making them a better player.

Roosevelt was an expert at leading teams and his accomplishments reflect that.  There is no greater experience in athletics than ACCOMPLISHING TEAM GOALS TOGETHER.

So keep it simple, focus on your mantra – FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CONTROL – YOUR PEA – PREPARATION – YOUR EFFORT – AND – YOUR ATTITUDE.  Good things will happen.


Getting the call

January 4, 2017

By Dave Schwartz


Sometimes life simply isn’t fair. Other people get the breaks while you continue to work hard waiting for yours. For a lot of athletes, that break never comes.

Just ask Pat Cannone. But then again, maybe you shouldn’t.

“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.” Cannone calmly said after his first practice in the NHL.

Ad-BrianHillsCannone was called up last week by the Minnesota Wild for the first time in his professional career which has spanned six AHL seasons with three different teams. For years he’s seen his teammates and his opposition get “the call” up to the big leagues while he continued to work — waiting for this day to come.

“You know you hope so, you play for that, you work hard for that,” Cannone said. “It was a long time coming.”

Cannone earned the call up. He was the 2016 AHL all-star game MVP and after years of torching the Iowa Wild as a member of the Chicago Wolves, he joined the franchise as a free agent this offseason. In 29 games he’s tallied 16 points. He calls himself a two-way player and says his main goal is just to help the team win. It was that full body of work that got Bruce Boudreau’s attention.

“It’s a great thing for guys to get their first game up,” Boudreau told Wild TV after practice. “Especially when they have played a few years in the minors. He’s earned it. He’s played very well down in Iowa. So here is his chance.”

That chance makes him a rookie —and an old one at that. At 30 he’s older than three-quarters of the Wild roster. Most NHL rookies are in their early 20’s when they get their first call up to the big leagues. And while Cannone was nervous the first time he put on that NHL sweater, he believes it’s easier to handle the nerves with six years of pro hockey experience under his belt.

“It’s a little different (being) that I am an older guy,” Cannone told me. “I’m also a rookie at the same time. I feel like that plays to my advantage a little bit. There will still be some nerves in the beginning but those will settle down.”

His story is one so many of us can relate to. A guy with a lot of heart, who works hard but never quite does enough to get that call up. It was a story that resonated with Bruce Boudreau who bounced up and down from the minors during his playing career and spent nine seasons coaching in the minors before being called up to coach the Washington Capitals during the 2007-2008 season. While that was not the only behind Cannone’s call up, the opportunity to give a journeyman a chance and spread some hope, was a nice benefit.

“I was there (in the minors) for 33 years, I sort of get to like those guys,” Boudreau said. “A lot of those guys are good enough to play, but at a certain age you’re not deemed a prospect and when you’re not a prospect you don’t get the opportunities. So when Chuck (Fletcher) is calling the guy up and doing this I think it’s a special thing. And it’ll make everyone in Iowa better if they know they’ll all have opportunities to play in the NHL if they do well enough.”

For Cannone, who has now played in just a few games, a chance is all he ever really wished for.

“You just try to help any way possible and keep these going,” Cannone said.

And keep himself up in St. Paul as long as he can.



Posted in Life Lessons, NHL

Stop early college recruiting 

By Josh Levine
Let’s Play Hockey

It’s time to stop the race to recruit earlier and earlier, and fix the college recruitment process. The current situation is unnecessarily hurting athletes and increasing the workload for college coaches. As colleges commit to players who are younger, the risk of making the wrong pick increases, and the need to “stockpile” players becomes greater.

We are seeing these trends reflected in commitments this year. As of Jan. 1, 2017, there were 52 athletes who had verbally committed to play college hockey their freshman season in 2020-21. Under the current rules, colleges are acting risk-averse – they don’t want to lose talent because they won’t commit early, so many schools seem to be giving out commitments as fast as they can. For some schools, I have to ask, “Who haven’t they offered a scholarship to?”

As of Jan. 1, there were 15 schools that each had 20 or more recruits slated to play on their 2020-21 team. Some teams, like the University of Wisconsin, would have 31 players on the 2020-21 team if every commitment holds and each player stays all four years (not likely to happen but this also assumes no current high school player will also commit to play for Wisconsin during the next four years).

Parents, players and our youth hockey culture is part of the problem. The desire to be considered elite and the social value of verbally committing all contribute to a hockey culture that wants to label kids at a younger and younger age as college-bound. The verbal commitment does not guarantee them anything, so why rush it?

The trend of earlier college commitments is likely to continue, get worse and harm players as well as colleges in the process, which is why college hockey needs a rule change to prevent early recruitment.

“We need to find a better solution,” said Mark Strobel, assistant coach at Ohio State.

That solution might be in the works.

“NCAA Division I men’s hockey created a committee last year to improve the recruiting environment in men’s college hockey,” said Mike Snee, Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. “Addressing the recruiting and committing of younger players and negative aspects created by it are a top priority of the committee.”

While I do not know the exact policy needed to fix this situation, I do know there are many compelling reasons for why it needs to change:

A verbal commitment doesn’t mean anything if you don’t continue to improve and develop the skill set necessary to play college hockey. There are plenty of stories of players committing, stagnating, losing the passion for the game and ultimately not playing at the school they committed to. We just tend to forget about them. A verbal commitment with a freshman high school player is NOT validation of their ability to play college hockey today, but rather an estimation by the college team that this player will be ready and able to play in 4-5 years.

There can be up to a five-year difference between an athlete’s biological and chronological ages. That is, one freshman might have hit puberty early and is biologically 17, whereas another freshman might be biologically 12 years old. Which one do you think looks better on the ice in almost all cases? It is very hard for scouts to identify future talent. Turnover among the elite ranks is high even when male athletes hit 16 and 17 years old. The earlier a school recruits, the more likely a player’s future projections could be off. Early recruitment punishes those skaters that will simply hit puberty later.

“Puberty changes a lot. We see a lot of athletes really develop after high school and while playing junior hockey,” said Strobel.

Players should focus on development during these crucial years. Most male athletes are in a very important training window at 15 and 16 years old. Speed, quickness and explosion can be developed much faster for most players at these ages. Yet prospect tournaments (high cost, low training value), out of town travel, phone calls, e-mails and the rest of the recruiting process just get in the way! What is better for a sophomore athlete – speed work on the track for an hour or a tourney in Chicago?

Were you able to make a decision about where you wanted to attend college so you could pursue a career of your choosing at age 15? If not, then perhaps this is also a good reason to delay recruitment. Most freshman athletes are unable to fully realize the long-term impact of a college commitment. In addition, who feels good about placing this kind of pressure on young athletes? Ultimately, college recruitment is a business deal. The college is providing a free or reduced cost investment in exchange for an athlete’s performance. What happens if colleges don’t get their return on investment? And will earlier and riskier recruitment force them to “diversify their portfolios” with larger and larger recruiting classes?

Committing kids during such formative years accentuates a major problem in sport – self-identification by youth and high school players solely as athletes. Yes, I love sports and I want our youth to identify as athletes, but not to the detriment of everything else in life! Wouldn’t it be nice to recruit a high school player that is a National Honor Society student, great friend, amazing teammate, etc.?

“A ninth grader doesn’t need an ego,” said Strobel.

He couldn’t be more right. Let’s focus on what matters. Put your head down, be humble, and work hard. As Strobel continued to stress to me, “it’s all about your character.”

It is easy to see how a continuation of the current college recruiting trend could result in harm to high school athletes – mentally, athletically and academically. At the same time, the current set-up puts college recruiters in a tough spot. They can reduce the risk of losing talent by recruiting earlier, but then they also increase the risk of making a mistake. Let’s fix the situation and give colleges a recruiting framework that works better for high school athletes’ long-term development on the rink and in the classroom.



How to Stay Completely Focused in Hockey (regardless of what happens)

By: Ben Levesque

how to stay focused in hockey


Just when you feel like everything’s under control, it hits you.

bad call by the referee.

cheap cross-check to the face from an annoying opponent.

bad play on your part.

Even a negative comment from one of your linemates…

Whatever the case may be, you’ve just lost every ounce of focus you had to being with.

If you were calm & collected, now your blood is boiling.

If you were confident, now you’re doubting your abilities.

If you were disciplined, now you’re paying less attention to your slashes & hooks.

Simply put, if you were in the zone, now you’re out of it.

If you’re like most hockey players, distractions like these—however big or small they may seem—can shut you down for the night.

I’m not kidding. Distractions can rip great performances right from underneath you if you’re not careful.

And I’m not just talking about what happens on the ice—even off-ice distractions can destroy your focus if you don’t know how to deal with them.

Luckily, there’s one easy way to make sure you stay completely focused throughout an entire hockey game.

It has to do with the way you think, and just a little tweak to this way of thinking can make a huge difference in your ability to focus for a full 60 minutes (and well into overtime if need be!).

In this article, I’ll teach you how to switch your way of thinking so that dealing with distractions and remaining focused for an entire hockey game isn’t so hard anymore.

All those bad calls, negative comments, mouthy opponents and bad decisions with the puck won’t get under your skin any longer.

If you have trouble focusing during your hockey games, I urge you to read on…


Maintaining Focus in hockey

ready set go

There’s really only one thing you have to understand in order to maintain your focus throughout an entire hockey game: the difference between outcome thinking and task thinking.

Outcome thinking

A hockey player that focuses on the outcome of his performance practices what’s known as outcome thinking or result-driven thinking.

Simply put, outcome thinking is when your main focus is your performance.

By focusing on performance above all else, you subconsciously put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform. As a result, distractions of any size have the ability to seriously affect your focus.

When your focus is affected, you start to think irrationally and make bad decisions. It can even turn into a never-ending spiral of negativity…

Your self-confidence can start to tank (passes that you usually make with ease seem impossible).

Your emotions can run wild and get the best of you (you start to retaliate when you usually wouldn’t).

Your decision-making takes a big hit (you turn the puck over more than ever before).

Sound familiar?

This is what happens when you focus on the outcome.

Instead, you should focus on the task at hand.

Task thinking

What you want to be doing in order to maintain your focus throughout an entire hockey game is to focus on the task at hand.

That means forgetting about that goal you need to score.

It means forgetting about what your teammates will think of you if you make a mistake.

Ad-JohnRoseIt means forgetting about anything and everything except for what you’re doing in the moment—the task at hand.

When you’re on the ice, focus on the NOW. When you’re on the bench, focus on your in-between shift routine.

And even before your game—don’t overthink things. It’s one thing to go over game notes and make sure you’re well prepared for your opponent, but I’ve seen some guys take it to another extreme by literally studying the game sheet and quizzing themselves on the game plan. All to make sure they perform adequately and that the outcome is positive.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but don’t do that.

Forget about all the external factors and simply focus on the job you have to do in the moment.

For me, as soon as I tape my stick in the locker room, it’s my cue to focus on the task at hand. Nothing else matters except getting geared up and clearing my mind. Then, all my focus is on my first shift. Then, my second….third…etc.

By focusing on the task at hand rather than the outcome, the result, or your performance, you take away all the added pressure and allow yourself to “just play“.

Focus on the task by:

  • Focusing on YOUR game
  • Focusing on YOUR task
  • Focusing on YOUR moment
  • Focusing on what YOU control, and eliminating all else from your mind

How to switch to a task-focused mindset

task-focused mindset

Now, I know focusing on the moment and ignoring all external factors & distractions is challenging. If it weren’t, we’d all be professional athletes :).

That’s why I want to share a quick tip with you to help bring you back to task-focused thinkingwhen your mind starts to drift—Dr. Goldberg calls this “Focus Time Travel“

He suggests that whenever you find yourself thinking of something in the past (a bad call, a bad play etc.) or in the future (your homework, next week’s game etc.), to immediately bring yourself back to the present—the task at hand.

It’ll take some practice before you’re able to notice when your mind drifts in order to re-focus, but it’s an extremely important skill to have.

Here’s how you can start…

using keywords to refocus in hockey

Back in Junior, we were lucky enough to get help on how to master our mental game.

Once of the things I learned that helped me the most was using keywords to help me re-focus—much like Dr. Goldberg’s “focus time travel” concept.

Whenever I found myself focusing on anything other than the task at hand, I would use the keyword “Reload” to get my mind back on track.

Reload meant rebootRefreshRe-focus!

It meant that nothing else mattered except my next shot, my next shift, my next hit, or whatever the case may be.

Whatever bad play I made, whatever my opponent yelled at me after the whistle, and whatever bad call the referee made simply didn’t matter after I told myself to “Reload.”

I know it sounds funny—who talks to themselves right?

Athletes do.

All the time. And it’s only the mentally strong athletes that make it somewhere, so talk to yourself!

Players—use keywords to help you re-focus when your mind drifts elsewhere than the present moment.

Coaches—introduce a team keyword to help calm your bench down when things get emotional. Have your leadership core lead by example and use the keyword when necessary.

My old coach used to tell us to control our emotions—to never be too high or too low.

Proper focus helps you achieve that important balance.


So there you have it.

The key to staying focused for an entire hockey game relies on your ability to switch from outcome or result-driven thinking based on your performance, to task-focused thinking based on the job you have in the moment.

The past doesn’t matter.

The future doesn’t matter.

The people around you don’t matter either.

If you focus on you, your game, and your task in the present moment, you’ll be 100% focused on what matters.

And the funny thing about all this is…

Without focusing on performance, you’ll inevitably perform at your best.

Give it a try. I guarantee you’ll perform better.


Posted in Mental Game, Tips