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Welcome To Our March Newsletter


portraitSuitcoat100I hope that this newsletter finds you well.

It’s hard to believe that March is here already.

I am just writing a quick introduction to say “hi”, and to get  some great articles in your hands regarding things  to think about over the next short while.

If you are heading into playoffs, we wish you all the very best.

If you think we can ever be of service, please do not hesitate to write us a note, and send it to info@hockeyfamilyadvisor.com.

Either John, or myself, would be pleased to give you a hand, or offer some friendly and useful advise.



David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor


Posted in Newsletter

The Prep School Option

Image result for prep school hockey


With the emergence of Shattuck-St Mary’s over a decade ago as arguably the best hockey development program in North America, almost everyone knows that the prep school option is out there. Too many hockey families, however, dismiss the option without much research because they don’t possess the correct information about prep schools. The prep school option often has more benefits and is more accessible than most realize and I hope you will read on to better understand the details and how to pursue the option. If your kids are young (squirt/peewee), I still encourage you to read on. There are things you can do, years in advance, to make this option more accessible to your child and your family.

Full disclosure… My son played hockey for and graduated from a prep school in 2012. At this time, I have no existing affiliation with any prep school hockey program, but I obviously have a number of relationships with coaches and kids who do. Like many of you, I had never considered prep school as an option for my hockey player. But, nearly a decade ago MYHockey expanded to include midget teams (it started with younger teams) and when that expansion happened, I begin to better understand the place prep schools play in developing players and young men and women.

If you attended a prep school or have kids attending a primary school affiliated with a prep school, then you are not likely to learn much new information here. This is primarily for those of you who have don’t have the background to make the prep school option a reality. Let’s start with why you might even consider the option. I consider the top three reasons a hockey family might consider the prep school option to be:

– Combination of great academics and great hockey. Midget AAA hockey can require kids to miss 15-30 days of school per year. Most public and many private schools have a real issue with this. Prep school kids may miss school, but it will be less and it’s understood/supported by the school. And in most cases, the education they get is far superior to what they might otherwise receive. There are subtle benefits that go along with this. For example, instead of a player feeling almost obligated to play Juniors, they see all of their classmates applying and getting accepted into great universities and find it easier to choose the route that fits them best. If you are looking for an excellent tutor services, checkout vce english tutors for more information.

– Better use of time. This includes both parents and players. Midget AAA kids typically spend a lot of time in the car. Before they get their license, it’s you taking them to and from practice and weekend games. After they get their license, it’s you worrying about them doing all that driving. In most prep school, kids attend class, walk to the rink to lift and/or practice and are done around 6:00pm when academics kick in again. As a parent of a boarding student, this requires little to none of your time. Even getting to out-of-town games is covered by the school. No adjusted work schedule, no waiting in traffic, less stress. Prep school kids typically practice four days per week, more than Midget AAA teams.

– Better social life. Midget AAA players give up so much during their high school years by playing the sport they love. They miss out on school functions like dances and football games. Most of their fellow students don’t know or appreciate what they do on the weekends. Prep schools offer a more healthy mix and the players get the opportunity to reap the benefits of wearing their school colors and being an integral part of the school spirit, not completely disconnected from it. I have been known to describe it in this way: a midget AAA player’s social life suffers because of hockey and it commitments away from school, whereas a Prep or High School player’s social life is enhanced by his participation in hockey.

Now that you are interested, your two biggest concerns are the expense and the fact that your baby is going to leave home at a young age. Both are valid concerns. Let’s address each.

Ad-NeedHelpPrep schools typically have tuition and fees ranging from $30k-50k per year. This would include the academic and hockey expenses. It may or may not include room and board and thus the reason for some of the variability in the expense. Let me be clear, I said they have tuition and fees in that range, but that is not necessarily what parents are paying. An estimated 50% of prep school hockey players are getting significant discounts through scholarships or financial aid. Many are paying only 25-50% of the published fees. But that depends upon what your child has to offer the school (more on that later). According to Russell Sherman of DITR Guide Services, there is a school out there for everyone. It’s about finding the right fit for your family, your child and your situation. You might have to be flexible and keep an open mind. It’s possible that you cannot afford your preferred school, but that doesn’t mean that should give up on the opportunity. A lot of families are sending their kids to prep schools for the same price as midget AAA or junior hockey and there is a good chance you could too.

If you are raising your hockey player outside of a major hockey development metropolitan area like Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto or Montreal you might be considering midget AAA option that includes billeting. If so, there is a good chance that you are facing a scenario where your player will be moving away from home regardless of what exact route your family chooses. If you have the ability to secure a great billet family before committing to a team and know exactly what you are getting, it can be a good option; however, there are a lot of billet family horror stories out there too. Prep schools take the gamble out of the equation and provide a very structured, secure environment typically run by faculty who live in the dorms with the students. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend months or even years preparing your player for the day he/she leaves home, but traditional prep schools provide a great environment for your child should you chose to go that route. Not only are their dorm parents to help with the transition and oversight, but the prep school schedule often dictates a very efficient and full schedule. Jonathan Johnson, head coach at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh often talks about the schedule issue with perspective parents. Prep schools really optimize the amount of time your child has available to train and study. And while this optimized schedule can lead to more development in the classroom and on the ice, it has the side benefit of being extremely attractive to universities. They know that a student who has excelled in a prep school is more prepared for college and playing college sports than those who have not lived through experience where so much of their schedule is dictated by the school and its hockey program.

Assuming you think the option is still worth checking out, the question is when. I’ll only touch the surface here, but at a high level most families enroll their child in prep schools their freshmen or sophomore year of high school. First year juniors are not all that uncommon, but rarely do prep schools accept incoming seniors. There are a dozen or more that accept post-grads and it is typically used as an option by kids attending or hoping to attend an Ivy League or Little Ivy League university. Generally speaking, sending your child as an incoming freshmen typically provides you the most options. So, I would recommend that if your player is currently in eighth grade, this is your prime time to pursue the prep school option. Current freshmen also make up a large percentage of those who will attend a prep school next fall with a number of those kids entering prep school and repeating their freshmen year giving them the full prep school academic experience. Regardless of your players current age, it’s best to start the process by visiting schools and talking to admissions departments in the fall. Research in the fall, apply in the winter, decide in the spring. Schools are looking for well-rounded teenagers. According to Sherman, there are four primary elements to your application from the schools perspective: Grades, Test Scores, Character/Maturity and Hockey. Briefly, let’s look at each of these. They want to see that your child has been attending a quality school and has a track record of success. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept your child if his background is less than perfect, but they do want to understand your existing school’s academic rigor and they want to see that your child has a history of high performance. While test scores are a related academic concern, they might be looked at separately because good grades and high test scores do not always go hand-in-hand. Each school has its own required or preferred test, but the SSAT and ISEE are the most commonly required. You typically want to take these in the fall or early winter prior to applying for admissions. Most prep schools require a student interview as part of the admissions process. This may or may not include a separate parent interview, but most include a student interview. Simply stated, they are looking for mature, well-adjusted students that have the right personality traits to be successful while attending the school and afterwards (think endowment). Depending upon the school, the last (and least important) consideration is your player’s hockey skills. That is not the case for many of the “hockey” schools like Shattuck-St Mary’s or the Okanagan Hockey Academy, but it is for most of your traditional prep schools.

It is all four of these elements, however, that really determine if your family qualifies for admissions and/or financial assistance from a school. And because there is such a large difference between the schools, their history, student requirements and endowments, your player may be perceived quite a bit differently by each school. Applying to and pursing admissions to a variety of schools can provide your family with the most options and help you find a good match. Unless your child excels at all four elements, he will likely be rejected by one or more schools, accepted but offered no financial assistance by others and accepted and offered assistance by the remainder. Schools with medium to large endowments often offer a fair amount of financial need based assistance that requires you submit some form of family financial status application like the PFS.

While New England is the “home” of the prep school with approximately sixty schools offering prep hockey programs, there are other options. The MPHL is a non-New England Prep School hockey league with schools from the US and Canada with some great academics and a history of NHL draft picks. While some schools do not offering boarding, many do including Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh which is upgrading their long-standing five day boarding program to a standard full seven day program for the 2015-16 season. The CSSHL is a western Canada league where most schools are hockey focused, partnering with local public and private schools for the education element of the school. Most use a billeting model (Calgary’s Edge School is the exception and is a more traditional prep school) instead of dormitories. Andy Oakes, head of the Okanagan Hockey Academy and founding member of the CSSHL likes to stress the ten (10) month hockey program that you will find at his school and many of the others in his league. Where traditional prep schools often require students participate in sports other than hockey in the spring or fall, the CSSHL schools are hockey intense for almost the entire year. And that model has been expanded to a number of new programs in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia and to schools in Ontario as well.

Traditionally, much of the US-born talent in the NHL has been the product of the Minnesota High School hockey system or the New England Prep School System. The emergence of the US NTDP has change these statistics some, but prep schools have produced the likes of Brian Leetch, Zach Parise, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Quick and an entirely new crop of talented young players like NHL Rookies Matt Dumba (MIN), Curtis Lazar (OTT) and Kevin Hayes (NYR). Just as importantly, prep schools have produced a very large number of highly successful individuals and may be an excellent option for your family. It’s worth checking out. In addition, if you’re looking for an online school related services, go to www.conquercollege.com for more information.

Note: Since this article was written, there are other options (and leagues) available as well that are excellent.



Leaving home to pursue hockey tough on families

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

Image result for jonathan toewsJonathan Toews still remembers the conversation with his mother well.

Just a few weeks after leaving home at the age of 15 to attend school and play hockey at prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minneapolis, she wanted him to come back home to Winnipeg. Her son wasn’t even old enough to drive, yet he was already living on his own in a dormitory hours away.

“She was getting pretty emotional on the phone,” said Toews, the 23-year old captain of the Chicago Blackhawks who was dubbed “Captain Serious” by his teammates. “She wanted me to come home and I said, ‘No, I’ve got to stick with this decision. There’s no going back now.'”

Toews thinks about that decision now and feels like it was great for his career. Not long after, his younger brother David made the same decision to leave home for Shattuck St. Mary’s. Both wound up being selected in the NHL Draft, so you could say the decision paid off in the long run.

However, it wasn’t easy and Toews understands that a lot of parents probably struggle with the idea of sending their sons off to play a higher level of hockey elsewhere. For those considering it, he advises making a sound decision and taking as much time to debate it as necessary.

“(Parents) definitely have to take a lot of time to think about it and weigh the pros and cons of what they want and what their son wants,” Toews said. “I was the one who made that decision. I wanted to go and I was ready to stick with it.”

He’s not alone among his NHL peers.

There are plenty of pros in the League who never had to live with a host family or in a dorm to play elite travel hockey, but there are also a lot who did, including Blackhawks star forward Patrick Sharp.

He left his home in Thunder Bay, Ont., at 15 to play in the Ottawa Junior League with his older brother. They stayed with a host family, the Webers, whom Sharp still stays in touch with today, and it worked out well.

Still, he said, there were rough patches to get through.

“It takes a pretty big sacrifice,” said Sharp, who remembers using calling cards and arena pay phones after games to call home. “I was upset about moving away. I was excited to play junior hockey and it was always my goal to get to that next level, but you miss out on a lot of things at that age … 14, 15 and 16. Your friends (back home) are in high school and you’re calling home and checking in to see how things are going. It’s tough, but I was fortunate because I had a great host family and my brother was with me.”

For those who don’t have the option of living in a dorm, Sharp said fining a good host family is a must if a youngster opts to leave home. Concerns on the ice are secondary, he said.

“As a parent, I would want my son or daughter to be with a good family and in a good situation,” he said. “It can be kind of easy to forget about a person. When they’re living away, you’re just assuming they’re living in good hands. Most hockey programs are similar. There’s good ones and bad ones, but the lifestyle off the ice is what I’d watch for.”

Future Watch: Marino making most of Harvard

Massachusetts native and Oilers prospect John Marino is loving college life at Harvard University

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

 January 25th, 2017

Oilers prospect John Marino didn’t have to trot the globe when exploring potential university suitors. The sixth-round (154-overall) pick in the 2015 NHL Draft didn’t need to field a number of different campuses across a number of different states to find the post-secondary that could sharpen his excellence in hockey and in the classroom.

There was no need for any that when the defenceman could continue growing academically and athletically at one of the world’s most renowned learning institutions, which happens to be a 45-minute drive from his hometown of North Easton, Massachusetts.

The 6-foot-2 rearguard, playing for the Harvard Crimson in the Eastern College Athletic Conference of the NCAA, is feeling right at home in the brick infrastructure of Harvard University and making the absolute most of the opportunity he has at the esteemed establishment.

With its 5.4% acceptance rate and only 21,000 students, getting into the foremost Ivy League school is a feat in itself. For Marino, going to the supreme learning centre in his home state didn’t seem as though it would be a reality until later on in high school, but it’s a special sentiment for the Bay Stater who bleeds Boston.

“I really didn’t really picture it until in high school, then I thought it was possible,” said the freshman, already with one goal and five assists in 19 games played so far into his first NCAA season.

“Being from Massachusetts kind of makes it more special and you appreciate it a little more, playing for a team from Boston and especially a prestigious one.”

The captivating architecture and bustling nature among the school’s scenic campus grounds – which most people only get a glimpse of in the movies – is admittedly inundating for the first-year but Marino is beginning to acclimatize to the historic setting and its reputation.

“Everywhere you go, there’s something,” said Marino. “There’s tourists all the time walking by. It’s kind of overwhelming sometimes but you don’t really think about it that much, just kind of walk through campus like a normal college.”

You never know who you could be brushing shoulders with while walking the halls, either. With alumni including former United States president Barack Obama, as well as technological innovators Bill Gates (who dropped out) and Mark Zuckerberg, some of the students attending could be the world’s next trailblazers. It might not always be easy to spark conversation with peers of such high intellect but it’s definitely something Marino has enjoyed.

“It’s hard to have a conversation with some of them because they’re so smart,” he quipped. “[I’m trying to] just kind of expand my horizons and make connections with different people as best I can.”

So far so good, in terms of campus life for the Bahnie. The same can be said on the ice, too, as Marino has been the understudy of fellow Massachusetts native, Harvard alumnus and Head Coach Ted Donato. The two have known one another for many years and share an affinity for Beantown.

Even though Marino’s NCAA career is still in its infancy, Donato has relied on him in all situations. He’s paired him up with junior Wiley Sherman – a Boston Bruins fifth-round draft pick – giving him second unit power play minutes and first unit penalty killing duties.

“We had high hopes and high expectations for John,” began Donato. “He’s a guy with excellent skating ability which allows him to be very strong defensively. I think he’s physically handled playing against older kids exceptionally well. He’s done a nice job of getting us out of our zone as well as being an excellent penalty killer and he’s seeing some time on our power play.”

Sherman and Marino’s simpatico results in the blueliner’s fluency on the ice. Sherman is a 6-foot-7 self-proclaimed stay-at-home defenceman that complements Marino’s puck-moving nature. It’s allowed the tandem to defend the opponent’s top lines and chip in offensively in the highly defensive college game.

And although they are both defencemen studying economics, Sherman assured that he isn’t holding his defence partner’s hand or tutoring him in either respects.

“I can’t say I’ve helped him out too much, he’s been a really quick learner on his own,” he said. “He kind of came right in, played really physical, played fast, quick puck-mover. I think that his game from juniors definitely translated well.”

The Crimson currently sit No. 9 in the NCAA’s hockey rankings with a 12-5-2 record. The team is poised to compete as the semester moves along and Marino will have the honour of doing so in front of proud parents.

“They love it,” said Marino. “My dad never misses a game and my mom tries to make it as much as she can. My grandparents come to games, too. My whole family’s very involved.”

Marino’s twin brother Paul is also a Harvard student, only adding to the family’s investment to the famous university.

“It’s a family that – like many hockey families – they’re very close and very supportive,” said Donato. “John’s also got a twin brother, Paul, that’s also a freshman at Harvard, so, a pretty neat family connection.”

Just like a revered university chose to recruit Marino, an established and storied NHL organization did the same.

“It was kind of just a great feeling,” Marino said when he was asked about joining the Oilers franchise. “Unbelievable just to be drafted by a historic organization like Edmonton.”

With the opportunity to continue developing mentally and physically at one of the globe’s best schools, Marino is thriving in the situation. With resources aplenty, the defenceman is in a position to flourish and has the comfort of his family, teammates, coach and friends to draw from when needed.

“From an academic standpoint, there’s so many courses and such a great curriculum to take part of,” said Donato. “From the athletic side, I think the fire burns to have a very competitive [and] great hockey team as well.

“John is proof that you can do both at a really high level.”

Images provided by Gil Talbot // Harvard Crimson


Posted in Family Matters, NCAA

College hockey’s impact on NHL continues to grow


by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com, June 25th, 2015



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — There’s an underlying theme to college hockey players becoming a more attractive option in recent years for NHL scouts and general managers.

New Jersey Devils forward Mike Cammalleri, who played three seasons at the University of Michigan, isn’t surprised by the fact that 30 percent of NHL players developed in the NCAA, or that all 30 NHL teams had at least one prospect enrolled in college during the 2014-15 season, with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks’ 13 leading the way.

“College hockey not only allows for a readiness on the ice in terms of skill, but there’s a social and outside-the-classroom aspect to developing a personality and comfort within your own skin enabling players to enter the NHL and be successful,” Cammalleri said. “I think that’s an important development stage for an adolescent person regardless of athletics and why some players are able to come in and do well out of college.”

Ad-Big Crowds Big FunThere’s a chance college hockey will break new ground at the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday, when Boston University center Jack Eichel, Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin and University of Michigan defenseman Zachary Werenski each might be selected in the top 10. No draft has ever had three top-10 picks from the college ranks.

“For Eichel, Hanifin and Werenski, you get to measure these players against bigger and stronger players who are closer to the NHL game, and in my view there’s nothing but positives in that regard,” NHL Network analyst Craig Button said.

The first round of the draft is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports); rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports).

Many draft pundits expect Eichel to be selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 2 selection. Hanifin is expected to be chosen among the top six. Werenski, meanwhile, could be the wild card to completing the collegiate hat trick. Each player accelerated his high school studies to be able to play NCAA hockey in 2014-15.

“I’m super happy with my decision to go to college; I never regretted it and got a lot of experience off the ice,” Eichel said. “On the ice was a special season. We had a great run and it’s unfortunate our season ended the way it did (with a 4-3 loss against Providence in the NCAA Tournament final), but it was definitely a great year off the ice. I learned a lot and matured as a person by going through a lot of the experiences you go through in college like living on your own.”

Boston University coach David Quinn feels Eichel matured a lot in his one season with the Terriers.

“College hockey holds players accountable; you’re not going to get away with cheating the game or get away with going up against a 16-year-old,” Quinn said. “It’s an older game, and if Jack wasn’t ready to play, he’d struggle.

“[Eichel, Hanifin and Werenski] were tested, and that’s why they’re so highly thought of, because of the fact they were all able to have a lot of success against older guys. When you can do that, it makes evaluating a lot easier.”

Mark Osiecki coached all three players for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Osiecki, who played at the University of Wisconsin and coached at Ohio State University, is associate coach for the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford.

“[Eichel] is up to NHL speed in a couple strides and his maturity is unbelievable from what I saw at the World Junior tournament in a tough situation and hostile environment,” Osiecki said. “He’s calm on the bench and when he spoke, he spoke like a coach and interpreted things with a coach’s eye with the way spoke to his teammates.”

Eichel became the first college freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award since Paul Kariya at the University of Maine in 1992-93. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound right-handed shot led the NCAA with 45 assists and 71 points on the way to earning Hockey East’s Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Osiecki said Hanifin and Werenski each possess high-end skill.

“Noah has a little more jump, and I would almost compare him to (Nashville Predators defenseman) Seth Jones since he has an ability to bring you out of your seat,” Osiecki said. “Zach is more keen to supporting the play and then making something unbelievable happen; he’s also a sponge in the video room.”

Hanifin was named a Hockey East second-team all-star; Werenski was named a Big Ten first-team all-star and was selected for the conference’s freshmen all-star team.

Competing against older, stronger players has no doubt helped ease the eventual transition to professional hockey for many collegiate hockey players. Eichel, Hanifin and Werenski competed against players who were, on average, 21.9 years old, according to College Hockey Inc.

The Blackhawks chose seven current or future NCAA players among their nine picks at the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. Chicago general manager Stan Bowman is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

“You generally have a little more time with those players,” Bowman told College Hockey Inc. “It’s tougher when you have a two-year window to sign a guy. Sometimes they don’t define themselves by that second year, and you have to make a decision: Do you sign them or not? We like that element that because you have the player for four years. You don’t have to leave them there for four years, but you have a little bit more control over it.”

The last time as many as three college players were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft was nine years ago when freshmen Jonathan Toews, Phil Kessel and Mark Mitera went off the board in short order.

At the 2006 draft in Vancouver, Toews (center, University of North Dakota) went No. 3 to the Blackhawks, Kessel (right wing, University of Minnesota) went No. 5 to the Boston Bruins, and Mitera (defenseman, University of Michigan) went No. 19 to the Anaheim Ducks.

“I think the way the NHL has trended, in terms of the style of play, has helped [the college player],” New Jersey Devils goaltender and Boston College alumnus Cory Schneider said. “It’s become a faster game. Kids are skating, moving and playing with top-end speed, and you have a guy like (Calgary Flames forward) Johnny Gaudreau who gained a lot of confidence in college.”

Boston College’s Gaudreau, chosen by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round (No. 104) of the 2011 NHL Draft, finished third in voting for the 2015 Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.

“Now in the NHL, Gaudreau’s not as worried about his size because of his skill level,” Schneider said. “College does a great job in terms of physically preparing guys. Drafting an 18-year-old is one thing, but when you’re 22 or 23 years old and have had three or four years of training and maturity, then you’re able to step in a little quicker and adapt to the pro game as opposed to an 18- or 19-year-old who may be in over his head a little bit.”

Osiecki believes that although college isn’t for everyone, certain players do benefit from the experience.

“Patrick Kane didn’t need that,” he said. “For defensemen, it may take you a little bit longer to get up to speed for the NHL level, and being in a situation where their game-to-practice ratio is more in favor of practice, that’s when they can spend more time developing their body, mature as a player. I feel that helps defensemen.”

Hanifin is a prime example of how college could certainly bolster a player’s stock, especially along the blue line.

“The college game was an adjustment period at first and it definitely took some time to get used to, but in the long run for my development as a person and player, it helped me tons,” Hanifin said. “When you go to college, it’s not just hockey. You become a well-rounded individual, go to school, you meet people you will become friends with for the rest of your life. And it’s not just friends who play hockey.

“Sure, you only play 38 games a year, but you have time to work on your skills, work in the gym and get better.”


8 Tips to Prepare Your Team to Peak in the Postseason


By Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center

Want to help your team peak in the postseason? Here are eight sure-fire strategies to ensure that your team is inspired, confident, and focused come “winning” time.

1. You don’t have to be best team in the nation, just the better one that day.

To win a championship, don’t feel like you have to be the absolute BEST team – because most of the time you won’t be. Convince your team that all you need to do is be the better team on the day you play each opponent. This breaks down winning a championship into much more manageable task.


2. Stick to routine that got you there.

Do what works for you. Don’t feel like you need to change up your whole routine and game plan. Stick to what works for you and trust it to work again during the postseason. Stay consistent with your routine. Remember that consistent preparation leads to consistent performance.


3. Execute the little things. Don’t beat yourself.

Championship teams are usually the ones who consistently do all the little things necessary to win. Focus your team on the top 3-5 battles you need to control to win the overall war. By focusing on and taking care of these little things, you force your opponents to beat you and often avoid beating yourself.


4. Expect the best but be prepared for the worst.

Expect good things to happen for your team – but as a leader you need to prepare your teammates not be fazed by the worst. Be ready to roll with the punches when there are travel delays, bus breakdowns, games running longer, illnesses, etc. Don’t allow people to use these as convenient excuses for why you can’t succeed.

In the book The Man Watching, which takes an in-depth look into the UNC women’s soccer program, Director of Soccer Operations Tom Sander relates the following story:“An assistant coach was sitting there freaking out because we’re late getting to the practice field, it’s pouring rain, Anson and Dino aren’t there, we don’t have the balls, our timetable’s shot, and everything’s out of whack. Meanwhile, the girls are sitting in the van listening to music, joking around, laughing. It didn’t faze them at all. That’s what the program is all about. Go with the flow, because you never know what’s going to happen next.”

As a leader, make sure that you and your team too can go with the flow, hassles, and distractions of tournament time.


5. Maintain your poise and work your plan.

ad-juniorDivisionThere will be many stressful moments but be sure to maintain your poise and composure. Trust your game plan and know that it will give you the best shot of being successful, even if you start off behind.

Going into the 2005 national championship game against the #1 ranked Illinois’ high-octane offense, North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams realized that there would be a point when Illinois would get on a roll. He knew that his composure during this run might be a critical factor in the game and told himself, “Illinois is too good of a team not to make a run – I’ve got to be the calmest person in the crowd when they do.

“Sure enough, during a nine-minute span in the second half of the championship game, Illinois made 60% of their three-pointers to close within one of Carolina. As his panicked players came to the bench for the media time out, Coach Williams got their attention and calmly reminded them that everything was okay.

“Hey guys, we’re fine. Illinois is a great team; they’ve been ranked #1 most of the year. You have to expect them to hit some shots. But as the game goes on and the pressure mounts, they’ll start to tighten up. And there’s no way that they will continue to make those jump shots.

By preparing for and remaining calm in a potential crisis, Coach Williams effectively refocused his team and helped them weather the inevitable storm of adversity that too often spooks other teams. Carolina went on to win the 2005 national championship.


6. Know how to quickly refocus teammates.

Just as Coach Williams did above, coaches and captains must know how to quickly and effectively refocus teammates when they are down, distracted, aggravated, or scared. You can’t allow people to go into the tank when you need their focus, confidence, and performance.

In our Leadership Academies, the biggest positive change our student-athletes report is their ability to effectively refocus their teammates. It’s this key ability to keep their team’s competing play after play, rather than succumbing to the inevitable adversity, distractions, and hassles of competition, that determines the outcome of many games.


7. Compete aggressively.

liongazelleTake it to people, dictate the tempo, carpe diem… Go out and play the game with passion and intensity. Often it is the individual and team that is the most aggressive that comes out on top. Keep this in mind:Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.The moral: It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.


8. Go on a crusade… Become a team of DESTINY

Many of the teams that I have been fortunate to witness win championships felt they were destined to do so. No matter what situation they found themselves in, whether they were down with little time left, had a tough injury to a key player, or weren’t getting the appropriate calls, they somehow felt that it was never enough to deter them from reaching their ultimate goal. They persisted on and trusted the process that it was all meant to be.

Give your team every reason to feel they are destined for success. Assuming you have paid the price of success, remind your team that the training, your practices, and the lessons you learned throughout the season have all prepared you for this moment in time.

You want your team to feel – “This is our time.”The USA women’s soccer national team accomplished this by repeatedly using the phrase, “This is the team, now is the time.” Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese established this with the “Overtime is our time” phrase. The mindset helped the Terps expect success and go 6-0 in overtimes to win the 2006 national championship.


Postseason success is all about generating and maintaining a sense of positive psychological momentum. Use the above suggestions to help your team peak in the postseason.



Can you guess the one thing that most elite athletes have in common?

by John O’Sullivan


Can you guess the one thing that most elite athletes have in common?


In January, my e-mail and social media accounts lit up with a simple image first shared with me on Twitter by @ohiovarsity.

It’s amazing because the image portrays something that is widely known among experts, widely discussed in coaching circles, and has certainly been written about by me and others many times. Yet this excellent blog article on a high school sports site got over half a million shares in its first three days because this image touched a nerve.

Why? Well, here is the image:

recruits-to-ohio-state-footballThe question I was asked over and over was, “What do you think of this?” My answer, over and over was, “Amen, agreed, hopefully now people will start paying attention.”

If it takes an infographic of [football head coach] Urban Meyer’s football recruits at Ohio State [the Buckeyes won the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship in January] to shift the paradigm in youth sports, then so be it. The image above clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of his recruits are multi-sport kids.

This is not new information, but it has caused quite a stir. Here is what it says in a nutshell: To be an elite level player at a college or professional sport, you need a degree of exceptional athleticism. And the best medically, scientifically, and psychologically recommended way to develop such all around athleticism is ample free play and multiple sport participation as a child.

Why? Well let’s see what the experts say:


Coaches and elite athletes

Pete Carroll, former USC and now Seattle Seahawks Football coach, says here, “The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, ‘What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?’ All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport. Even [at USC], I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level. I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.”

Dom Starsia, University of Virginia men’s lacrosse: “My trick question to young campers is always, ‘How do you learn the concepts of team offense in lacrosse or team defense in lacrosse in the off-season, when you’re not playing with your team?’ The answer is by playing basketball, by playing hockey and by playing soccer and those other team games, because many of those principles are exactly the same. Probably 95 percent [of our players] are multi-sport athletes. It’s always a bit strange to me if somebody is not playing other sports in high school.”

Or in this interview with Tim Corbin, coach of NCAA Champion Vanderbilt Baseball, on why he chooses multi-sport athletes over single sport kids.

Or Ashton Eaton, world record holder and gold medalist in the decathlon, who never participated in 6 of the 10 required decathlon events until he got to the University of Oregon.

Or Steve Nash, who got his first basketball at age 13 and credits his soccer background for making him a great basketball player, a similar story to the 100 professional athletes interviewed in Ethan Skolnick and Dr. Andrea Korn’s book, Raising Your Game. The list goes on and on.


What about the medical experts?

As I outlined in my ebook, “Is it Wise to Specialize?”, and something echoed in world renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrew’s book, “Any Given Monday”, there are strong medical reasons for not specializing at a young ag

– Children who specialize in a single sport account for 50 percent of overuse injuries in young athletes according to pediatric orthopedic specialists.

– A study by Ohio State University found that children who specialized early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity. Those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit, and suffer a lifetime of consequences.

– In a study of 1,200 youth athletes, Dr Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70 to 93 percent more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports.

– Children who specialize early are at a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation, and lack of enjoyment

Early sport specialization in female adolescents is associated with increased risk of anterior knee pain disorders including PFP, Osgood Schlatter and Sinding Larsen-Johansson compared to multi-sport athletes, and may lead to higher rates of future ACL tears.


And the sport scientists?

In January 2015, I had the honor of sitting in a lecture with Manchester United Performance Coach Tony Strudwick, winner of 13 titles as the fitness coach for Manchester United’s first team. His advice was that a multi-sport background sets up athletes for long-term success by lowering the rates of injuries and making them more adaptable to the demands of elite level play.

“More often than not,” he stated in a recent interview with SoccerWire.com, “the best athletes in the world are able to distinguish themselves from the pack thanks to a range of motor skills beyond what is typically expected in a given sport.” He recommended tumbling and gymnastic movements, as well as martial arts, basketball, and lacrosse as great crossover sports for soccer. Here are some other advantages:

– Better overall skills and ability: Research shows that early participation in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, longer playing careers, increased ability to transfer sports skills to other sports, as well as increased motivation, ownership of the sports experience, and confidence.

– Smarter, more creative players: multi-sport participation at the youngest ages yields better decision making and pattern recognition, as well as increased creativity. These are all qualities that coaches of high-level teams look for.

– Most College Athletes Come From a multi-sport Background: A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88 percent of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child

– 10,000 hours is not a rule: In his survey of the scientific literature regarding sport specific practice in The Sports Gene, author David Epstein finds that most elite competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Specifically, studies have shown that basketball (4,000), field hockey (4,000) and wrestling (6,000) all require far less than 10,000 hours.

– There are many paths to mastery: A 2003 study on professional ice hockey players found that while most pros had spent 10,000 hours or more involved in sports prior to age 20, only 3,000 of those hours were involved in hockey-specific deliberate practice (and only 450 of those hours were prior to age 12).


Are all sports the same?

No, they are not. They each require specific athletic, technical, and tactical skill sets. Some sports, in order to be elite, require early specialization, such as gymnastics and figure skating. Other sports are so dependent upon physical prowess (American football, basketball, volleyball, rugby, and others) that the technical skills and tactical know-how can be developed later. There are many stories of athletes taking up these sports in their teens, even in their 20s, and playing at a very high level because of the ability to transfer skills learned in one sport to another.

And then there are sports like hockey and soccer, which without a doubt require an early introduction to the sport. There are technical movements and skills that are most sensitive to improvement prior to a child’s growth spurt, and it is unlikely that a post-pubescent child is able to catch up if that is their first introduction to the sport.

However, there is no evidence that pre-teen athletes in these sports should only play a single sport. As both the hockey evidence and the interview with Tony Strudwick mentioned above demonstrate, playing multiple sports early on sets these athletes up for longer-term success. They can better meet the demands of elite level play. They are less likely to get injured or burnout, and more likely to persist through the struggles needed to become a high-level performer.

If you want your child to play at a high-level, then the best thing you can do is help them find a sport that best suits their abilities, and help create an environment that gives them the best chance of success. That environment is a multi-sport one.

The evidence is in. It’s pretty conclusive. It’s time for our youth sports organizations to not only allow but encourage multi-sport participation. Yes, it’s tough on the bottom line. But ask yourself this: Is your bottom line worth more than the well-being of the children you have been entrusted with educating?

So what do you think? Should kids play multiple sports? Only one? If you think specialization is the right path prior to the teenage growth spurt (excluding gymnastics and figure skating), then by all means bring some evidence and links to the discussion. And if not, then how about some thoughts on how we can stand up and change the status quo that forces kids to choose far too young.

Thanks to Urban Meyer and the poignant image of his recruiting class breakdown, we now have the opportunity to have this discussion. We have the opportunity to serve our children better. We have the responsibility to help them become better athletes by encouraging them to become all-around athletes. And we can do this by letting them play multiple sports. Let the discussion begin.


Teamwork Begins With You Knowing Your Role

Although written for teh business community, there is an important reminder in here for athletes

There is a common misconception about the word “teamwork”. Many think it’s when co-workers run around trying to help everyone else do their job. The belief is that the person who possesses the “teamwork” gene is always there to help others and make sure the team is successful, regardless of who is doing the work and how it gets done. Folks, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee – that’s not teamwork, that’s disorganized progress.

What teamwork is truly about, is everyone doing their own job to the best of their ability and pulling together for a common goal, not the practice of being the superstar who fills in all the gaps and covers up the deficiencies of an organization. Can a quarterback throw a pass and then catch it as well? No, that’s absurd. If a keeper ran all over the pitch, trying to make every play, then who would be protecting the net? Coach Bill Parcells used to make a statement that has stuck with me for many years. He always said, “Know your role.”

I heard the stories many times of how Coach Parcells would go to a defensive lineman and say to him, “Your job this Sunday is to put number 96 on his ass. Forget about the ball, forget about the quarterback. You will be successful if on every play I look over and I see #96 on his ass.” Then the coach instructed other players in a similar fashion, providing them with their own mission that strategically fit piece by piece with the overall game plan.  The belief being, if everyone played their role and executed as instructed, the team would win. I never heard this first-hand, and I am not a football coach, but the concept has stuck with me and makes total, logical sense.

The New England Patriots have won many Super Bowls, the first being the most surprising to most. But I’m positive that Coach Bill Belichick was the least surprised, because he knew that the players understood their individual roles and that their collaboration equaled the true meaning of a team. I remember him being calm and confident the week prior to the game, and at the time I was saying to myself, “We are going to win this one. The coach knows we are going to win this game.” Of course, he didn’t actually know – but he had confidence that his team would perform with the characteristics that embodied teamwork.

Ad-99percentSo teamwork, first and foremost, is knowing your role and executing it to your fullest ability. It is getting your job done as laid out in the planning process. Then, and only then, should you attempt to take on any other duties or assist in any other way. In the case of the lineman whose job was to put 96 on his $#* – sure, once 96 was eighty-sixed, then he should pummel the quarterback into the ground if he’s there for the taking. But never, and I must repeat never, avoid your primary responsibility and the reason that you are a part of the team. In business, the same is true. You have a job to do; get it done right, and in the way you have been charged to do so. If another is slacking, you are not helping by doing his job for him and hiding a weakness on the team.

In order to effectively coach, lead, or teach, it is imperative that the weaknesses in a unit are exposed. Covering up deficiencies only disguises areas that need to be improved and fixed. Filling those gaps is not teamwork if it creates other gaps and long-term problems. The consummate team player does not always pick up the slack. I remember always being frustrated when I was in radio because I worked so hard, and there were folks breezing through the process, riding on the work that I, and others, did.  At times, they were applauded and given opportunities and greater responsibilities simply because they had a knack for catching the eye of the boss. One very smart mentor once told me, “Don’t let that make you crazy; sometimes you just have to let things unravel on their own.” I always wanted to be Mr. Fix-it because I truly wanted the group to succeed. But assuming that role was only a short-term solution and was not the behavior of a true team player.

Teamwork takes discipline, knowing your role, and the role of the others on the team. But just because you know the other roles, it doesn’t mean you should act upon them. If you do help out, make damn sure your responsibilities are tended to first. And also make sure the deficient group member knows that they need to step it up, even though you did have their back. Teamwork leads to victories and successes, if you know what it truly takes to be a team.

More NHL prospects are electing to play in college

By Steven Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

Why are more hockey prospects opting for college instead of major junior hockey?

When Jahlil Okafor and the rest of college basketball’s top prospects were drafted into the NBA, their amateur careers will be over.

But many of this year’s NHL draft picks are set to attend college after their big night, and the serpentine route to the team that selected them may take several years to navigate.Hockey’s entry draft grants eligibility to any player older than 17 by Sept. 15 and younger than 21 on Dec. 31. The most touted talents are taken around the time they graduate from high school, making the NCAA a difficult balancing act that can serve as an NHL development league of sorts. Teams retain rights to a player until 30 days after he has left college.”Being drafted is a dream come true for anyone, but then a lot of the reality comes in,” said Tyler Motte, a sophomore forward for Michigan and a fourth-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2013. “It’s only a step in the process. I had to narrow my vision to just having a good freshman year.”

Incoming freshmen are forced to adjust to a faster level of play and a new life on campus, all while impressing the NHL scouts that check in during their games. This — compounded by the fact the NCAA regular season is just 34 games, less than half of an NHL campaign — sways some of America’s best hockey hopefuls to an alternative, accelerated path to the pros: major junior hockey in Canada.

The three leagues encompassed by the Canadian Hockey League are the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League and the popular Ontario Hockey League. Major junior hockey offers a pro-style schedule and some monetary compensation, thus making CHL players ineligible for the NCAA.Many American-born NHL picks opt for major junior. But an increasing number are electing to stick with school, where a scholarship can be far more valuable than a stipend. Three of the top 10 draft prospects listed in this year’s NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings are from the NCAA.

“It really has changed in the last seven, eight years,” Michael Finewax, a hockey draft analyst for Rotoworld.com, said. “NHL teams like guys who go to college. It doesn’t take any cost to develop them, and they get to see them develop for much longer. It’s much easier to take a chance on a 22-year-old than an 18-year-old.

“Several key Blackhawks are NCAA alumni. Canadian-born Duncan Keith attended Michigan State, Jonathan Toews reached the Frozen Four twice with North Dakota and Patrick Sharp played two seasons at Vermont.

It’s tough to gauge the national popularity of college hockey. Earlier this year, the Hockey City Classic doubleheader came to Soldier Field in front of wide swaths of empty sections of the stadium. But the 2014 Frozen Four saw a 56 percent increase in TV viewership from the year before.

The TV increase likely is the result of the discernible improvement in college hockey’s level of play. Finewax said that’s partially because of the U.S. National Team Development Program centered in Ann Arbor, Mich. Among its notable alumni are Ducks center Ryan Kesler, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson and the Hawks’ Patrick Kane. The Ann Arbor program provides U-18 competition similar to the OHL and immerses kids in a college hockey town.

“When I grew up, I was a fan of the OHL, but as I got older I realized that college is the way to go. I wanted to play against bigger, faster, older players,”Minnesota Golden Gophers defenseman Brady Skjei said.

A junior who was selected by the Rangers with the 28th overall pick in 2012’s entry draft, Skjei played with the Ann Arbor Development team from 2010-12.

The CHL limits teams to just four 16-year-olds and three 20-year-olds on a roster. The majority of the players are 17-19, resulting in what Skjei called “a lot less mature game than college hockey.



The psychology of choosing fourth line forwards


by Justin Bourne

The psychology of choosing fourth line forwards


Recently, I wrote a post titled “From Prospect to Project: The thin line, and why some guys make the show and others don’t.” It looked at the reasons some junior and college hockey studs fall short despite gigantic pre-NHL numbers, and even larger expectations.

One of the things I briefly touched on was the concept of top six/bottom six forwards (top nine/bottom three on some teams), and how some forwards in the AHL are far more talented than those “bottom” line guys, but coaches and GMs prefer to have low-maintenance skaters who work hard, preserve the status quo and keep it simple. It can be frustrating for some, but most have accepted that it’s a reality that as skilled AHL forwards they aren’t trying to crack the big club’s top-12, they’re after the top-six. Really, it can be top-two at your position, if you’re adamant about playing one specifically. (If I can play Don Cherry for a sec, “KIDS, LISTEN UP – Do not pigeon-hole yourself to a particular wing, and learn to play center. You need to be a ‘forward.’”).

Kent Wilson of NHL Numbers (great site) and Flames Nation, like myself, studied psychology in University, and has a theory about how we’ve ended up where we’re at, with every team selecting a few lesser talented forwards for “intangible” reasons, or just straight physical play in lieu of skill. It really is incredible some team hasn’t tried to take a different course (top-12, all-skill), given Team Canada’s increased success after throwing away the idea of carrying a true “grind line” (reminder: Rob Zamuner was once on the Canadian Olympic team.)

Anyway, below is Kent’s theory in email form, which I’ll respond to it..

The issue of how and why certain players are consistently chosen for bottom-6 roles (particularly the 4th line) has been of interest to me for some time, especially since coaches/teams don’t seem to necessarily pick them based on strictly optimal or rational reasons (ie; players that are tough, big and ‘coach-able’ rather than players that can actually outscore the opposition).

Kent’s more into advanced stats than I am, but I did come to respect a few fancy-stat measures this season, one of which is Corsi, a measure which shows how much a given player “drives the play.” All pucks directed towards the oppositions net while a player is on the ice positively affects their Corsi, and pucks directed at their own net negatively affect it.

One thing it taught me this year, was that every single player on the Toronto Maple Leafs had a higher Corsi when they were on the ice with Mikhail Grabovski –  as in, he’s great at driving play.

A lot of these “lower line” gents do not have positive Corsis (but man can they bang the body!). It seems to me (and other relatively logical people) that the more guys you have who have the puck moving the right way, the more chances you’ll generate, and the better off you’re going to be. I don’t care how physical a guy is if the puck is moving the right way when he’s on the ice. I acknowledge that we’ve always done it the top-six/bottom-six way, but if I’m a GM, I’m paying less attention to hits, and more attention to the direction of play.

So my thoughts are many of those guys are chosen based on some of those attributes you note (particularly effort and personality) to help the coach and organization promote cohesion and fidelity, both to the team in general and coach in particular. Subconsciously, it’s easy to prefer guys you “like” and coaches will obviously like guys who skate through a wall for them and do pretty much anything they ask without complaint. In addition, having guys like that can act as a model for the coach to laud in an effort to exact both effort and obedience from other players, which in turn would act to legitimize the coaches authority over the group.

The last sentence makes perfect sense. Tim Jackman, who I’ve repeatedly used as the example for this role, is a leader in the dressing room too. He’ll repeat everything the coach wants done, and then he’ll speak with his actions too. It’s borderline inspiring – if that guy cares so much, maybe I should too?

There’s another reason for picking the guys they “like” too: money. Obviously, your elite players eat up the bulk of your salary cap, so you can’t afford to pay much to the bottom of your lineup. Given the volume of guys in the AHL who are willing to do whatever to make those NHL bucks (and how basically interchangeable they are), why grab a guy who’s going to complain about ice time, try to climb the ranks, verbally submarine teammates in the locker room…if we’re only spending 600k on this guy, might as well grab one who’ll know his place and stay out of the way. But Kent is getting to this.

Dan Arielly wrote about “social norms” and “market norms” in Predictably Irrational. These are two parallel yet mostly mutually exclusive ways of thinking that pretty much everyone engages in. When operating in “market norms”, people coldly weigh their options, calculate values and render decisions based on impersonal cost/benefit analyses.

When operating in “social norms” the effect of our actions on others and the importance of group cohesion, identity within the group and other pro-social phenomenon are weighted a lot more heavily. Of course, social norm thinking and market norm thinking can clash greatly when the line between the two is transgressed. This made me wonder if coaches have to perpetually fight to keep social and market norms separate in the dressing room. After all, pro hockey players get paid based on how much they produce, how much they play etc. So in fact the dressing room could hypothetically be a constant competition and struggle between the various players to gain more opportunity, more ice and therefore a bigger paycheck.

I liked that observation a lot. From the outside, the Chicago Blackhawks (for example) are The Chicago Blackhawks to the fans. They are pushing and pulling in the same direction, and trying to win the Stanley Cup. They will do whatever it takes for one another to get there.From the inside, a second line forward is  annoyed that the third liner they plunked in front of the net on what should’ve been the second liner’s powerplay keeps scoring. One missed zone entry equaled on missed PP in favour of the third liner equaled a goal for the team equaled more ice time for that guy equals “hate that guy”. The third liners value is rising. Both their contracts are up this year. Dammit, he scored again.There are plenty of times a d-man gets roasted and the healthy-scratched D-man celebrates in his head. Or a guy’s stick snaps on an open net, and a guy on the bench is happy. Teams are best when roles are clearly defined, internal competition is minimized (NOT eliminated), and the team is sincerely pulling the same direction.

On the other hand, the goal is to maintain a clear hierarchy and a cohesive team that can work together and effectively implement the coaches strategies. So the consistent inclusion of Jackman-type players on the bottom-end could be a cultural feature in the league that helps promote the social norms of hockey (self-sacrifice, team-first, do anything to win, etc.) ahead of market norms.

Yep. As much as it’s good to not have players get complacent in their roles, there’s usually enough motivation for professional hockey players to keep pouring it on. No one low on the depth chart is going to crack, say, the Penguins first powerplay unit, but guys still want to be the first fill-in if someone gets hurt. They have their contracts to worry about, they want to win…there’s plenty of reasons. So having someone like Jackman who will, as Wilson put it “promote the social norms of hockey” keeps things stable and organized.All this translates to the simple fact that coaches don’t always pick the best players for their teams. They try to build the best “team,” not collect the best available guys who are good at hockey. The Rock was wise when he advised that people “know their role.”

It can be frustrating, and it can be tough to explain to the outside world, but it’s just the way things have been up to this point. For hockey players, your choices are accept it, or try another profession.