^ Back to Top

Welcome To Our June Newsletter


Hello. and welcome to the latest issue of our newsletter.

portraitSuitcoat100It is becoming a very exciting time of the year, with so many spring and summer tryouts going on. Every  junior draft is now complete, and so teams are beginning to be formed.

I say “beginning”, as those entering junior hockey for the first time, are about to run into “a beast”  like they have never before experienced.

Junior Hockey is very different than other levels of hockey, and not everything is, as it appears, and in some cases roster changes and “tinkering” will take place right into 2018.

Perhaps, some of the most important considerations have to be made by those who will have the opportunity to play Junior Hockey. Remember that not every Junior League is created equal, or considered equal by colleges to recruit from (and it is most often not because of the level of hockey). There is truly a lot of things to consider, before having one’s “junior rights” assigned to a particular team.

A “Life Decision” indeed, which has the potential to determine what your future options may consist of.

We wish everyone the very best of luck in their choices this year, and sincerely hope that things go as planned.

We remind people that important decisions  need to be made by freshmen as early as in Grade 9, and there is nothing more important than ensuring that one’s school marks are as high as possible, as it makes the players future options more readily available.

We are still aware of several prep schools who have inventory available.

In this issue of our newsletter, we present our new Code of Ethics, which has been several months in the making, which will be adhered to in relation to all new clients, to ensure quality and guiding principles in the professional relationships, in which we enter into with our clients. As leaders in this industry, we urge all others to also adopt a similar code.

If you ever think that we can be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me at your earliest convenience. I can be reached at david@hockeyfamilyadvisor.com


David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor



Posted in Newsletter

Our New Code of Ethics – Hockey Family Advisor


For several months now, we have been attempting to put together a Code of Ethics for our firm, which we believe is a very important step,  in an attempt to distinguish ourselves from everyone else in the hockey world, who calls themselves “advisor”.

Image result for code of ethicsWe have seen so many different people get in and out of this profession over the years. and we  have found that too many families have entered agreements with individuals, and they truly do not know what they are getting themselves into, or what to expect out of that relationship.

One of our guiding principles is the fact that we only ever look out for the best interests of our client. Within our Code of Ethics, we cover this under “Principle 2: Objectivity”

We will never provide “hype”, when “honesty” is in the best interest of the client. After all, clients are counting on our independent and objective advice in attempting to make important “life decisions”.

I say “Life Decisions“, because truly this is the type of decision that young hockey players and their families are making at important times in a players lives.

One of the issues that we see as a tremendous conflict among the “advisory community” is the fact that some advisors are getting into the profession and making a substantial living through the collection of “secret commissions”.

In many cases, advisors are charging only a portion of what our fees are, but then take secret commissions from academies. various U-18 teams, and junior programs for delivering a player to the team.

It goes on all the time, and we think it is time that this “dirty little secret” is exposed, as it is becoming more rampant all the time, as more and more hockey programs are crowding the marketplace.

Last week, for example, we were told that another firm was doing the work for 1/2 the price of our quoted fees. We know, in fact, we that we lost that prospective client to another individual who will likely make $10,000 USD in secret commissions (on top of what he has quoted the player and his family).

When offered these commissions, we (at Hockey Family Advisor) negotiate that the amount flow back to the benefit of our client.

This week, after being offered a 25% commission of the fees that a player would have paid to a particular program, we successfully negotiated a $2,500 reduction of the tuition for a team.

Last season, one of the Tier III teams offered me $4,000USD to place 4 “throw-away” players on their team. After seeing how their business model really worked, I have made a pledge to never send a player there/secret

We know of a player who was recently told by his advisor to report to one junior team vs. another that would have been a better choice for him (in our opinion). I believe that his advisor made the recommendation, because that team was willing to provide him $250 more in a secret commission than the other team. In our firm’s case, we would have negotiated a lower price, or another suitable benefit in favour of our client, rather than to have accepted the secret commission, which likely ended up costing the family an extra $1,500.

When acting in the best interest of a young hockey player, one cannot act in the best interest of two (or three) parties, without there being a conflict of interest.

Rule 402, of our new Code of Ethics, states “a HFA Professional shall not receive commissions or other forms of economic benefit from any party other than his/her client (this includes commissions or referral fees from schools, teams, hockey camps, training facilities, etc.). In the case where a HFA Professional is offered such a benefit, he shall; i) immediately disclose all pertinent and material facts to his/her client in writing, and ii) negotiate that the amount of the financial benefit go the client through an agreed method”.

Recently, a hockey mom stated that she was at an event and another mother stated that their advisor had them registered for a number of different camps and tryouts all summer long.

Knowing the advisor involved,  if each of his clients were to attend  2 camps and a tryout each summer, he would make enough money in those 4 months to have a decent annual income.

We have never taken a commission for any camp or tryout, and we will never suggest a camp or tryout that we do not think would benefit a player.

Some advisors receive secret commissions from gyms. Not us. Not Ever.

We have never accepted a commission from any hockey program, for any reason, although many of our clients have received the financial benefit of such through our negotiation techniques.

As I often say regarding this hockey world, “It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know…..”

Perhaps it is time for this industry to become regulated, and I look forward to possibly hearing your comments regarding that.

Anyways, without further ado, below please find our new Code of Ethics, for Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc, effective immediately.




Code of Ethics

implemented as of June 15th 2017




The Code of Ethics (the “Code”) has been adopted by Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., and it’s licensees, contractors, and employees, to provide principles and rules to all persons whom it has recognized and certified to use the association with Hockey Family Advisor, and its logo trademarks (collectively, the “Marks”).

LOGO-UpDown-HFA-20140601-3in-300These Marks are owned by Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. and is the sole organization, which is recognized and authorized to use these Marks.

Implicit in the company’s acceptance of this authorization is an obligation not only to ensure compliance with the mandates and requirements of all applicable laws and regulations, but also to require associated professionals to act in an ethical and professionally responsible manner becoming of the profession.

For purposes of this Code, a person recognized and certified by Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. to use the Marks is called the HFA Professional. This Code applies to all professionals actively involved in the practice of advisory services while under the auspices of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. or in another related profession, in the performance of their professional responsibilities in relation to the clients of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., including those of its licensees and contractors.

Hockey 350In addition, some principles, specifically Principle 1 and Principle 6, also apply more generally to the activities of HFA Professionals even when acting outside the scope of their capacity as student-athlete planning practitioners.



The Code consists of two parts: Part 1 – Principles and Part II – Rules.

The Principles are statements expressing in general terms the ethical and professional ideals of HFA Professionals, ideals they should strive to display in their professional activities. As such the Principles are intended to be a source of guidance for our Advisors.

The comments following each Principle further explain the meaning of the Principle. The Rules provide practical guidelines derived from the tenets embodied in the Principles. As such, the Rules set forth the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected to be followed in particular situations. This Code does not undertake to define standards of professional conduct of HFA Professionals for purposes of civil liability.

The Code is structured so that the presentation of the Rules parallels the presentation of the Principles. For example, the Rules which relate to Principle 1 (Integrity) are numbered in the 100 to 199 series while those Rules relating to Principle 2 (Objectivity) are numbered in the 200 to 299 series.



Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. requires adherence to this Code by all those it recognizes and certifies to use its Marks. Compliance with the Code, individually and by the profession as a whole, depends on each professional’s knowledge of and adherence to the Principles and applicable Rules, the influence of fellow professionals and public opinion, and disciplinary proceedings, when necessary, involving HFA Professionals who fail to comply with the applicable provisions of the Code.



“HFA Professional”: a person whose compensation is derived from providing advise and services to a student-athlete client of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc.

“Conflicts of interest”: circumstances, relationships or other facts about the HFA Professional’s own financial, business, property and/or personal interests that may, as it may appear to a reasonable observer, impair his/her ability to render disinterested advice, recommendations or services.

“Fee-for-service”: a method of compensation where Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., or the HFA Professional, through agreement, is paid by the student-athlete client for services rendered, or to be rendered.

A “related party” for this purpose shall mean an individual or entity from whom any direct or indirect economic benefit is derived by the HFA Professional as a result of implementing a recommendation made by the HFA Professional.

“Student-athletic Planning”: the process of creating strategies, considering all relevant aspects of a client’s situation, to manage affairs to meet the client’s academic and athletic goals.





These Principles of the Code recognize the individual advisory professional’s responsibilities to the public, clients, colleagues, employers and to the profession. They apply to all HFA Professionals employed or contracted by Can-Am Hockey Family Advisory Inc. in all aspects of their work, and provide specific guidance to them in the performance of their role.



A HFA Professional shall always act with integrity.

HFA Professionals may be placed by clients in positions of trust and confidence. The ultimate source of such public trust is the HFA Professional’s personal integrity. In deciding what is right and just, a HFA Professional should rely on his or her integrity as the appropriate touchstone. Integrity demands honesty and candor that must not be subordinated to personal gain and advantage. Within the characteristic of integrity, allowance can be made for legitimate difference of opinion; but integrity cannot co-exist with deceit or subordination of one’s principles. Integrity requires the HFA Professional to observe not only the letter but also the spirit of this Code.



A HFA Professional shall be objective in providing services to clients. Objectivity requires intellectual honesty and impartiality. It is an essential quality for any professional. Regardless of the particular service rendered or the capacity in which an advisory professional functions, a professional should protect the integrity of his or her work, maintain objectivity, and avoid the subordination of his or her judgment, which would be in violation of this Code.



A HFA Professional shall provide services to clients competently and maintain the necessary knowledge and skill to continue to do so in those areas in which the HFA Professional is engaged. One is competent only when one has attained and maintained an adequate level of knowledge and skill, and applies that knowledge effectively in providing services to clients.

Competence also includes the wisdom to recognize the limitations of that knowledge and when consultation or client referral is appropriate. A HFA Professional, by virtue of having the privilege of association with Can–Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. is deemed to be qualified to practice student-athlete planning. However, in addition to assimilating the core competencies and knowledge required, and acquiring the necessary experience, a HFA Professional shall make a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.



A HFA Professional shall perform student-athletic planning in a manner that is fair and reasonable to clients, principals, partners, and employers and shall disclose conflicts of interest in providing such services.

Fairness requires impartiality, intellectual honesty, and disclosure of conflicts of interest. It involves a subordination of one’s own feelings, prejudices, and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests. Fairness is treating others in the same fashion that one would want to be treated and is an essential trait of any professional.



A HFA Professional shall maintain confidentiality of all client information.

A client, by seeking the services of a HFA Professional, expects to develop a relationship of personal trust and confidence. This type of relationship must be built upon the understanding that information supplied to the advisory professional will be confidential. In order to provide student-athlete planning effectively and to protect the client’s privacy, the HFA

Professional shall safeguard the confidentiality of such information.



A HFA Professional’s conduct in all matters shall reflect credit upon the profession.

A HFA Professional shall behave in a manner that maintains the good reputation of the profession and its ability to serve the public interest.

A HFA Professional shall avoid activities that adversely affect the quality of his or her student-athlete planning advice.



A HFA Professional shall act diligently in providing student-athlete planning and promotion.

Diligence is the provision of services in a prompt and thorough manner. Diligence also includes proper planning for and supervision of the rendering of professional services.





These Rules provide practical guidelines derived from the tenets embodied in the Principles. As such, the Rules set forth the standards of ethical and professionally responsible conduct expected to be followed in particular situations.



A HFA Professional shall always act with integrity.

Rule 101 – A HFA Professional shall not engage in or associate with conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, or knowingly make a false or misleading statement.

Rule 102 – A HFA Professional has the following responsibilities regarding funds and/or other property of clients:

a) A HFA Professional who takes custody of all or any part of a client’s assets for any purposes, shall do so with the care required of a fiduciary;

b) In exercising custody of, or discretionary authority over, client funds or other property, a HFA Professional shall act only in accordance with the authority set forth in the set of specific direction;

c) A HFA Professional shall identify and keep complete records of all funds or other property of a client in the custody, or under the discretionary authority, of the HFA Professional;

d) Upon receiving funds or other property of a client, a HFA Professional shall promptly or as otherwise permitted by law or provided by agreement with the client, deliver to the client or third party any funds or other property that the client or third party is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or any person duly authorized, render a full accounting regarding such funds or other property;

e) A HFA Professional shall not commingle client funds or other property with his/her personal funds and/or other property or the funds and/or other property of the professional firm.

f) A HFA Professional shall not use, transfer, withdraw or otherwise employ funds or property for his or her fees, or for any other purpose not provided for in the engagement, except when authorized in writing by the client; and

g) A client’s assets in the custody of the HFA Professional shall be used only for the means intended.

Rule 103 – A HFA Professional shall not solicit clients through false or misleading communications or advertisements, and for greater certainty;

a) a HFA Professional shall not make a false or misleading communication about the size, scope or areas of competence of the advisory professional’s practice or of any organization with which the HFA Professional is associated;

b) a HFA Professional shall not make false or misleading communications to the public or create unverifiable expectations regarding matters relating to student-athletic planning or competence of the HFA Professisonal; and

c) a HFA Professional shall not give the impression that he/she is representing the views of Cam-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. or any other group unless he/she has been authorized to do so



A HFA Professional shall be objective in providing student-athlete planning to clients.

Rule 201 – A HFA Professional shall exercise reasonable and prudent professional judgment in providing student-athlete planning.

Rule 202 – A HFA Professional shall always act in the best interests of the client.



A HFA Professional shall provide student-athletic planning advice to clients competently and maintain the necessary competence and knowledge to continue to do so in those areas in which the HFA Professional is engaged.

Rule 301 – A HFA Professional shall offer advice only in those areas in which he/she is competent to do so. In areas where the HFA Professional is not sufficiently competent, he/she shall seek the counsel of qualified individuals and/or refer clients to such parties.

Rule 302 – A HFA Professional shall abstain from intervening in the personal affairs of the client on matters outside the scope of the engagement.



A HFA Professional shall perform student-athlete planning in a manner that is fair and reasonable to clients, principals, partners, and employers, and shall always disclose conflicts of interest in providing such services.

Rule 401 – A HFA Professional shall make timely written disclosure of all material information relative to the professional relationship. Written disclosures that include the following information are considered to be in compliance with this Rule:

a) A statement indicating whether the HFA Professional’s compensation arrangements involve fee-for-service, commission or bonus (which will not be the case under the NCAA Rules), salary, or any combination of the foregoing.

b) A statement describing the material terms of the relationships that an HFA Professional (or his/her firm) has with third parties, including the nature of the compensation arrangements.

c) A statement identifying any potential conflicts of interest.

Rule 403 – A HFA Professional shall not receive commissions or other forms of economic benefit from any party other than his/her client (this includes commissions or referral fees from schools, teams, hockey camps, training facilities, etc.). In the case where a HFA Professional is offered such a benefit, he shall; i) immediately disclose all pertinent and material facts to his/her client in writing, and ii) negotiate that the amount of the financial benefit go the client through an agreed method;

Rule 404 – A HFA Professional shall inform the client of changes in circumstances and material information that arise subsequent to the original engagement that may have an impact on the professional relationship or services to be rendered.

Such changes include, but are not limited to:

a) conflicts of interest;

b) the HFA Professional business affiliation;

c) compensation structure affecting the professional services to be rendered; and

d) new or changed professional relationships.

Rule 405 – A HFA Professional shall not engage in discriminatory practices as defined in applicable human rights legislation.



A HFA Professional shall maintain confidentiality of all client information.

Rule 501 – A HFA Professional shall not disclose any confidential client information without the specific consent of the client unless in response to proper legal or regulatory process. A client’s name shall not be disclosed to another party unless specific consent has been granted for the use of the client as a reference.

Rule 502 – A HFA Professional is bound to professional secrecy and may not disclose confidential information revealed by reason of his or her position or profession unless required by law.

Rule 503 – The use of client information for personal benefit is improper, whether or not it actually causes harm to the client.

Rule 504 – A HFA Professional shall maintain the same standards of confidentiality for employers as for clients while employed and thereafter.

Rule 505 – A HFA Professional doing business as a partner or principal of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., or as a licensee, owes to the firm(s), its advisory professional partners, contractors and/or co-owners a responsibility to act in good faith. This includes, but is not limited to, adherence to reasonable expectations of confidentiality both while in business together and thereafter.



A HFA Professional’s conduct in all matters shall reflect credit upon the profession.

Rule 601 – A HFA Professional shall not engage in any conduct that reflects adversely on his or her integrity or fitness as an HFA Professional, upon the Marks, or upon the profession.

Rule 602 – A HFA Professional shall use the Marks in compliance with the rules and regulations of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., as established and amended from time to time.

Rule 603 – A HFA Professional who has knowledge that another affiliated HFA Professional has committed a violation of this Code, which raises substantial questions as to the HFA Professional’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as an HFA Professional in other respects, shall promptly inform the President of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc..

This rule does not require disclosure of information or reporting based on knowledge gained as a consultant or expert witness in anticipation of or related to litigation or other dispute resolution mechanisms. For purposes of this rule, knowledge means no substantial doubt.

Rule 604 – A HFA Professional shall not criticize another HFA Professional without first submitting this criticism to the other HFA Professional for explanation. Where the criticism may result in a complaint being lodged with Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc., the HFA Professional must, where required, first submit that criticism in writing to the other HFA Professional for explanation. Notwithstanding this rule, a HFA Professional may first submit a criticism of another HFA Professional to the President of Can-Am Family Advisor Inc., should the matter be considered of such a nature that prior notice is not appropriate.

Rule 605 – A HFA Professional who has knowledge that raises a substantial question of unprofessional, fraudulent or illegal conduct by a HFA Professional or other associated professional, shall promptly inform the appropriate regulatory and/or professional disciplinary body. This rule does not require disclosure or reporting of information gained as a consultant or expert witness in anticipation of, or related to litigation or other dispute resolution mechanisms. For purposes of this Rule, knowledge means no substantial doubt.

Rule 606 – A HFA Professional who has reason to suspect illegal conduct within the HFA Professional organization shall make timely disclosure of the available evidence to the HFA Professional’s immediate supervisor and/or partners or co-owners. If the HFA Professional is convinced that illegal conduct exists within the HFA Professional’s organization, and that appropriate measures are not taken to remedy the situation, the HFA Professional shall, where appropriate, alert the appropriate regulatory authorities including the President of Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. in a timely manner.

Rule 607 – A HFA Professional shall perform student-athlete planning in accordance with applicable laws, rules, regulations and established policies of governmental agencies or other applicable authorities, as well as Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc..

Rule 608 – A HFA Professional shall not adopt any method of obtaining or retaining clients that tends to lower the standard of dignity of the profession.

Rule 609 – A HFA Professional shall not practice any other profession or offer to provide such additional services unless the HFA Professional is qualified to practice in those fields and is licensed or registered as required by law.

Rule 610 – A HFA Professional shall return the client’s original records in a timely manner after their return has been requested by the client.

Rule 611 – A HFA Professional shall not bring or threaten to bring a disciplinary proceeding under this Code, or report or threaten to report information to Can-Am Hockey Family Advisor Inc. pursuant to Rules 602 or 603 or make or threaten to make use of this Code for no substantial purpose other than to harass, maliciously injure, embarrass and/or unfairly burden another HFA Professional.



A HFA Professional shall act diligently in providing student-athletic planning.

Rule 701 – A HFA Professional shall enter into a client engagement only after securing sufficient information to be satisfied that the relationship is warranted by the individual’s needs and objectives, and that the HFA Professional has the ability to either provide the requisite competent services or to involve and supervise other professionals who can provide such services.

Rule 702 – A HFA Professional shall make only those recommendations that are suitable for the client.

Rule 703 – Consistent with the nature and scope of the engagement, a HFA Professional shall carry out a reasonable investigation regarding the opportunities recommended to clients.

Such an investigation may be made by the HFA Professional or by others provided the HFA Professional acts reasonably in relying upon such investigation.

Rule 704 – A HFA Professional shall properly supervise subordinates with regard to their delivery of student-athletic planning, and shall not accept or condone conduct in violation of this Code.


The college hockey debate: players discuss CHL vs. NCAA

by Matt Nestor


A still frame taken from the bedlam ensuing Sidney Crosby’s 2010 gold medal-winning goal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver will show at least a few fan-held signs declaring “Hockey is Canada’s Game.”

Ice hockey was born in the frozen veins of The Great White North, the game’s breakneck pace and brutish misdemeanor as fundamental to the Canadian identity as any political leader or military conquest.

But while hockey’s past belongs to the Canadians, its future may have more of a Yankee influence.

The choice

For a North American hockey player, there are two primary paths to the National Hockey League: major junior in the Canadian Hockey League or collegiate hockey in the NCAA.

The Canadian Hockey League consists of three major junior hockey leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the Western Hockey League (WHL). These leagues are comprised of the best 16 to 20-year-old hockey players in the world and have produced the first overall pick in the last seven NHL drafts.

Supported by a long list of esteemed NHL players like Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane and Shea Weber, the CHL is considered the Canadian way and is often the more glamorized of the two routes.

“I’ve watched enough games to know the OHL’s got some of the best players in the world,” Penn State defenseman and Mississauga, Ontario native Luke Juha said. “They have so much skill.”

But due to the elite level of play, CHL players are stripped of their NCAA eligibility, strengthening the divide between major junior and collegiate hockey.

For Juha, there was great pressure to enter the OHL draft at 16 after playing seven years of minor hockey in the Toronto area.

“At that point, the OHL draft is pretty prevalent [in Ontario],” Juha said.

But Juha decided to ditch the hallowed OHL and the Canadian “norm” for a more gradual journey to the NHL through Junior A leagues in Ontario and British Columbia, and eventually the NCAA.

The NCAA’s reputation as an outlet for American players made the decision more challenging, Juha said.

“It was definitely tough, because I [was] going away from the beaten path,” the sophomore defender said. “It’s just not something that most people in Toronto do.”

Juha’s choice to play college hockey in American instead of major junior in Canada is one that has grown considerably more popular since the turn of the century.


Room to grow

Guy Gadowsky, an Edmonton, Alberta native who’s spent 14 seasons coaching NCAA Division I programs from Alaska-Fairbanks to Princeton, and now Penn State, said collegiate hockey’s greatest asset is the education that accompanies the athletics.

“The NCAA allows you to play top-quality hockey and, at the same time, get an education,” Gadowsky said. “Being educated at a great university is an extremely valuable thing for you as a person; for your life.”

Of the 301 former NCAA players who skated for an NHL team during the 2011-2012 season, 151 players completed all four years of college, according to the College Hockey, Inc. website.

To the contrary, the CHL’s collegiate eligibility restriction, paired with the great number of its players entering the NHL at 18, make getting an education “very difficult,” Gadowsky said.

Furthermore, while NCAA hockey players intellectually develop as student-athletes, they develop physically too, the coach said.

Juha said his size was a key factor in the decision to play collegiate hockey.

“At the time, I was 5’10”, 170 [pounds],” the Nittany Lion blueliner said. “I figured, I’m a smaller guy, I think I could use a couple more years of development.”

Four years later, after three seasons playing Junior A and one injury-shortened season at Penn State, Juha has bulked up to 5 feet 11 inches, 194 pounds and at 20 years old, still has three seasons of NCAA eligibility left.

“In the OHL, your career is over if you don’t go anywhere at 20 years old,” Juha said. “Now I’m going to be 22 or 23 looking to play in the NHL. I’m going to be two or three years further in development. Way stronger. Way faster.”

Although promising university-bound players — like Penn State freshmen Eamon McAdam and Mike Williamson — may be drafted into the NHL before they play one minute at the school that recruited them, approximately 28 percent of college-made NHLers went undrafted, according to the College Hockey, Inc. website.

These undrafted, late-bloomers benefit greatly from the college hockey system, Gadowsky said.

“To be able to work out with [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Rob McLean in the facilities that we have at Penn State for four years, you have no choice but to become a much stronger, more explosive athlete,” Gadowsky said.

While physical and mental maturity have been talking points in CHL vs. NCAA debates for years, the dispute ultimately boils down to each league’s respective skill level.


Closing the gap

Boasting names like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux and Drew Doughty, it would seem the CHL’s level of play is superior to that of the NCAA.

However, a true comparison must take into account the average schedule and roster of a CHL team versus a NCAA team.

The OHL and QMJHL play 68-game seasons and the WHL plays 72 games per season, while a NCAA team plays less than 50 games..

The CHL’s longer seasons give prospects a more authentic preview of a grueling, 82-game NHL season, but Juha said a CHL schedule isn’t necessarily more beneficial.

“A lot of times they consider [games played] a downfall, but being able to focus on every game speaks a lot about your development,” Juha said. “The NCAA has such a competitive league now. Every game is like a playoff game.”

These games with more “tight-checking” and defensive play make scoring harder, Gadowsky said.

“The game is more intense,” Gadowsky said. “I think that makes it more difficult to put up a lot of points. The rosters in college dictate that every player that’s on the ice, is going to be at a very high level.”

The disparity in size and ability between a 16 and 20-year-old is much different than that of a 21 and 25-year-old, he said.

Though there is no fighting in college hockey as there is in major junior hockey, older college-aged players will be more equally developed in strength and stature than their younger counterparts in the CHL.

“The thing I’ve found in the NCAA is every line is really good,” Juha said.

The parity and level play between NCAA programs has boded well for its players in the NHL in recent years.

In fact, according to College Hockey, Inc., the number of former college players playing in the NHL increased by 43 percent from the 1999-2000 season until the 2011-2012 season.

Today, almost one third — or 31 percent — of NHLplayers got to the professional ranks through college hockey.

Arguably the best two-way forward in the world, Jonathan Toews spent two seasons with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux from 2005-2007 before hoisting two Stanley Cups as captain of the Chicago Blackhawks.

A Canadian who went the college route, Toews is an inspiration, Juha said.

Juha said diminutive Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug was an inspiration, too. Krug, who electrified the league with four playoff goals in 2013 was a 5-foot 9-inch, undrafted defenseman after two seasons with Michigan State.

“Seeing a guy that’s 5’9” or 5’10” going to the NHL and almost dominating, controlling the game, I just love it,” Juha said.

“The ultimate goal is still to play in the NHL,” he said. “I look up to those guys. I want to be in their shoes one day.”


Posted in CHL, NCAA, Options

Predators’ Mat Myers becomes role model while pursuing hockey dream



Mat Myers (immediately to the right of the Clarence Campbell Bowl) helps break down video for the Predators. John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images


The moment he started running around the house in his hockey gear and dragging his double-bladed skates across the pond near his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, Mat Myers was hooked. The son of a hockey coach, he knew that his life would always revolve around the sport.

As the Nashville Predators’ video coordinator, the origins of Myers’ NHL dreams are fairly typical. But his path to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, which opens Monday (8 p.m. ET) with Game 1 between the Predators and the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins, certainly isn’t.

Born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, Myers, who is now 26, developed an average-sized torso but smaller limbs and a head larger than usual. The condition made walking and balance a challenge at a young age.

Looking to help his first-born child develop those skills — and for protection as well — Mat’s father saw an opportunity to pass down his passion for hockey.

“At a young age, my dad bought me and my brother hockey equipment,” Myers said. “Gloves, elbow pads and a helmet. I would always be wearing it around, just chasing my brother around. I was secretly loving the equipment, but it was more for safety reasons.”

He started playing organized hockey at age 6, but Myers eventually had to skate alongside children a few years his junior. By 12, he was forced to hang up his skates because of his condition but became a fixture around the team his father, Marty, coached at Bedford High School in Manchester while fanatically cheering on his two younger brothers and a little sister, each of whom played throughout high school.

“I’d just always be at the rink and live vicariously through my brothers, I guess,” Myers said. “Watching them grow up as hockey players in high school, going to their tryouts and their practices and every single game. Watching and just picturing if I wasn’t a little person, then that would be me out there. The passion was always stuck there and I continued to find ways to stay involved with hockey.”

Attending Trinity High School, a rival of his father’s program at Bedford, Myers became the varsity hockey team’s student manager. His enthusiasm proved so inspiring that midway through his freshman year he was invited to skate with the team during practices. Throughout high school, he’d take to the ice to push his teammates and affirm that his size wouldn’t keep him from skating.


Mat Myers is a key contributor to the Predators’ success. John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images 


After high school, Myers enrolled in the communications program at the University of New Hampshire, a decision shaped largely by the school’s Division I hockey program. Almost immediately after landing on campus, he called head coach Dick Umile and made his case to become the team’s student manager. For the first time in his hockey life, he hit a dead end.

With UNH’s hockey team already enlisting the help of four student managers, Myers’ services weren’t needed. Rebuffed by the program’s head coach, he tracked down team captain Bobby Butler in the school’s dining hall. Butler, who would later go on to play 130 games with four NHL teams, invited Myers to attend the Wildcats’ next practice.

It was there that Myers introduced himself in person to Umile.

“Once I said my name, he remembered that phone call and invited me to come watch practices on the bench for that year,” Myers said. “I ended up working my way into being a student manager for two years until I saw the opportunity to become a video coordinator.”

Myers’ inspiring rise through the UNH hockey program wasn’t the only thing that earned him widespread admiration. Since high school, he had shared his unique perspective through a blog and social media presence he updated under the name Little Motivator. It was here that he expressed occasional insights into being a little person in a big world.

The response from the broader little-person community proved overwhelming and unintentionally made him a role model. It’s a responsibility he took even more seriously after landing in Nashville before the 2015-16 season.

“Now there is going to be someone out there, a little person or someone with a physical handicap, that is going to potentially see me in the background on TV or just coming off the team plane. That’s a great honor and responsibility for me,” Myers said. “I just built this mindset that I’m doing something now that is greater than myself. I need to conduct and be self-aware of the situation and have gratitude and always know that you’re of value.”

Of course, his transition from UNH to Nashville was far from seamless. After graduating in 2013, Myers worked as a communications consultant before USA Hockey came calling. Myers had been referred to the women’s national team by employees at XOS Digital, the company behind the video platform he had closely worked with in college. Before long, he became a regular video coordinator for the team, providing video work one weekend out of every month.

Then came the call that changed everything.

Two years after reaching out to Predators video coach Lawrence Feloney on Twitter (he also reached out to two other NHL teams) after his college graduation, Myers received a response and a job offer. It was a stunning and unexpected correspondence that now has Myers breaking down video and providing crucial assistance to Nashville’s coaching staff and players with everything from pre-scouting opponents to analyzing faceoff techniques.

Less than two years after taking his dream job, the kid who grew up living vicariously through the exploits of friends and family is about to have his very own spot on hockey’s biggest stage. And his role, not to mention his remarkable journey, hasn’t gone unnoticed by the people he has touched through the years.

“I was always excited or a fan or a cheerleader or support system for my brothers,” he said. “To now have it come back and for them to be really excited and fans, the supportive texts I’m getting from back home right now, it’s a pretty cool feeling to finally be on the receiving end.”


Canadiens agree to terms with Thomas Ebbing

Habs sign Ebbing to one-year, two-way (AHL/ECHL) contract


by Montreal Canadiens 

May 26th, 2017

MONTREAL – The Canadiens have agreed to terms with free agent forward Thomas Ebbing on a one-year, two-way (AHL/ECHL) contract for the 2017-18 season.

Ebbing, 22, recently completed his four years at Michigan State University, notching three goals and 13 assists in his final campaign. In 2015-16, his Junior year, the native of Troy, MI was named the Spartans’ Most Improved Player after a career-best 19-point season (5G, 14A). He also had the fourth-most blocked shots among all forwards nationally (59) and was third in faceoff wins in the Big Ten with 399. Ebbing finished his college career with 14 goals and 41 assists in 143 games.

Prior to joining Michigan State, the 5-foot-11, 172 lb. forward played one season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel, scoring 16 goals and adding 10 assists with 63 penalty minutes in 60 tilts.


Posted in Human Interest, NCAA, NHL

10 Things NCAA Programs Look for in a Recruit

NCAA Scouts


Most of the misconceptions in junior hockey today revolve around what NCAA programs look for in a recruit.  Having coached at the Tier II Junior ‘A’ level, I’ve heard them all.  I’ve had kids I’ve coached tell me, “My advisor says I need to score 30 or more goals to get a sniff from a low end D1 program and 40 or more to attract some of the top programs.”  I suppose we’re to assume Red Berenson and Jerry York are sitting in their office on their computer, scouring stat sheets and prepping letters of intent accordingly.

Another misconception that commonly rears its ugly head goes something like this: “This is my last year of junior.  I don’t want to finish my checks or block shots because I could get hurt.  Besides, there really isn’t any hitting in college anyway.  I need to focus on putting up points.”  This is the misguided perception that college is a run-and-gun level that is all about finesse.  The reality is college hockey is intense, physical, and highly strategic.  With only 30 – 40 games per season, teams have more time to recuperate and recharge between weekend matchups and spend their weekdays prepping meticulously to face specific opponents.

The following is a list of ten important things that NCAA scouts look at in a recruit before making a massive financial investment in a player.


1.       Skating

One particular stereotype about college hockey – the belief that you need to be able to skate well – is in fact true.  The biggest detractor from committing to a “good” junior player often comes down to skating ability.  Scouts will often say, “I like the kid.  He thinks the game well and can play, but I worry about his skating.  I’m just not certain that he can keep up at the next level.”  The fact is, the difference in speed is the largest between the tier II Jr. ‘A’ level and NCAA Division 1.  I remember my first captain’s practice like it was yesterday.  After about 10 minutes, I was almost ready to cut myself.  The players were so much faster and stronger than I was used to.  The speed was the biggest factor I noticed right off the bat.


2.       Skill & Ability

Whatever level you strive to achieve in hockey, your skill set – puck handling, shooting, passing – is going to be a staple in getting you to the next level.  You need to be able to execute and your individual skills will always shine the brightest.  Just like skating ability, if you can’t show that you have elite skills, you simply won’t get your name circled.


3.       Hockey Sense

The much talked about hockey sense is a critical attribute that scouts look for in a player.  When making the massive jump from tier II to the NCAA, the transition is smoother for players who exhibit a high level of hockey IQ.  When the speed of the game picks up, the window of time you have to process the game begins to close rapidly.  Players who can make quick, effective decisions, will experience more success.  The skill of being able to read the game and adapt is invaluable to the success of a hockey player.


4.       Competitiveness

When building a team, the first thing a coach does is build a culture.  Creating a culture for a successful NCAA program begins with attracting players who have a deeply engrained hatred of losing.  It is that competitiveness – the warrior mentality – that all great players possess.  It is why big game players are big game players.  They rise to the challenge and play their best when the stakes are high.  If you were building a team, wouldn’t you want a group of players who will go through a wall for you, the program and each other?


5.       Attention to Detail

This section goes hand in hand with Hockey Sense.  Scouts will often keep a keen eye on situations that unfold in a game.  They look to see if a player is aware of the small details.  If he’s a center, does he realize that he’s being matched up on offensive zone draws and that the opposing center always tries to win the draw on his backhand?  How is he going to adapt?  Is the player aware of the clock and how much time is left on the penalty kill or powerplay?  Does the player notice that the goalie has bad rebound control and is he using this fact to his advantage?  Little details that can help a team get an edge are something great players will pick up on throughout a game.  Is the prospect aware of these details and is he able to adapt quickly and use the information to his advantage?


6.       Body Language

This is one of the most important sections.  Since most NCAA recruiting budgets are tight and schedules are busy, coaches and assistant coaches may only get one chance to see a kid play before deciding whether to add them to a shortlist.  First impressions are everything.  If a scout comes to watch a player who screams at referees, smashes his stick off the glass, slumps his shoulders and shakes his head the whole game, first impressions of the kid are going to be that he is a problem and a distraction.  He may just be having a bad game where frustrations got the better of him.  Unfortunately, it will probably be the only game the scout will ever see the kid play.


7.       Leadership Traits

Since signing a player to a letter of intent usually means a four-year financial commitment, NCAA programs want to make sure they are getting the better end of the deal.  The dream recruit for every program is the kid who plays four years, progresses from day one through graduation, becomes captain in his senior year and leads the program to national glory.  When recruiting, coaches are always trying to find the best complete option or fit for the program.  You want a team full of leaders.  To be a leader doesn’t mean you have to wear a letter on your chest.  A leader sacrifices for his team by blocking shots and being there for his teammates.  It might be something as simple as giving the goalie a pep talk after a bad goal or throwing an arm around a slumping rookie who just made a costly mistake.  Leadership traits can be displayed throughout games, on and off the ice, and in some of the most subtle moments.


8.       Desire

When I was talking to schools when I was 18, 19 and 20 years-old, almost every school asked me the same question.  “What is your first priority in life right now?”  It is an important question for a coach of an NCAA program to ask because the answer often says a lot about the player’s desire.  The quick and short answer should be, “Hockey.”  This makes a clear statement that you want to be a hockey player and that you will do whatever it takes to make this dream come true.  They can see from the transcripts and SAT scores that you are smart.  They likely already spoke to your coach and know that you have strong character.  What they are looking for now is if you have the desire to do whatever it takes to be a hockey player.  They want to know if you live and breathe hockey; that it’s not just something fun to do.  The biggest recruiting tool programs have is their NHL alumni list.  Players want to go where they have the best chance to achieve their dream of playing in the NHL, while earning a valuable degree at the same time.  With this in mind, programs want to recruit and harvest players who have the best shot at becoming pros when they leave campus.  They’re looking for that insatiable hunger to become a pro.


 9.       Character

Character is one of the most commonly used phrases in sports when describing the intangibles of great players.  Character, in sports, embodies a combination of determination, ethics, compassion and leadership.  Coaches often make reference to character when describing a player’s ability to bring a team together.  Camaraderie is a big ingredient in success and character is right at the heart of it.  In the business world, character describes an employee’s invaluable contribution to workplace culture and morale.  All too often teams will falter due to inner turmoil and separation within the dressing room.  It is important to recruit players who fit the established culture; players who are likely to buy in.


10.   Academic Ability

Since the essence of collegiate athletics revolves around athletes being STUDENT-athletes, it should come as no surprise that academic ability is a major priority.  With strict GPA levels to maintain and a tiresome workload requiring finely-tuned time management skills, being a Division 1 athlete comes with necessary obligations.  If you can’t meet the grade in high school while living at home with mommy and daddy, chances are you aren’t going to even come close when you land on a busy campus with tougher classes, harder practices and training sessions, combined with heightened expectations and stress.  The best advice I ever received came from my first Jr. ‘A’ coach who said, “If you focus and work hard in the classroom, it will carry over onto the ice.”  This creates a personal standard that will help you to achieve goals seemingly beyond your reach.


What Scouts are looking for in a player.


 Kyle Woodlief, special to USA TODAY


How do scouts grade prospects?

When scouts look at young players, there are many different facets to be considered when determining each prospect’s relative merits and making final evaluations.

There are at least 8-10 basic elements that scouts are looking for when breaking down strengths and weaknesses in a player. For defensemen and forwards, the major categories graded are:

1. Skating ability

Sub-categories under this heading include speed, power of stride, first-step quickness, acceleration, balance, lateral mobility and turning ability.

2. Size and strength  

Fairly straightforward in most cases, though some players play bigger than their size, and some shorter players are powerfully built and deceptively strong for their height.

3. Puckhandling ability 

Can the player handle the puck in traffic; can he make moves with it at top speed, or does he have to slow down in order to make his moves; does he pass crisply and accurately?

4. Shot and scoring ability                                                                Does the player have a hard shot? Is it accurate? Does he get it low and consistently on net? Is he a natural sniper — does the player finish off chances around the net?

5. Hockey sense 

How are the player’s instincts? Does he instinctively make the right play in all three zones? Does he read and anticipate developing plays?

6. Competitiveness 

Does the player win the 1-on-1 battles for loose pucks? Does he get involved in the traffic areas, drive to the net, move men out of the crease, etc.?

7. Leadership

Do teammates and coaches rely on him to make big plays at key moments in the game? Is he out on the ice in all key situations? Does he take charge of situations?

8. Poise and composure  

Does the player hurt his team with penalties?  Does he get rattled after being hit? Is he calm in tense situations?

9. Productivity 

Simple bottom line question — does the player contribute to his team winning games? Does he put points up on the board consistently, fight, or perform his role on the team efficiently?


For Goaltenders, categories include:

1. Foot and leg quickness

2. Agility

3. Anticipation   

4. Controlling rebounds

5. Stickhandling

6. Flexibility

7. Hand speed and reflexes

8. Composure     



Ron Honigan  25 years NCAA and NHL Scout 

There are 6 things that I focus on when evaluating a player:

1) SKATING…..The player must be an above average skater

2) SKILL LEVEL…. The player must possess a high skill level i.e puckhandling, the ability to pass and receive a puck using both sides of the stick. The ability to get your shot on net.

3) HOCKEY SENSE…. How creative is the player? Does he see everybody on the ice? Does the player think fast/ make sound decisions with the puck ?

4) GRIT….. finishing checks, winning battles for contested pucks, driving the net, standing up for a teammate, getting pucks out of the zone by taking a hit.

5) COMPETE…..there are 3 levels of competitiveness….players that bring it (empty the tank every shift), players that sometimes bring it, and players that seldom bring it.

The one thing that every player can control is his/her effort. There is no excuse for not blocking a shot, outskating an opponent to a loose puck, and not playing with fire and brimstone. You could be the most talented player on your team….but if you don’t compete on a consistent basis you will never get very far in the long term.

6) ROLE……What function are you going to provide to the hockey club? Defining yourself !!! What do you do better than everybody else? Are you a playmaker, a finisher, a checker etc.



Dan MacDonald – 30 years as coach in NCAA, NHL, WHL, ECHL and AHL

1) SKATING ABILITY. Quickness (acceleration), top speed (forward and / or backward – position dependent), and one of the big keys – agility (the ability to move laterally while moving fast.) Using deception prior to shifting laterally, you must be able to accelerate around the opponent after the fake.2) PASSION / COMPETE. If you don’t compete, you aren’t an athlete. If you loose the puck, go get it back – without hesitation. Forecheck and backcheck. Be determined and work hard. Compete to the best of your ability. When you lose, it should hurt.

 3) HOCKEY SENSE. The ability to make something happen. When you come off the ice, you ask yourself, “Did I just do something, to make a positive difference in my game, for my team, on this shift?” You are noticeable, not invisible – not just taking up time and space. Make an impact every time you get a chance. This is fueled by #1 – passion and the urge, the need to compete!



4 Men’s College Hockey Coaches Discuss What Qualities They Want in a Recruit


By Steve O’Brien


AT GCA, we have asked hundreds of Men’s College Hockey Coaches this question:

Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?

We have received a range of thoughtful and relevant responses from Men’s College Hockey Coaches across Divisions I, II and III. We wanted to share some of the best answers to give young hockey players some perspectives that they might be overlooking and motivating them to put more emphasis on these qualities to reach their goals and become a College Hockey player:


Craig Russell – Plymouth State University – Head Coach

The quality that we look for first and foremost is overall talent. Not just individual talent, but the ability to make plays, and make players around them better. We also look for strength/fitness level, and tools such as shot, hands, stick, etc. All of these things are important to us, but it is very important for me to address the character of each individual. I will speak with their coaches and find out what they are like off the ice.

• Do they take their education seriously?

•  What are they like around the team?

•  How do they handle adversity?

•  How do they interact with new players if trades are made?

•  Are they coach-able, and do they respond well to being taught?

These are all questions I will ask, because I can tell if they have the skills by watching a couple of games, but only the coaches have a more intimate perspective. I take character and team chemistry very seriously, and believe it is impossible to win without them.


Mike Young – Westfield State – Assistant Coach

Obviously, skill is a must, but besides that, we look for all around good kids. Kids who have showed they give a full effort in all realms of life and always try to better themselves as an athlete and as a person. What I personally look for is for motivation. You never want a kid to come in and be complacent in the spot he/she is in. Even if the athlete is your top recruit, you don’t want them to be complacent; you always want them to want to get better. I also want to make sure that the athlete is willing to do whatever it takes to be a positive part of the program and team and really be a solid teammate. If we ask you to penalty kill and you have never done it before, are you going to try and learn and be the best at it you can. If we ask you to play a different position than you are used to, are you willing and able? In NCAA athletics, players that were formerly the best players of their teams have to come in and fill roles that they are maybe not accustomed to, and their willingness to accept those roles and thrive at them says a lot about their character and their chances to succeed in the NCAA. The player has to realize that while it may not be the role they are used to, in the NCAA especially, each role is vital to the programs success.


Jamie Rice – Babson College – Head Coach

There are two distinct evaluations we make in evaluating a potential recruit; on ice and off of the ice. On the ice we want players who have/are:

1. Skating is the number one trait we want, and we want speed and quickness

2. Hockey sense and how they play the game, including but not limited to; decision making, understanding of the game, effort away from the puck, coach-ability

3. Competitiveness


Off of the ice:

1. Good kids who are good students

2. Kids from great families, close knit and kids who are respectful to their parents/coaches/siblings

3. Kids who understand the COMPLETE opportunities here at Babson


Mike Curtis – Saint Anselm College – Assistant Coach

When I’m out recruiting, I look for a few different qualities in our potential student athletes. I believe work ethic is a major quality an individual must have in order to be successful at this level. Work ethic comes from within. Nobody can hand you a strong work ethic. It shows the true character of an individual and what he or she stands for. Team is another quality. As a Coach, we want young men who can put their personal battles aside for the betterment of the Team. Individual goals are good, but the Team is the most important thing. The last quality we look for and there are more qualities, but it would have to be Leadership. Leadership can come in different forms. We look for student athletes that are both leaders on and off the ice. We want individuals who want to get involved in the community and give back.


Letter to My Younger Self


Dear 14-year-old Mike,

Mike Bossy, Hall of Famer / New York Islanders - The Players' TribuneI write to you today as a 60-year-old man, and I have some news from the future that you probably aren’t going to believe.

There are 30 teams in the NHL in the year 2017, and next season, there’s going to be one in Las Vegas.

Guys don’t smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee at intermission anymore. They drink smoothies and “stretch.”

The going rate for a 50-goal scorer is about $9 million a year.

And fighting is considered a dying art.

I know the last one probably sounds pretty good to you right now. You’re about to experience more than your fair share of violence. In fact, the reason I’m writing to you now is because you’re about to go through one of the toughest times you’ll ever have to face.

I hope you have enjoyed your beautiful nose for the past 14 years, because pretty soon it’s not going to be so straight anymore.

Officials from the junior team in Laval, Quebec, are about to offer to move your family into a new house so you can play for them. Everything will seem perfect at first. Until now, your parents have been raising their 10 kids in a 4½-room apartment in Montreal. You’ve never even had a real bedroom. You’ve been sleeping on a cot at the end of a hallway, behind a little curtain. When you think about hockey, you don’t visualize the Montreal Canadiens in their red-and-white sweaters. You hear the Montreal Canadiens. That’s because your father always makes you go to bed right before Hockey Night in Canada starts. He pulls the curtain shut, but your cot is right outside the living room, so you always stay up anyway and listen to the TV. You don’t have many memories of seeing Jean Béliveau play, but you do have vivid memories of hearing Danny Gallivan’s voice go up a few notches whenever Jean would touch the puck.

When you move to the new house in Laval, you’ll finally get your own bedroom. But your life on the ice for the next four years is going to be difficult. When you arrive, you’ll be known as a natural goal scorer. There’s nothing natural about it, actually. That’s something that will bother you for the rest of your life — whenever people ask you, “Why was scoring so easy for you, Mike?”

It was never easy. Your mother loves to tell people the story about how you scored 21 goals in your first mite hockey game. But even if that story is true, the goals only tell part of the story. Because your mom always leaves out the part about how much time you spent all by yourself out in the backyard rink, shooting at a wooden board. You don’t have a real net, so you practice by aiming for the black puck-marks on the board over and over and over until your feet are frozen. (Remember how mom would make you thaw your feet in cold water because hot water would “make your toes fall off?”)

For whatever reason, some people will resent you for being a goal scorer. Other teams are going to target you, big time. You’ll get jumped from behind. Sucker punched. Completely knocked out by blindside hits. (In the future, there’s a serious injury called a concussion. You don’t know what this is yet, but unfortunately you’re going to have quite a few.)

Some nights, you’ll be sitting on the bench just trying to catch your wind when you’ll look up and see the other team — literally the whole team — rushing your bench for a brawl. The slashing and cross-checking will be so common that it’s barely worth mentioning. This is just the reality of junior hockey in the 1970s.

The abuse will leave a mark on you forever. Your nose will be broken. Your ribs will be cracked. But it will leave a mark on your soul, too. Psychologically, just riding on the bus to games knowing the violence that awaits you is something that you’re going to have a hard time with. There are going to be so many long bus rides when you’ll think, Why am I even doing this? What’s the point?

But you have to keep going. You have to keep going for two reasons.

  • If you don’t quit, you’ll set the record for goals in junior hockey and make it to the NHL.
  • The girl behind the counter at the snack bar.

Number 2 is the far more important reason. The girl working the snack bar every morning at the rink in Laval is pretty cute, right? I know all your tricks, kid. You’re too shy to actually talk to her, so you go and buy a chocolate bar from her every single day before practice.

Well, eventually, you’re going to need to work up the courage to have a real conversation with her. Maybe even ask her what her name is. (It’s Lucie, by the way.) Her brother is the coach of the midget team, and he’s a pretty tough guy, so you better make damn sure that you’re a gentleman.

This is the girl who’s going to be by your side for the rest of your life. She’s a huge hockey fan, and nobody — not even you — is going to be harder on your performances.

Guys don’t smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee at intermission anymore.

In 1977, just six years from now, you will get the luckiest break of all time. Twelve teams will pass on you in the NHL draft. They’ll want nothing to do with you. They’ll think you’re too timid. They’ll think you’re not tough enough to score in the NHL. Or at least that’s what you’ll be telling yourself when you’re sitting in your lawyer’s office staring at the telephone, waiting for it to ring.

Finally, you’ll get a call from a guy named Bill Torrey welcoming you to the New York Islanders. He’s the general manager, and he’s in the process of building a dynasty. Now, I need to warn you about something.

Bill is a legend.

You are a shy, naive kid.

Please, please, please just let your agent handle the contract negotiations. Can I change the future with this letter? If I can, I’d like you to do something for me: When you sit down with Bill and he makes you a lowball offer on your contract, just let your agent do the talking. Let him compare the deal with other rookie deals. This is just how business works.

You want to know what you did? (DON’T DO THIS.)

Bill will be sitting there with his famous red bow tie, and he’s going to say, “So, Mike, since you’re not happy with this deal, how do you think you’ll perform at the NHL level?”

And you won’t even take a moment to think. You’ll just blurt it out.

“Well, I think I can score 50 goals this year.”

It might take a minute for Bill and your agent to stop laughing. You’re not even guaranteed a spot on the team, and this is a good NHL team. Fifty goals? Fifty goals? It’s a ridiculous thing to say, especially for a kid who is embarrassingly shy. I still don’t know where it came from. It just came out.

So don’t do that. Because even though your contract will get sorted out, I can pretty much guarantee you it has nothing to do with your bold prediction. And you will walk into training camp as the kid who told Bill Torrey he was going to score 50. (The retellings of your moment of bravado will get more and more outlandish.)

Make no mistake, though. The Islanders brought you in to score goals. Which brings me to my next piece of advice: Just leave your coach alone.

Al Arbour doesn’t want to talk to you, kid.

The first two or three practices, you’ll keep skating up to Al during breaks and asking what you should be doing in your own zone.


“Coach, am I supposed to be on the wall?”

“Coach, when the puck is behind the net, am I in the right spot?”


Finally, he’ll shut you up.


“Yes, coach.”

“Mike, do you know why we brought you here?”


“Mike, we brought you here to score goals. Can you score goals for us?”


“Mike, don’t bother me about your defense ever again. If I have anything to say about your defense, I’ll come and see you, O.K.?”

You’ll speak to Al maybe two or three more times the rest of the season.

Al doesn’t need to speak to you, because he’s got a guy named Bryan Trottier keeping you in check. Bryan is going to be your best friend in hockey. I should warn you now, though. He’s a western Canadian guy with a funny little mustache, and he can barely shoot a puck through a paper bag. 😉

Bryan certainly doesn’t look like a physical specimen, but he’s one of the strongest centers you’ll ever come across. And he works on every aspect of his game. He’s the complete hockey player, and you’re going to develop such an unbelievable chemistry with him that you guys won’t be able to keep a leftwinger.

They’ll always complain that you and Bryan are just passing the puck back and forth to one another. It’s kind of true. But it works. At some point, you’ll tell Bryan, “You don’t need to see me, just my stick. As long as you can see my stick, put it there.”

It’s the philosophy that will help you score 53 goals in your rookie season. Trots will score 46 (but he’ll take a lot of pride in pointing out that he smoked you in total points). Those first two seasons, you’ll develop great scoring chemistry with him, but your team will fall short of the Stanley Cup.

You guys won’t have what it takes yet. You’ll score plenty of goals in the regular season, but you’ll struggle come playoff time, when the game gets tighter. There will be no time, no space. You’ll be hacked and slashed mercilessly. Guys will constantly be trying to get you to drop the gloves.

So you’re going to make a decision that, at the time, is going to be extremely controversial. In 1979, you’re going to announce to the press that you’re never going to fight again. That’s it. You’re done with it. No matter what anyone does to you, you’re not going to fight. You think it’s pointless and insane.

Oh, boy. That’s going to be an interesting time.

You need to be prepared for the names you’re going to get called. You need to be prepared for how people are going to look at you for making a statement like that in 1979. For a guy who is already unfairly labeled as “timid,” this is going to be a big deal. Some people in the hockey world will simply not accept that someone who doesn’t fight can ever be a winner.

Then, in Game 1 of the 1980 Stanley Cup finals against the Flyers, you’re going to have your moment of truth. Your team will accidentally ice the puck on a power play, and as you make the turn to skate back up ice to the faceoff dot, you’ll look up and see Mel Bridgman coming straight for you. Huge, mean, nasty Bridgman. Holy s***. He’s not budging.

What do you do?

In that split second, you need to run over him. It’s the last thing in the world he’ll be expecting. You have to make a statement to yourself that you’re not going to back down from the intimidation.

If you do it, he’ll end up flat on his ass in front of the entire Philadelphia Spectrum.

Huge, mean, nasty Bridgman. Holy s***. He’s not budging.

Everybody will be too shocked for there to be a big brawl. That moment won’t end the cheap shots, but it will be liberating for you. It all goes back to the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re riding the bus to those junior games.

In the split second you see Mel coming at you, you need to say to yourself, Enough.

That collision in Game 1 will set the tone for the next four years of your life. You’ll go on to win the game in overtime, then go on to win the Stanley Cup. Three more Stanley Cups will follow.

My biggest piece of advice for you is to try to remember more of it. As sad as it is to say, as I write this to you at 60 years old, I can barely remember anything about lifting those Stanley Cups. I don’t know if it’s all the hits I took, or just because of how overwhelmed I was at the time, but I really cannot remember much.


What I do remember is Bryan with the Cup. I have a vivid memory of him going completely apes***, racing around the ice with the Cup above his head at Nassau Coliseum. I can see him standing on the bench with it, egging on the crowd. I can see him jumping on Billy Smith after we won our fourth Cup in a row.

My advice to you, kid, is to remember more. And to cherish your time more, because your time is going to be shorter than you think.

Remember when you did the running long jump at the school Olympics and you busted your kneecap? You had that cast that ran all the way from your ankle to your hip? Remember, you played catcher all summer long with your leg stuck way out to the side?

Well, your knee is never going to fully heal. It won’t seem like a big deal, because you can skate just fine. But in the future, when medical science gets more advanced, they’ll discover that this kind of imbalance has an effect on your body in subtle ways. Nine years into your NHL career, before you even reach age 30, your back is going to go out on you. And when the back goes, it’s over.

You’re not going to be able to write the ending to your story on your own terms. And that will be a very tough pill to swallow. But it will also be a good lesson for you as a young man. It’s just how life works. There’s only so much of our story that we can write ourselves. A lot of it is prewritten for us.

Just think of your father, for example.

Where did your path to four Stanley Cups begin? Did it begin with the collision with Mel? Did it begin with all the hard work you put in with Bryan Trottier? Did it begin with the phone call from Bill Torrey? Did it begin when you scored 260 goals in Laval, or 21 goals in your first mite hockey game?

No. None of that happens without the very first chapter of your story, which was written for you.

Remember when you were in the little apartment in Montreal, sleeping on the cot? Some winter mornings when you woke up for breakfast, your father would be coming in from the cold with icicles frozen to his eyebrows, and we could get the HVAC contractor for getting heating into the house. He had been out there for hours, flooding the backyard with a hose and nailing a wooden board to a post.

Thousand of miles away in western Canada, Bryan’s father was flooding the pond behind his house by chopping up a beaver dam.

We don’t get to write the beginning and ending of our story.

But we can stay up late listening to the sounds of Hockey Night in Canada.

We can talk to the girl at the snack bar.

We can stop smoking cigarettes after our rookie year.

We can run over Mel Bridgman.

We can look back and say: Thank God I was an Islander, and I love you Bryan Trottier.