Here is an intriguing reader question from Nick regarding whether or not his son should just give up on hockey given uncertainty about his future. President and Director of the New England Hockey Institute, Dennis Chighisola provided some excellent expert advice on the subject and suggests that in the end it is always about the love of the game!
Question: My son is a second year Bantam with a November 94 birthday. He is 4’9” and about 78 pounds. His bone age is approximately 10 years old so it will be several years before he will start to catch up size wise to his peers. Next year he will either play as a Midget Minor, if he even has a chance of making a low-level travel team, or he will have to play in the high school group, if he plays in an in house league. Neither situation seems appealing at this point. On a travel team he will get more practice ice time but probably little game time. On a high school level house league he would probably get more game time but there is less than half the practice time per week which means limited development during the season. Is it time to just give up on hockey?
Answer: When faced with a choice between games and practices, I’ll always opt for more practices. Practices are where players get to hone their skills. No one ever improved from just playing in a game. The mentioning of a third option (quitting) bothers me a little. I’m wondering if the idea of packing it in is just something that’s crossing the parent’s mind, or if it is a feeling the youngster has openly expressed. No matter, please read on…
I can’t help raising a point I think about often. All winter long I get to watch the guys coming and going from a local senior league that plays next door to where my team practices. It’s a night-out for those older guys— feeling part of a team again, getting some exercise, hanging out long after their games to swap war stories and have some laughs. The funny thing is the teams are a mix of former NHL players and other old pros, long ago college players and probably some guys who didn’t play that high when they were younger. Plenty of my former high school and college players are there too, which brings me to sense that they must have really loved the game if they’re still at it.
This is the point I want to raise for Nick’s sake. On a Monday night in Hingham, MA, it seems to matter not where the guys had been long before. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that all of those senior league members have returned to where they began just playing the game for the love of it. And if we think about it further, the guys who reached fairly high levels only stayed there for a fraction of all the time they’ve played. In essence, they’ve spent most of their lives playing just for the love of it.
Now if Nick can agree with what I’ve said to this point, perhaps the most important next step is to resolve his son’s reason for playing. Hockey isn’t for everyone and there are countless other things a young teen can do for enjoyment. However, if the boy is still loving the game this might at least help ease some current bumps in the road. Perspective is everything. It is best that both the most-skilled and the least-skilled players on any young team do not go to the rink on a given night with visions of the NHL. I think it better that every youngster head-out with a smile and mainly just for the love of playing hockey.
I hope Nick understands why I dealt primarily with the larger question here. It will probably become clearer for which team his son should aim. Despite my 40-ish years in the game I wouldn’t dare predict which young players will or won’t “make it” in the end (and I’ll further suggest that professional scouts couldn’t do any better). Anyone can spot the kid with potential on a given night but things change rapidly in a youngster’s life — physically and interest-wise. Besides, it is hard to measure what is inside a young player, beginning with his love of the game.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Dennis Chighisola (Coach Chic) for his valuable input on this question.