I had the benefit of playing for and coaching with Shawn Walsh (former Maine Coach), Jerry York (Boston College Coach) and a few of the Player Qualities below also came from these individuals along with Ron Mason (former Michigan State Coach).
TOP TEN QUALITIES TO BE A GREAT HOCKEY PLAYER
Being a great hockey player does not merely imply wearing a uniform and being a member of a team. There are many more important phases to think about if you want to be a winner, not only in hockey, but in life as well. Listed below are some qualities which I believe are absolutely necessary for every good athlete.
1. YOU MUST BE COACHABLE. Can you take coaching? Are you a “know-it-all?” The good hockey player realizes “It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.” Can you take criticism? Do you realize that the real purpose of criticism is not to beat you down, but to build you up- – not to hurt your feelings, but to help you do a better job. The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. You can always avoid criticism by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.
2. YOU MUST HAVE AN INTENSE DESIRE TO WIN. Do you want to win with a passion—never taking no for an answer when there is a job to be done—a check to cover—a rebound to be cleared—a goal to be scored? A GREAT PLAYER is one who hates to lose, prepares not to lose and burns up inside when he does lose.
3. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO PRACTICE, not just reporting and putting in the necessary time, but working everyday with the same enthusiasm, speed and determination you use during a hockey game. What counts is not the number of hours you have put into practice, but what you put into those hours. Do you have two speeds—a practice speed and a game speed? The good hockey player has one speed which is the same in practice as it is in every game. If you loaf and cheat in practice, you will loaf and cheat in a hockey game. Remember, you can never win the heavyweight title by doing lightweight exercise. Be a leader in practice, that’s what champions are made of and that’s where champions are made.
4. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO MAKE SACRIFICES. This means you forego personal pleasures for the good of the team. Conditioning to play is not fun. It is not easy. It is stark punishment. Training is exacting; the responsibility is heavy, it is rough and includes personal denials to remain in top notch condition, but it has its rewards. You will thrill with an inner glow that reflects happiness when you swing a defenseman and score a goal late in the third period to win the game. The only way to remain in good condition is to never get out of shape. Some people can drink, smoke, and keep late hours and still do a lot of things well; but playing hockey is not among those things.
5. YOU MUST HAVE AN INTENSE DESIRE TO EXCEL. Do you have belief and desire to do something better than anyone else—to be the best who ever lived? Are you willing to practice the things you cannot do three times longer than the things you can do? Are you willing to put in long grinding hours, concentrating on a skill until you have perfected it? Are you willing and eager to work so diligently at the skills you lack so they eventually become your strongest asset? I have seen too many players spend their time doing what they already do well. They never improve. Always try to develop one more talent. NEVER BE SATISFIED. Work constantly to improve yourself. Perfection might never be reached, but it must be your goal. Remember NO ONE HAS EVER DROWNED IN SWEAT.
6. YOU MUST HAVE THE ABILITY TO PLAY YOUR BEST EVEN UNDER FIRE. Can you concentrate on the work to be done at the moment? Can you shut out from your mind a previous failure, success, rule infraction or a personal insult in order to give undivided attention to the offensive and defensive maneuver in the here and now? Games are not won on yesterday’s scores, but by what is happening now at this moment. Good hockey players are recognized by their movements, not their numbers. They play every play to the hilt—never depending on past success to help them. You must shut out all personal feelings about your opponents except to skate them right out of the rink. TIME SPENT GETTING EVEN WOULD BE BETTER SPENT GETTING AHEAD.
7. YOU MUST BELIEVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION, YOUR TEAM AND YOUR COACHES. A player’s loyalty to their organization, their team and their coach is one of their most valuable assets. Without their loyalty, no player or team can be successful. No matter how experienced the captain of the ship may be, they can not safely guide it into port unless they have the cooperation of the crew. Always remember a person who talks about his inferiors hasn’t any. The fellow who is pulling the oars has little time to rock the boat. Achieving success demands total effort. Therefore, be champion in the classroom, on the streets, and in the rink.
8. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO STUDY AS HARD BEFORE YOU CAME OUT FOR HOCKEY. Most of the good coaches do not care for the player who just wants to “get by”; they will take hockey the same way. Hockey was never meant to take the place of studies. Your school work comes first—it rates far above hockey. Hockey will keep you busy from September to sometime in March. You must compensate for this loss of time. If you fail here you are wasting your time, the coach’s time, and you are of no value to the team. In every school there are good athletes who can stickhandle, skate and shoot—but they can’t pass.
9. YOU MUST BELIEVE IN THE “HUSTLE” PHILOSOPHY. Do you itch for things you are lazy to scratch for? Do you count on the breaks or do you make the breaks count? Do your hands and feet keep working when your head says it can’t be done? Good coaches want aggressive, persistent hockey players, with a positive attitude. They want players who realize they must fight their way to the top, that there is no such thing as a shortcut. Don’t wait for your ship to come in, go out and meet it. Coaches do want players with CAN’T in their hearts. Remember: Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Success depends upon backbone not wishbone. “EVERYTHING COMES TO THOSE WHO HUSTLE WHILE THEY WAIT.”
10. YOU MUST HAVE LOVE FOR THE GAME OF HOCKEY. Is hockey just another time waster or just something to do? Do you play just to get a uniform and a cheer from the crowd? Are you the last on the ice and the first one to leave? Only players who play the game because they love it and who “prefer to play hockey than sleep” will really become the great hockey players. The most important asset a player can have is the love of the game. Instead of wondering what hockey can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for hockey. Read, talk, and practice every chance you have. The winner is the player who gives them self to their work, their body, and their soul. Never forget:
To win the game is great
To play the game is greater
To love the game is greatest of all
If these ten qualities sum up your philosophy on hockey and life in general, then you belong on a team. You will be a tremendous asset to the team you are playing with and you are along the road to success. It is easy to be ordinary, but it takes courage to excel, and you must excel. Remember, it is not only a privilege to play hockey, it is also a responsibility.