Team (Un?)Building

I wasn’t going to go off on this subject, but there’s been some stuff going down lately that makes me wonder about the why’s and wherefore’s of minor hockey once again. So what else is new you ask?  There’s been a situation brewing around the Boy’s team and his larger age division for a few weeks that has the entire congregation buzzing.  In short, the team which competes at a level above the Boy’s has lost several players; some to injury, but also some who have simply decided, for whatever reason, to quit the team they tried out and were chosen to play for. This, of course, has left the team severely short-handed and in need of stand-in players.  The normal course of action is to call up players (aka APs) from the lower divisions, in this case primarily from the Boy’s team, to fill in for the missing or otherwise unavailable players. These temporary call ups are just that,  ”temporary”, as their first commitment is to the team they were chosen to play for at the beginning of the year. This is one of those unwritten rules, and methinks, a good one.

Sometimes call ups are not available as there are conflicts with practices or games either on the same day or at the same time.  The Devil’s team ran into this dilemma recently when they lost their only goalie.  They had to frantically scramble to find a substitute who was not already committed to play elsewhere. They were fortunate to find a willing and more than able substitute from a nearby town. A few procedural hoops needed to be jumped through, but when all was said and done the emergency back up performed admirably.  She has backstopped the team through a few games while the regular keeper was on the mend.  This weekend may mark the return of the original netminder depending on how well her injury has healed.  After this weekend the team has a two-week hiatus so the jury is still out on whether or not the regular goaltender should rest for one more game just to be safe. Ultimately, at this age, we have to rely on the player to tell us whether or not he/she is ready to step back on the ice. We’re all just glad this has been temporary.

Back in the Boy’s division, the situation is a little more complicated, as three of the missing players in question are not going to return, leaving the team at the higher level permanently short.  The Boy’s team, however, is also short two players for an extended period due to injury.  One suggested solution is to permanently move a player (or two) from each of the lower levels up one level higher.  The problem with this “solution” is that we are more than 3/4 of the way through the season and team dynamics have been created; at least at the two lower levels where no one has quit.  Rather than just one team being affected, the proposition is to affect the balance on all of the teams.  Meetings have already been held between league officials and team coaches. Initial indications were that there would be no movement of players; presumably to maintain the aforementioned team balance. However, now there are rumblings, significant rumblings at that, indicating that there will be permanent player movement; which to me makes no sense.  While I agree that every player should have an opportunity to play at the highest level he or she is capable; I don’t believe one standard (i.e. team commitment) should be sacrificed for another (i.e. personal development).

We often rightly say that this game should be governed by what is best for the kids. In this case, I don’t believe mixed messages are the answer. Now, rather than one team in turmoil, there will be three as each team will see the departure and introduction of new players. Judging by the rumblings, this is already happening.  While difficult, I believe the top team should simply play the hand they’ve been dealt or more accurately, the one they’ve dealt themselves. The coaching staff of this team should do their best to turn these negatives into positives; make this situation a rallying cry and encourage the team fight through.  After all, it’s not supposed to be about winning or losing; but simply competing.

But alas, my inclination is that there are other factors at play here.  Records, reputations and personalities are involved, as always.  Minor hockey yet again becomes soap opera with behind the scenes conversations and back-door deals amidst kids who are supposed to be playing a simple Winter game with their peers. And so, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps I shouldn’t really care, but the higher lesson here, for my Boy and Devil at least, is about commitment to your team and teammates.  I’m prepared to stand behind that principle as I’m confident it will serve them well into the future.

Now let’s just get back to skating, passing, shooting, scoring! 


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