Thanks for Everything Hockey

Hockey ThanksOn the heels of my minor hockey politics rant, I thought I should get back to a more positive tone and spend some time giving thanks to those who have helped coach, raise and nurture our two players over the last 15 years or so. Feel free to break out the turkey and fixings if you’re so inclined. They say it takes a village to raise a child. This certainly applies when it comes to hockey and our family. Here are some of the folks who deserve to be recognized for their contribution in ways, both large and small, to our children’s development as athletes and well-rounded members of society.

Coaches – Our kids have had the very good fortune of being mentored by many fine coaches who Momma and I, to this day, hold in high regard and to whom we owe a sincere debt of gratitude for teaching our kids important sport and life lessons. For instance, the Boy was directed by an excellent coach early in his development as a player to always strive to make those he played with better. We continued to reinforce this message to both he and the Devil as they progressed through their hockey careers and what better lesson could a person ask for when working in any team environment? Teachings like these about teamwork, competition, resilience, perseverance, winning gracefully and losing respectfully were professed and picked up all along the way to the credit of the instructors.

I also need to specifically thank a few people who’ve selflessly donated their non-hockey parent time to help with my own coaching efforts over the last few years. I highly recommend having non-hockey parents as part of a coaching staff if you can beg/plead/convince someone to do it as it serves to cut back, albeit not eliminate, griping from parents who feel coach’s kids get preferential treatment. Between practices, games and travelling to and fro we are talking upwards of 300 hours of time spent over a 7-8 month season. I am certain these hockey helpers also benefit from giving back to the game and interacting with the players, but the commitment of their time cannot be easily repaid.

Other Hockey Dads and Moms – Transportation is a key component of living in a minor hockey village. We’ve driven each others’ kids to and from rinks near and far for practices and games (though Momma and I can count on one hand how many times one of us was not present at a game, in fear of it being THE ONE GAME where our kid got hurt). Anyone who waited for the Boy to get out of a dressing room after a practice or game (speedy departures are not his strong suit) is truly appreciated.

One particular memory worth sharing here involved the Devil begin given a ride by another family back to a hotel our team was checking into for a weekend tournament. For some reason, Momma and I were trailing behind so the Devil and one other teammate would be hanging out in a third teammates’ room for a short while. After being allowed to check in at the front desk earlier than the hotel had anticipated, the three young (I believe 10 year oldish) girls ran up to check out the hotel room. When they arrived they found the door curiously ajar, but ran in all the same. Inside they happened upon two hotel employees who also had not anticipated early guests and we’re apparently pre-emptively testing the strength of the bed springs. Suffice it to say, the girls and hockey parents were mortified. One quipped later, “All I could see were the sheets going up and down.” The room was upgraded by the hotel, complete with a fruit basket and champagne, but no one is quite sure what happened to the less than opportunistic bed testers. As usual, I have no recollection of how the girls fared in their hockey tournament on this particular weekend.

Momma and I are lucky to have made some great hockey parent friends for which we owe thanks to the game. Friends with whom we can now recollect the good times and commiserate with when we miss the rink (and not the politics).

Family and Friends – We all appreciate the friends and family who’ve taken time to come to rinks to cheer on the Devil or the Boy in their games. Those who’ve likewise provided the transportation to arenas when needed or have even put our family up for the night to save a hotel charge or two during a tournament on the road. I’m fairly certain both kids got a little extra boost in their stride or snap in their shot when grandparents, uncles, aunts or friends were in the stands cheering them on. We’d like to think our extra hockey fans had as much fun as we did. I’m pleased to report both kids graciously and without fail said “Thanks for coming!” post-game to any and all who attended, regardless the outcome of the contests.

Teammates – Both the Boy and the Devil have made a bunch of friends over the years through the game and will no doubt continue to do so in their respective intramural and beer leagues down the road. Social interaction and friendship are at the heart of why we’ve encouraged them to play from the beginning. Some will be lifelong friends, while others will no doubt simply be remembered as hockey buddies. The Devil, via some unfortunate circumstances, lost a hockey friend this season, but I’ve chosen not to dwell on negatives here so that is all I have to say about that.

I played minor hockey over 30 years ago and can still recall a few of those same sorts of buddies along with the stories revolving around them. Important memories methinks and ones the Devil and Boy should hold close if they don’t already.

A Whole Bunch of Volunteers – Despite the tone of my last post on hockey politics, there are still many virtuous volunteers who devote several hours of their time to the game and its participants for all the right reasons. People who’s dedication to hockey should not be tarnished by the intentions and actions of a few. Just as hockey parents in general are all too often painted with a brush tainted by a couple of stereotypical (i.e. idiotic) incidents. We should and must have faith in the game prevailing regardless and it will in age-old arenas, on frozen ponds and outdoor rinks everywhere.

Rink Rats – While they are usually paid, as they should be, by a town or city to provide a service, I’ve noted a few arena staff over the years who have gone above and beyond monotonously driving the Zamboni around in circles to enhance the hockey experience if even in some small fashion.

For instance, there is one Zamboni driver at a nearby rink whom I’ve noted maintains a very well-groomed waxed moustache ala Yukon Cornelius and who has his own relatively unique method for flooding the ice. Instead of the typically driving around in circles, he takes the time to cut two swaths through the middle of the offensive zones in each end of the rink. I am not certain and I’ve been remiss in not asking, but I assume this is because he wants to ensure those prime shooting areas are fully frozen when the puck is dropped to start the game. This attention to detail for a peewee or younger girls’ hockey game must be commended.

Props also have to be given to those who’ve let us step on or off the ice well before or after we were supposed to so enthusiastic young players could get in a few more laps or practice their burgeoning slap shots. There are always a few willing participants who would like nothing better than to suck every second they can from their frozen playground.

Referees – These men and women are certainly owed a debt of gratitude for all the crap they take (admittedly including mine on occasion) from parents, coaches and players. Hockey is quite often a passionate game, played and watched by passionate people. If it wasn’t there would probably be far less participants. Referees willingly put themselves right in the middle of it all.

From my experience, the best referees have been the ones who’ve taken extra time after whistles and before puck drops to help teach the game. Those who’ve dropped to a knee to explain to unaware novice players exactly why they blew the whistle signalling some sort of infraction; with offside being the most confounding concept for many young participants who will wander aimlessly around in an offensive zone while parents and coaches implore them to “CLEAR” at the top of their lungs.

I recall one older gentleman in particular who refereed both the Boy and the Devil when they were much younger. I would guess him to be around 70 and could tell skating was no longer as effortless as it may have once been for him meaning he likely could not keep up with older players, which is a shame. He would, before or sometimes during each contest, take time to chat with coaches on the bench, sincerely wishing each a good game or commenting on a particular play. You could tell he loved being on the ice with the kids. And he would, more often than not, take a young player aside to explain a call he’d made or simply provide encouragement. I don’t know if he still refs as I haven’t seen him at a rink or watched any younger players’ games lately, but thanks to him and many of his fraternity for what they add to hockey.

Opposing Players, Coaches and Parents – Competition is also at the core of hockey, as it is with any game. Here too passion interjects and provides opportunity, or more so fuel, for less than saner heads to prevail. However, for the most part, when the final whistle blows there are obligatory handshakes, “Good Game”s and wishes of good luck. Most coaches and parents have taught their players to put respect at the forefront. I think one of the most heartening things to hear as a coach is “You have a classy team” and we’ve had the good fortune of playing against several who fit this description.

Our Very Own Hockey Momma – My life mate and I have shared a common and undeniable bond when it comes to the pride and joy we’ve received from experiencing hockey with our kids; often in opposite directions and different physical locations. We became, out of necessity, quite adept at texting play-by-play to ensure the other did not miss out on a special pass, hit, g0al or victory.

Our Momma got way involved in the game as a manager, trainer, association executive and even briefly as a player. But, first and foremost she’s been a devoted hockey momma, screaming “Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyy!” when somebody took what she thought was a cheap shot at her Boy or “Atta Girl!” when the Devil managed to dipsy-do around a defender or bewildered keeper.

Momma’s exchanged a few sun-filled vacations and nights on the town for eight-month’s worth of registration fees and evenings at the arena. Traded glasses of Pinot Grigio paired with Surf and Turf from The Keg for Extra-Large Cream Only’s and Everything Bagels with Herb n’ Garlic Cream Cheese from Timmies. And if you ask she’ll tell you she wouldn’t have changed a thing; nor would I.

The Boy and the Devil – Simply put…the singular reason we’ve driven all over Hell’s Frozen Half Acre for 15+ years to stand in bone-chilling barns watching practices or games. I thank my kids for their commitment, perseverance and dedication to hockey played in those very same conditions.They haven’t just played hockey…they’ve lived it. Of course, none of this would have happened without them having developed a keen, shared love for the sport.

Two years out of minor hockey the Boy occasionally hints at how much he misses the regularity of playing competitively. As recently as yesterday, he fervently told the story of a university intramural game he just played against a “really good” team. In this match, he personally managed to garner two assists and he excitedly recalled watching his goalie “stand on his head” in a 3-0 victory. Yeah, he definitely still loves and has passion for the game.

As noted previously, the Devil’s had a pretty rough hockey year in returning from a broken leg to play on a challenging team. Yet, she’s continued to follow me out to the rink for late night practices over the last month despite a lack of any meaningful competition or a real need to practice. I get the feeling this is more to placate her dear old hockey coach/dad as her lack of effort is obvious and understandable. I’m hoping her passion for the game is re-ignited when she enters the next phase of her life at university and beyond; otherwise I will have failed in my quest to make sure none of the players I’ve coached ever lost the flame.

With one official minor hockey practice/scrimmage left for the Devil, I can faintly hear organ music signalling the end of an era or maybe it’s just my own melodramatic nostalgia kicking in again. Regardless, I’m gonna miss this. Sincere thanks again to all who’ve made it a grand, memorable life experience.


Olympic Hockey Coaching Cues


As a diehard patriot the Canadian men’s and women’s teams’ Gold medal victories at the Sochi Olympics this past week were both fantastic events  proving we remain the preeminent hockey nation. The Devil, the Boy, Momma and I were all up before the crack of dawn on Sunday morning to join others at a raucous early morning viewing/cheering party, complete with Canadian beer and bacon. The game itself was a little anti-climatic as we all had a sense of the outcome after having seen our side systematically dispense of what was supposed to be a powerhouse American squad in a 1-0 semi-final game.


And the systematic nature of the victories has been my focus in recent practices and will be highlighted in upcoming pre-game speeches with my own team. These Olympic contests with all of their pre-tournament hype naturally grabbed our collective attention, like no other games in recent memory and were also chock full of excellent coaching opportunities. I recently said Hard Work and Team Work are core elements of hockey and its great to be able to reference how it’s done at the highest level. Here are some of the specific points I noted from the Games and have relayed to my troops, who quickly recognized and affirmed the lessons learned.

Keep Your Stick on the Ice

Goals for the Canadian men were few and far between as they took a decidedly defensive tack against the Olympic field. However, two of the prettiest goals of the tournament were scored by Jamie Benn in the semi-final against the US and Jonathan Toews in the Gold medal game because of sound fundamental hockey plays.

Jamie Benn with the Deflection against the US to get Canada to the Gold medal game.

Jonathan Toews tips in all the goals Canada needed to take the Gold.

Pucks were simply shot at the net where both players were able to deftly redirect them behind the opposing goalies because their sticks were ready and on the ice. On our team, this small detail is often the difference between a goal or at least a shot on net and more often just another errant pass. The night after the semi-final game I quizzed a few of our players at practice on what they remembered of the goal and they all chirped back “his stick was on the ice.” Lesson learned.

The dominance of the women throughout the tournament was likewise buoyed by their sound offensive play, including their commitment to keeping their sticks in shooting positions and at the ready resulting in the goals and wins they needed to reach the final. They too set a great example for us to share with our students of the game.

Quick Shifts

In the first couple of Canadian women’s matches, the amply experienced analyst Cassie Campbell was quick to point out several of the girls were taking shifts upwards of 50 seconds long. This behaviour did not hurt them on the scoreboard in their early games, but would need to be corrected if they expected to compete against their arch rivals from the U.S. who would play with increased ability and pace. Fresh legs would be required from one shift to the next.

The men, on the other hand, were lauded by other reputable commentators time and again for keeping their shifts under 30 seconds, in keeping with the game plan laid out by their coaching staff. Many of these superstars, who are used to playing 15-20 minutes per game, as the primary skaters on the ice, were being limited to under 10 minutes in order to make the “system” work.

In minor hockey, and for some on my team, shifts can get long, even eclipsing 60 seconds. Too long for a seasoned pro, much less a teenager. I ask for 30-45 seconds of all out effort, which should leave players out of breath and wanting to take a rest. Having Olympic examples to point to can certainly help to drive the point home.

Hard Work

Though they were not being “paid” to compete in these games, the men  on all of these Olympic teams certainly played with purpose and determination; no doubt taking pride in defending the crests on the fronts of their jerseys. Now, hockey players, by their very nature are a tough bunch who generally leave it all on the ice. However on this global stage, time and again there were clear displays of heart and courage. One that sticks out in my mind was US player and perennial shot blocker Ryan Callahan dropping to block three in one shift against Russia and stumbling to get back to his feet after the second.

The Canadian men for their part played a nearly flawless game of cycling the puck low in their foes’ ends game after game. This keep away strategy demands hard work by definition and Canada’s physically bigger forwards simply outworked all comers.

Just tonight we’ve learned Carey Price, Canada’s #1 goaltender aggravated an injury at some point during the Games, but battled through whatever pain or discomfort he felt right up until the final buzzer. I’m sure adrenalin had something to do with it.

Team Work

While both victorious Canadian squads arguably contained the best players in the world; neither could have reached their Golden goals without unselfish commitments to team play. I’ve already mentioned the men who logged uncharacteristically short ice-times, but perhaps the best example of the importance of teamwork came via the line shuffling done by the Canadian coaching staff. They knew they need to find the right combinations of superstars in order for their plan to work. All of these primarily offensive-minded players would need to adjust their games to suit the defensive approach; which most agree in the end was the key to victory. This group of players limited their opponents to only 3 goals in 6 games and none in either of their final two matches. In the third period of the Championship game Team Sweden, with its own bevy of offensive weapons, was only able to muster 4 shots.  Kinda tough to come back from a three-goal deficit at that rate. And then by comparison…

The Game Ain’t Over Till….

This one is the simplest and most dramatic of all lessons as our Canadian women found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 score with less than three and a half minutes left in their Gold medal tilt against those aforementioned (and somewhat disliked) Americans. American who, no doubt, had already started clock-watching in anticipation standing teary-eyed atop the podium as the Star Spangled Banner echoed through the Bolshoy Arena. Post-game several Canadian players claimed they never felt they were down and out. To say they never gave up is a severe understatement. To say they worked hard (see above) till the end would be spot on. The two-goal lead would be erased by Marie-Philip Poulin with a tying goal coming at the 54 second mark of the third period. Poulin and her mates would then complete the comeback with a heart-stopping overtime winner leaving the US side dumbstruck.

Don’t Forget to Say Your Prayers

Ok, just to make sure we tell the whole story of the Canadian Women’s victory and pay proper homage to the ever-present Hockey Gods, we would be remiss if we did not give some credit to a certain goal post, which allowed the game to go into overtime.

So thank you Teams Canada (and the all-knowing Hockey Gods) for setting the standards by which we can work to groom our own Champions. I’m always looking for ammunition to inform, encourage and rally the troops and you provided the same in spades. Over the next week I hope we’re able to glean inspiration and execution from the example you’ve set to secure a berth in our own Provincial Championships. I’ll just be happy if they never give up; a lesson I’m fairly confident they’ve already learned based on recent events.


Team Canada Olympic photos from the Hockey Canada Facebook Page

Hard Hockey Lessons Hopefully Learned

The Sharks competed in our home tournament this past weekend. As usual, the games we played were not without drama or ample learning opportunities, which I believe are a big part of what tournaments are really all about; beyond the fame, glory and medal ceremonies, of course. One of the things the coaching staff and I  have really wanted to work on with the girls of late is penalties as they’ve bitten us in the collective seat of our hockey pants on a few occasions this season. Tough to score or win if you’re playing shorthanded. And yes, penalties are part of the game. We just want to avoid the “dumb” penalties usually borne of frustration – roughing or retaliatory penalties taken in the heat of battle. To this end, a couple of weeks ago, I let the team know we would be taking steps to help ensure these types of lapses in judgment were kept to a minimum. I am not a coach who likes to “bench” players, however, I determined this would be the best way of getting the message across. I may be repeating myself, but one of the first times this new team “rule” was instituted, it happened to be one of the assistant’s coach’s daughters who was the subject, after she drew a 4 minute head shot call; during which we surrendered a game-tying goal. We were fortunate to come back and win that particular game, thereby limiting the sting of the reprimand; a measure, which has been used a couple more times in recent games and would be necessary this weekend.

This particular seven-team tournament happened to feature four teams from our league so there was a pretty good chance we’d come up against one of them, although we wouldn’t face any unless we advanced beyond the round robin. The tourney scheduler did a good job of setting our first three games up against squads from other leagues. Another goal of entering tournaments is to play against varied competition, but you generally don’t get much choice when it’s your own event.

Snoopy Hockey Penalty

The juxtaposition of penalties and drama struck early in the first game on one of the oddest occurrences I’ve ever witnessed in a game. During a mutual line change one of our defencemen and an opposing player collided only a few feet from our adjoining benches. Both players fell to the ice, but ours got back to her feet quickly while the opponent struggled to leave the surface on her hands and knees in obvious discomfort; that being said she was noted to return to the game no long thereafter. All the while, the game continued for another two minutes without a whistle being blown. When the play finally was stopped the head referee and one of the linesmen came together to have a prolonged conversation. Eventually, they skated over and summoned me down from the bench to have a ice-side tête-à-tête. The head ref proceeded to tell me he had missed what the linesman felt was a major tripping infraction; the operative word being MAJOR, which thereby enabled the linesman to call a penalty – a major penalty, which in turn meant ejection from the game for our bewildered player and a five minute powerplay for the other team, during which the first goal of the game was naturally scored against us. Not only had I never heard of a linesman calling a penalty 2+ minutes after it occurred, I had never heard of a GM73 Major Tripping penalty. To make matters worse, I would find out post-game the infraction also carried with it a 2-game suspension. We heard from the other linesman post-game that no official really saw what happened, but only the post collision result.  The only, albeit important, positive from this first game was an eventual 3-2 win.

So we would enter game two (and then game three for that matter) down a member of our defence corps. We were confident knowing our second opponent had lost their first game 6-0 to one of our close competitors, but we also knew all too well nothing is to be taken for granted. As the two teams took to the ice, I noted one of my fave referees (he says trying not to sound tooooo sarcastic) would be handling the head officiating duties. I wanted to be sure I properly denoted my suspended player’s info on the game sheet so I asked her to review it for me. She immediately asked what happened in the last game and I described the unusual circumstance as objectively as I could. She patted me on the shoulder, gave me a quick wink and said, “Let’s try to not let that happen again.”  I returned the wink, but dreaded what could potentially ensue. The game started and we carried a three-goal lead into the final period. With the other side having given up 9 goals to none, over the last five periods, they understandably started to get a bit frustrated and it showed in their play. Their aggressive play was unfortunately matched by our own. One of our defencemen in particular retaliated to being struck with a right jab of her own; earning her a two-minute penalty…one of those we’ve been trying to limit. Consequently, when the offender returned to the bench I suggested she have an additional rest.  “She hit me first,” signaled her mild protest and frustration. To which I quickly countered with, “Yeah, but we all know they always catch the retaliator.” To her defence (pun fully intended as always), even most NHLers have a difficult time grasping this incontrovertible truth and perhaps in this we are seeing learned behaviour. She hung her head and served her extra team-inflicted mini-suspension…lesson hopefully learned. The game ended with the Sharks registering their highest goal total to date (5) and none against.

Game three was a semi must-win or at least a must-tie despite our unblemished record through the first two matches. We knew we would be in for a tougher match, but would hopefully ride the wave of our last and eye the prize of a semi-final berth. A short time into this game it became apparent our referee du jour was very familiar with his whistle and willing to use it as both teams were tagged with early penalties. As such, I gave a quick warning to those on our side to be mindful of their actions. They were for the most part until a few minutes into the final frame, at which point we were deadlocked in a 0-0 contest. An over-aggressive play in the corner ended with one of our defenders being banished for the obligatory 2 minute span; thereby putting the game and our opportunity to advance is some jeopardy. Again, luckily, we were able to kill the 2 minutes with no damage done, but again I felt it necessary to allot an extra brief punishment to try to get the point across to the offender’s teammates. Having secured/survived a 0-0 tied score, the Sharks were headed to the medal round against their nearest and “dearest” rivals.

Our semi-final opponent was familiar, but a bit surprising, as the first place team in our league entered the tourney round in 4th place, though in a tight 7-team tourney anything can and usually will happen. Once more, we realized we were in for a fight to secure a place in the Championship game. Pre-game I had fashioned a new motivational “Survivor Hockey” sign instructing our charges to Outsmart, Outwork and Outlast the other side. And indeed they did, dominating the first half of the game on the ice and the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead. The lead would evaporate before the end of the second period, making the third a race to the finish. We implored the players to keep battling shift by shift. However, a few shifts in our skating gave way to the other team’s pressure and they notched a go-ahead marker. As frustration and/or panic set in, we took the first and only, but certainly ill-timed and unwarranted penalty of the game. Shorthanded, we gave up a third nail in our proverbial coffin when again the girls’ efforts lagged momentarily and the puck found the back of our net. For a third consecutive game, I found myself patting a player on the shoulder as she begrudgingly served a second sentence. Two hard lessons learned over the span of a single period.

So the tournament didn’t go quite as we hoped, however, it was not without value for showing the team what is required to win hockey games. Keep up your efforts, especially against the tougher opponents, and keep your emotions in check against the rougher ones….always. We’ve told them these are the things they are able to control, though both are easier said than done in hockey as in life. We’ll see how things progress from here with the hope the benching subsides because as Snoopy adeptly points out, we are all really “…such a nice guy(s).”


“Peanuts” image courtesy of

One of Everything

The last week of the Sharks’ exhibition season provided three quite different games along with a wealth of learning and teaching opportunities.

Game one this week, a rematch of our first game together as a team which ended in a 1-1 tie, was also the first time we would ice our entire team since having lost a few players to suspensions and injuries.  It seems the older the players get, the more likely they are to fall prey to such mishaps; that coupled with renewed vigorous attention to body, and particularly, head contact rules by the officials.  I applaud the new focus, but also understand there will be some growing pains.  If the first couple of weeks is any indication, penalties will likely be a core theme this season.  For our part, the coaching staff will prescribe aggressive, smart play.  In the rematch, we stressed the importance of setting a tone for the game early. That message seemed to ring true as we would watch the girls storm out to a 5-0 lead…in the first period.  Up to that point our previous high score for an entire game was four goals.  The other team was obviously reeling.  I actually advised one of our players to not cheer too emphatically to open the second period to which my assistant coach prophetically objected. And then it happened.  Our team suddenly and quite unfortunately came to realize we had a five-goal lead; a dangerous realization to be sure. Knowledge led to complacency. As we entered the dressing room between the second and third periods we realized the momentum had changed in a now 5-1 contest.  I exhorted the girls to pick up the pace in the third. I asked them if they were familiar with the term “put the pedal to the floor” to which their was a resounding “No!”  So much for that anecdote.  I gotta keep reminding myself to consider my audience.  Two minutes into the third our opponents netted their second marker and their confidence grew.  In another flash of the clock the lead was cut to 5-3.  We all had an uh-oh moment. Thankfully that was as close as the competition would come.  Our side woke up just in time to finish the game.  Lesson One – Don’t get complacent.

In the next two games we were back to being shorthanded as we were informed by the league’s governing body that our suspended players (whom we assumed had duly served their suspensions through our recent exhibition games) were still under suspension as they are not allowed to serve their penalties during exhibition games. The unfortunate and somewhat unjust part of the story is that they are also not allowed to play in exhibition games while they are suspended.  In my way of thinking a league sanctioned game is a league sanctioned game and a one-game suspension should not become a three or four gamer because of exhibition games, but that is a matter for another time.

Our game two opponent would be our closest rival – a team I think we all suspected we should be able to beat.  However, from the first drop of the puck the game didn’t feel right.  Our players seemed a little off – a step behind.  Of particular concern, was an inability or, more correctly, a lack of interest in passing the puck. After each shift, instructions were doled out to keep their heads up and look for the open player – basic tactics which had made them successful in other games to this point. Yet, despite our reinforcement of the facts, the passes would not come. We watched several players try to carry the black disc through or around multiple defenders, which generally doesn’t work.  Even Mr. Gretzky couldn’t win a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles all by himself.  He needed someone to pass it to.  We swallowed a bitter 3-1 loss and conveyed a stern message to the troops after the game.  Selfish play would not be tolerated and would certainly not lead us to many victories.  Lesson Two – Hockey is a team game.

Later that day we would enter game three with the hope that lesson two was still fresh in the players’ minds.  We did note a renewed vigor in their pre-game warm up – a seeming re-dedication to acting like a team on a mission. The pre-game skate was likewise brisk as was the energy off the first face-off. Right away we saw a different team from what we witnessed only a few hours earlier. Heads were up and passes were plentiful.  Everyone was looking to move the puck; a positive trend indeed.  Our first of two goals was marked by a tic-tac-toe progression from defence to forward to forward and in. Lesson Three – Learn from your previous short-comings. It’s heartening to watch lessons being learned by this team early on.

The only blemish on an otherwise solid win (and 2-0 shutout to boot) was the loss of yet one more teammate to a questionable hit-from-behind penalty, which again carries with it a one-game suspension.  We all agreed that I’m going to develop something of a reputation for producing “dirty” players. Yet, I can honestly argue that only one of the suspensions levied thus far was a clear-cut suspendable offense.  Then again, there will, without, be more of these and we will deal with them as they come.

The Sharks have a few practices in line now to prepare for the regular season, set to begin in a couple of weeks.  We’ll take what we’ve learned about our strengths and weaknesses thus far to build our team for the future; one that we hope holds on-ice success, off-ice camaraderie and fun. That’s the primary underlying lesson in all of this – enjoy playing the game for better or worse.