What’s Happened To Canada’s Hockey Talent?

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So I’ve been hearing complaints that there isn’t enough Canadian talent in the NHL draft this year. I agree. If Canada is number one in hockey, if it’s our game, then where are our up and coming players?

Canada has a hockey problem. 

Here’s my perspective on where it starts…

I may not know how deep it goes, but this is from my own point of view as a hockey mom. It starts in minor hockey. Every level and every person involved in minor hockey is partially to blame. Gone are the days when kids can sign up for organized hockey and just have fun while learning about the game. Now, the focus, even at the initiation level, is on competition and winning. And almost everyone plays a key role in this downfall.

Coaches. I’ve met a lot of good coaches in the few years my son has played hockey. I’ve rarely met great coaches, but they are out there. In spite of them all, every year, there’s always a coach or two at every level that I can’t stand. This is the coach that thinks 6 year olds should already know all there is to know, and degrades them constantly in the dressing room. I’ve heard it from outside the door. These coaches are the ones who demand better from 8 year olds – 8 year olds who just want to have fun and learn new skills with their buddies. Calling an 8 year old names is not something I will ever tolerate – not my own 8 year old or anyone else’s. And every year, during the home tournament, I see coaches double-shifting the rep team kids while the other kids sit on the benches. It’s ridiculous. Coaching needs to change. 

This hasn’t started just recently. This coaching BS has been going on for years. When I was younger, my cousin played hockey. I went to all his practices and games, getting to know the team quite well over the years. As we got older, a lot of the players, who I thought were amazing, dropped out while some of the average players moved on to play junior. I wondered how that could be possible, so I started asking questions. And that’s when I found out that the kids who moved on in hockey had influential parents in the community and the kids who quit, most of them had to work to help out their farming families. Hmmm, interesting.

Executives. These people usually disguise themselves as coaches and/or heads of the divisions, who put a ton of pressure on the lower level players and expect them to play like junior hockey players. These executives are the ones picking rep teams and giving chances to the kids that only they see fit to make the team. Their decisions are tough, I understand that, because not every kid can make a rep team. But the process in which they determine who is on the team leaves me scratching my damn head. Everyone knows the coaches kids are going to make it regardless if the kid deserves the position on the roster or not. And the kids whose parents are influential in the community, those kids will make the roster too. As for the handful of spots left, the coaches/executives will pick the best players, which really isn’t a high percentage of kids. All too often I see good players, who should make the team, without a roster spot because the coaches kid is more entitled regardless if the coaches kid earned it or not.

Parents. If a parent has connections and a ton of money, their kid has a fighting chance to become a good hockey player. Because hockey is expensive and exclusive. As much as everyone would like to think that hockey is inclusive, it’s not. The ridiculous entitlement of aggressive parents forces out the good hockey players for the entitled parents child who is, at best, mediocre. But the parents refuse to see their child as average and push the kid into a win-all attitude.

Entitlement. Case in point, parent A. Parent A got a call from the school and it was mentioned that their high school kid got in a lot of trouble after a locker raid. The punishment was to ban the kid from the hockey team and suspend that kid for 2 weeks from school. And what was the parents response? They didn’t give a shit about their kid being suspended from school, but if their kid was kicked off the hockey team, the parent was calling a lawyer. Really. Apparently, that threat worked and the kid received minimal punishment. He was kicked out of school for two weeks, but he remained on the hockey team.

Players. Kids are kids and they do kid things. But some parents seem to forget that they’re little sponges that soak in everything around them. If you don’t want your kids to grow up to be little assholes, you probably shouldn’t teach them to be little assholes. Kids learn by example. Eventually they grow into themselves as people and realize what they want and what they don’t want. But sometimes it’s too late to help these kids though and they have to make their own decisions at the hardest time in their lives – when they’re teenagers or young adults.

A few seasons ago, our CHL team had a hometown player who had the potential to be the next Johnny Gaudreau. He was short in stature, but had amazing skill and a ton of potential. He also had the opportunity to play higher levels of hockey (thanks to his parents influence and community standing). This kid could have gone far. But he threw in the towel after dealing with one of those coaches and after watching his organization become a mess over the years under the influence of the GM. In what could have been a turning point in his career, he decided that hockey was no longer something he wanted to do. So he just quit and moved on. He no longer enjoyed the game because of all the politics. 

Collectively, there are so many bad decisions made in minor hockey that we only have ourselves to blame for the downfall of Canadian talent. In essence, we are giving chances and opportunities to some of the wrong kids. And we wonder why the state of hockey in Canada is on the decline??

And this is just the minor hockey level. I’ve barely commented on junior hockey. 

One thing is confirmed in my mind – Canadian hockey is a mess.

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