This is a letter to the future, the current, and alumni of the WHL. It is also a letter to all the coaches that have developed and are developing the future of the league.
To the players:
You are a hockey player. It’s in your DNA, who you are as a person has been heavily shaped by your time at the rink. But a hockey player is not who you are, it’s what you do. Remember that because every season could be your last. Next years contract may be weighed on this years performance. Injuries are around every corner and if you’re like me, a concussion could make tonight’s game your last. You don’t know when your game clock will tic out on you. So prepare. Just as you have throughout your career to reach the next level, begin to prepare yourself for the inevitable end to your career. Figure out your interests, your strengths off the ice and discover a way to utilize them to your full potential. Those interests may change, they may grow, but find them. Because if tonight a high hit or a GM taking in a new guy changes your ability to keep playing, you want to be ready.
Hockey is a game at a minimum, and a life preparation regiment at the maximum. The lessons taught on how to train, prepare, play and excel in the game are heavily translated over to the game of life. Take a moment and reflect on the lessons your coaches have provided you throughout the years.
Discipline. We’ve all heard that word come from a coaches mouth, probably out of the mouth of every coach we’ve ever had. It’s one of the most valuable things a hockey player can be, and it’s something that once learned will help you away from the game as well. Having the discipline to do a job at hand, to not cut corners and focus on the little things. The discipline to not go out because tomorrow we have a game, or to eat the right meal because our body is a temple. That discipline was engraved into you by every coach you’ve had. Those days in the dog house for not doing what’s asked of us might have been hard to go through at the time, but now you’ve learned, you’ve adapted, and you do what your is responsibility to do. Remember that when you leave this game. The same self control you had that got you to the Western Hockey League is the same self control and discipline that you will have in the business world. It is your strength, it is your number 1 tool as a person. You are a hockey player by profession, and a disciplined person by nature.
Work Ethic. Bring your best day in and day out. If you’re sick, injured, tired, or just not feeling up to it today, just as you do for a game in the real world you need to find a way to perform. It doesn’t matter if you’re in front of a crowd on a rink or sitting at a desk doing paper work. Your effort is what only you control. Maybe your 100% is different one day from the next, but always bring it, because hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Your work ethic can get you a spot on a team today, but it could get you a job or a promotion at a company in a few years. Remember those coaches that ripped you for not giving it your all, remember those speeches about going above and beyond the limits. Because those values that are desired on the ice are desired in the work space.
Team work. The ability we have as athlete’s to work together as a unit, the ability we have to sit down and work together as a team hashing out a game plan, then go out and achieve it… That’s valuable. Every sales and marketing team on the continent is looking for people like that. They’re looking for people that will lead a group, people that will hold other’s and themselves accountable. They want a person that is going to show up every day just as you do at the rink.
Remember your training. The early morning practices before school, the bag skates after a bad game, the hours spent in a drive way or garage, the hours of systems and skill drills with a coach that made sure you retained the information they were trying to teach. Those long hours are not only going to be your best memories, but also your reminder of how hard you need to work to be the best. When you leave this game, the hard work in the gym may have stopped, but bring that same intensity, that same work ethic drive and competitiveness that you’ve shown yourself all these years. Whatever you choose to do when you leave this game, do it! Don’t let yourself stop on the ice. Your value as an athlete is just as valued in the market. But don’t forget to thank your coaches. Because these values and tools were given to you by them. They were the ones that made sure you didn’t cut corners, brought your effort, and taught you this game.
To the coaches:
Thank you. For the long hours, for the knowledge of the game, and the memories. The bag skates, the dog house and fun practices. Every player experiences many kinds of coaches along their journey and there isn’t a single one that made a player, you all did.
The lessons you taught at the rink are more than that of a game, they were lessons in life. You shaped who we are as athlete’s. Even the coaches that we may not have agreed with or liked, you made us. You elevated our game and helped us to create careers of it. From the players to you, thank you.