Mission Statement: Is hockey still a true team sport? I’m not so sure it is
For so many years, you would hear that hockey was the ultimate team sport.
I was raised on the belief and the cliché that there is no ‘I’ in team and the name on the front is more important than the name on the back, but is it really? Is it that way any more?
To be honest, I’m not sure.
Today’s game seems way more focused on promotion of the individual than any actual realistic team focus or success.
Tier I hockey in our town has never represented us at a national tournament, yet each year there are more AAA teams, watering down any realistic hope for team success, but feeding the ego and the perceived only path to play at the next level. Websites promote individual placements and next level achievements, but have not much team success to show for it. They focus on United States Hockey League placements to justify their status as AAA, when the teams actually do very little nationally.
Tier II hockey is now becoming the exact same thing. With the flood of junior leagues, opportunities to play junior hockey is vast, but like Tier I, players seem to be starting to shift more on this aspect than actually achieving any team success.
Marketing websites, player placement agencies, you name it. It all puts the focus on the individual and their goals ahead of the team.
Recruiting has also played a major place role in the loss of focus. Kids are chased down and worked over by coaches to play on their team. Promises and expectations set up a double standard before a season even starts. Recruited kids feel entitled and in many cases, are treated differently because of preseason promises.
I am from the old school. You play, you win, and with team reward comes individual opportunity. You play for each other and the jersey you wear.
In fact, the goal of so many kids is play college hockey. At that level, the focus is the team and university pride. This is truly where it comes together as kids are playing as one to represent their school.
My fear is that so many kids won’t be prepared to play at this selfless level. Will they understand it is no longer about just them and their personal goals? Will they understand that it is about the jersey and the pride of past and present they are playing for? How far will this loss on team focus affect the pureness of the sport as a whole on every level?
Parents have always tried to inject themselves and infect the process because naturally, they are focused on their own player. It was always up to the coach and organization to keep the focus on the team. The difference is today, coaches and organizations have finally gave in or gave up and hockey is suffering because of it.
It is up to the town, the leaders, and the coaches to refocus the player to what is truly important – the game of hockey and the high standard of truly being the ultimate team game.
The reality of the sport is very few make it to the pinnacle and the constant of this great sport is the values that it teaches to those who allow the game to do that. Team sports at the youth level need to stay about the team. Period.
With that foundation, players will walk through their stages of hockey life or post-hockey life with a greater understanding of what this sport has taught so many for so many years.
Jeremy Goltz is the program director for Mission Arizona.