The Whyte Stuff: Strive to be the best, but keep your goals within reason
I was recently informed of a very unusual statistic that totally caught me by surprise.
It’s one that I think if more people truly knew and understood, they wouldn’t be so fanatical about their child making it to the NHL. This is not to say it can’t happen, as I was blessed to say I played in the National Hockey League.
The NHL was formed on Nov. 26, 1917. This means that by next year, the league will have been around for 100 years. That in itself is pretty amazing. The incredible stat that I am referring to, however, is the total number of players that actually played at least one shift in the NHL – the highest level of ice hockey there is in the world.
Before reading further, take a stab at the answer.
The most recent account that I could find of players to have competed in the NHL is 5,834, along with another 663 goaltenders. This is an overall total of 6,497. When I was originally asked the question as to how many I thought it was, I guessed around 20,000. I was blown away at truly how low this number is, and what a unique group it is to be a part of. There are small rural towns with no stop lights and one gas station that have more people than that!
After digesting this fact for some time, I started to think about how many young kids play the game of hockey all over the world, all dreaming of one day playing in the NHL. What an awesome dream to have, value and strive for. I looked up that stat as well. There is an estimated 1.64 million players playing organized hockey in the world. That is more people than in the whole city of Phoenix!
I guess my point to this enlightening statistic is that although every young hockey player’s dream is to make it to the NHL, the parents’ focus should be on all the other amazing qualities that a child can learn and attain while aspiring to be the best. I truly believe that hockey players make some of the best people around. They are respectful, hardworking, team-oriented, honorable people, and they ultimately end up having success in multiple aspects of their lives.
As the saying goes, “the cream will rise to the top.” If the parents keep reality in check, provide the opportunities for their children to grow, put them in an environment that is fun, and ensure that they are at a level that will build their self-esteem, the players will achieve more and enjoy the path they’re on. Pushing one out of the comfort zone is a necessity in competitive hockey, but there is a limit, especially with youths.
Although one’s odds are still better to play in the NHL than it is to win the Powerball Lottery, I wouldn’t sell the farm to make it happen. Even all the fourth-line players in The Show were top scorers growing up and/or in the minors. I do believe, however, that anyone playing hockey should take every opportunity to reach their potential, striving to accomplish the most they can. So the NHL is most likely not in your future. Junior hockey might be. College hockey possibly. Even maybe getting a scholarship to an NCAA school and getting your education while still playing. All highly attainable with the right attitude and work ethic.
Ultimately, every hockey player should aspire to play in the beer leagues one day. It’s just a matter of what path you take and how long you can put it off. At the end of the day, the vast majority of all adult hockey players will sit around the dressing room after a late weeknight game and relive their glory days by completely exaggerating about how good they used to be – I know I do!
Sean Whyte is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief at DYHA.