Hockey! A sport or a career?
en I talk to young hockey players in hockey schools or at different hockey events, I often ask them the following question:
“How many of you would like to play in the NHL someday?” Invariably, most of the boys raise their hand. And who would blame them. Playing in the NHL is a goal that most young hockey players have dreamt about at some time in their childhood.
My next question is often the following: “How many of you believe that, if you really work hard, you could make it”? Some hands stay down on this one but many of them keep than hand up with passion and energy.
I never want to discourage kids from aspiring to become an NHL player. However, the reality is that many are called but very few ever make it. The NHL is not a career that we choose but one where you are chosen.
One can decide to become an engineer or a lawyer or a fireman or policeman. If grades aren’t good enough or if you change your mind, you can always change your path and “decide” to follow a different course. Becoming a professional athlete is quite a bit different.
The statistics are pretty astounding: The NHL Entry Draft is held every year for teams to select players who are the very best in the world. They must be 18 years old by September 15th of the draft year. The draft is almost World Wide now because approximately 40% of NHL players come from Europe, the other 60% come from North America.
The “bench mark” to be considered a legitimate NHL player is 250 games, or about 3 seasons. In the ten years going from the 1998 draft to the 2007 draft, 2640 players were selected by NHL teams. From that total, only 256 players played 250 games in the NHL or 9.7%. If we round up, 10% of the best prospects in the world become NHL players.
The percentage increases if a player is drafted in the early rounds. In the same time period, 295 players were first round selections, 117 played 250 games or 39.7%. If a player was drafted in the top three rounds, the percentage drops by half to 19.6%.
Does it mean that kids shouldn’t have the dream of playing in the NHL? Absolutely not! Competing and being part of a team is a great development path. I encourage kids to search for another passion however. I tell them: "Find something within yourself that you have an interest in or that you’re good at. Everybody has it within himself. Whatever it is that you eventually do in your life, if you have a passion for it, the dream of being a professional athlete will vanish and you will immerse yourself in the pleasure of accomplishment”.
It’s so important to have fun, compete and be the best that they can be. I refer to the pyramid concept. The bottom of the pyramid is wide and counts millions of hockey players who play youth hockey all over the world. As you move up the pyramid fewer players participate and the skill level is much better and the competition to make the teams becomes much fiercer. When you arrive to the middle of the pyramid, that’s when you have a chance to make it. The best thing you can do then is to prepare yourself, to be the best that you can be physically, mentally and competitively. Give yourself a chance to be CHOSEN.
One of those days, I’ll tell you how I became a professional goalie in the NHL. It’s quite a story…stay tuned
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)