There are so many great things to love about hockey. The ice, the goals, the friendships and the lessons learned.
But one of those hardest lessons learned can come by way of one of the more difficult and disliked aspects of playing sports: getting cut.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s the toughest couple of days of the season for us,” said Aaron Johnson, head coach of the Buffalo boys’ varsity team. “I know that it’s hard for me, and it’s nothing compared to what the kids and the family are going through. But still, it is really tough for us when you have to make those decisions.”
There are only so many roster spots per hockey team, and not everyone can always be the top player on the A squad. While it might be hard to look past the disappointment in the moment and not have a skewed vision heading into the season, there are so many other areas to focus on in order to grow and improve throughout the year.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Johnson says of a player’s development path. “There are examples all over the hockey world of things that did not work out or pan out perfectly for players.
“Instead of looking at it as if their careers are over or their season is ruined, they have a growth mindset to communicate with the coach and ask questions with the coaches about things they can improve on. That’s the biggest thing.”
Johnson points to a former Buffalo player who didn’t make the varsity team as a sophomore, forcing him to play with the Junior Gold team. Fast forward to his junior and senior seasons, “he was a big part of our varsity program in the last few years.”
A player who takes control of his or her destiny with support from mom and dad will find success down the road. Not to mention, sometimes it opens the door for new opportunities and roles within a team. Think about it: Would you rather be on the fourth line with limited ice time on a top team or find a home on the first or second line with special teams appearances on a B or C team?
“Sometimes it might allow you to be more of a leader in that group,” said Johnson. “Maybe you’re the lead player on the power play, or you’ll be put in both penalty killing and power play situations where, if you were on a higher team, maybe you wouldn’t get that experience.
“It’s OK to be the best player on a team that might not be what you deem the best.”
Johnson also urges players and family to remember that a cut is never made from a personal standpoint.
“We all understand the time, energy and effort, the character of our kids, and how the family is building them into a hockey player,” he said. “It’s an extremely difficult thing when you are making those decisions. But you have to try to make decisions that you think are best for your program, and a lot of times, although the kids and families might not feel at the time that decision was right, or it might not be the one they are looking for at the time, it in fact might be the best one for their development.”