The count down is on.
I'm getting ready to hit the ice as the new coach of my eight-year old's house league hockey team and, yes, the ol' gut is grinding in nervous anticipation. It's actually not my first kick at the coaching can, but it has been 30 years since I was behind a minor hockey bench—and my last assignment ended in utter disaster.
In 1983, I was a 21-year old who'd just completed his final year playing Junior hockey. I was a goaltender, good enough to play Junior and college hockey, but never good enough to be anything other than a backup, and certainly not talented enough to turn pro. I can still remember, for instance, a meeting I had with one of my Junior coaches.
"Mike, when I watch you play goal, I'm reminded of a jet plane."
"Really? Is it because I'm so fast and powerful in the crease?"
"No...it's your goal's against average...7.47."
With stats like that, I decided that if I was going to make the NHL, I'd have to become a coach, myself. So, I promptly took the reigns of a Midget team of 15- and 16-year olds in my small Alberta hometown. Keep in mind, these guys weren't anything close to AAA calibre; just a bunch of friendly farm boys looking to play a little hockey and have a good time.
But I had other ideas.
Our team was hosting the Provincial 'C' tournament that season and I was determined to whip these suckers into shape. I skated them into the ice, screamed at them when they messed-up and even made them run around town in full hockey gear for extra discipline. Strangely enough, the lads didn't seem to enjoy this form of training and, at Christmas, even though we had a 13-1 record, the players and their parents got together and asked me to step down. I've got to be the only coach in history to get fired with his team 12 games over .500 but, truthfully, I deserved to be canned. Focused on my own selfish desires, I had totally misread the situation and was guilty of being way too overzealous.
Thirty years later, I like to think I've matured a bit and I've definitely given up on any dream of making it to the NHL. So, now, I'm heading back behind the bench to coach my eight-year old son's team. I guarantee they won't be forced to run around town in their hockey equipment. After all, we live in Toronto and the traffic can get kind of heavy.
Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to a fun season. In future blogs I'll keep you up-to-date on how things are going and I'll also be asking for your feedback when I inevitably hit a few road blocks along the way.
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