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Even After Year with Little Hockey, Players Still Need an Offseason

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI, 04/05/21, 3:45PM CDT


Players shouldn’t feel like they need to make up for lost time

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – The past year hasn’t allowed kids many opportunities to play hockey. 

With shortened seasons now wrapping up and the fall seemingly a long time away, hockey is still on the minds of athletes.

AHAI Coach-in-Chief Jim Clare stressed that young players shouldn’t go overboard with hockey in the spring and summer to try and make up for lost time.

“Most people are in the same boat,” Clare said. “You aren’t missing out if you are getting involved with your baseball, lacrosse or taking vacation and staying away from the rink. In fact, it’s probably not a bad thing to do, give yourself a little break from all that craziness we went through.”

Since the pandemic started, kids have had to miss out on chances to spend time with their families. Now is the time to go do activities that weren’t allowed last summer.

“You couldn’t go see grandma. You couldn’t go see your aunts and uncles or whatever,” Clare said. “So, take advantage as things open up now and you can do more of that to make that the priority, because that’s what’s most important.” 

In short, athletes should treat this year like a normal year and players shouldn’t go out of their way because they missed playing hockey last fall.

“Take advantage of the warm weather, get outside and socialize with other people besides hockey people — expand your sphere of influence and your friendships,” Clare said. 

“Maybe a camp here or there, maybe once or twice a week kind of an attitude, but don’t let hockey get in the way of anything else,” Clare said. “In the spring and summer if you’re playing baseball or playing lacrosse and doing other things, those come first. Hockey is missed if it conflicts, as opposed to probably what you do in the fall and wintertime, where hockey is the predominant thing and other things get missed. It’s kind of reverse mentality a little bit.”

Gino Cavallini, the president and hockey director for the Chicago Mission, said it’s a good idea for athletes to stay active in the summer, whether that’s in hockey or a different sport. 

“If your kids are having fun doing something, let them do it,” Cavallini said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be hockey, but if it’s hockey, that’s OK.” 

Every kid is different when it comes to which sport or sports they are passionate about. 

“There’s kids, all they want to be is on the ice — they love being on the ice. Do you not let them skate?” said Cavallini, who grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and played in the NHL for nine seasons. “My advice is, if there’s a good crossover sport where some of the same principles apply, like hand-eye coordination, then have at it. It’s not going to hurt, that’s for sure.”

Added Clare: “Make sure they’re active in other sports, becoming better athletes. That message always needs to be sent, because that will only help you be a better hockey player and help you come fall to be ready to go and get on the ice and be excited to get on the ice again.” 

Clare doesn’t think it’s a bad idea during the offseason for hockey coaches to reach out to their players on a regular basis. Coaches should convey to the players to keep the summer as normal as possible.

“I think the communication from the club and the coach to their players about spring and summer with thoughts and ideas, ways that they can keep active,” Clare said. “If they have some good off-ice planning and drills and things they can do at home, they should be sharing those.” 

Some hockey clubs started conducting off-ice Zoom sessions during the pandemic, and it could be a wise decision to keep that going this offseason. 

Those meetings can keep kids on track and focused on the right areas.

“We’re not telling you, ‘Don’t go on the ice for three months,’” Clare said. “But we’re telling you to make sure your priorities are organized the right way for that offseason time frame.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.