Congrats on your Winter Season! I hope that you had fun and that you really enjoyed your teammates. Now we move on to spring.

The decision to play Spring Hockey rarely occurs at springtime. In fact, it usually happens months ahead. So, whether you are playing Spring Hockey or not … let’s chat about how you can maximize your time on and off the ice.

If you are playing Spring Hockey, enjoy the process. Once we commit to a team, we follow through on that commitment to our teammates. Commitment is not just putting in the time or showing up; commitment means that I arrive, fully there. Emotionally, mentally and physically, I bring my best game and my highest energy. 

However, our time spent away from the ice is a very different story. My recommendation is that players who are playing hockey for ten months a year need to be replenishing the fuel tank. Finding ways to create some down time, away from the team, is critical. NHL players learn quickly how to downshift their high energy in order to retain longer careers. We all need to find time to vegetate, to throttle down… to stop having to perform. 

In fact, I am quite interested in discovering the diversity of methods people employ to downshift. Some NHL players relax at the movies; others watch TV or play golf. In my day yoga wasn’t really on the radar, but for today’s players it is a great relaxation option. Early in my NHL career, when I played for the Washington Capitals, we didn’t have the luxury of today’s private charter flights, so many of us passed the time reading books (there were no tablets or smart phones) in countless airports while waiting for the next flight. And of course, the great Winston Churchill read the newspaper in the bathtub. How will your young athletes relax?

Downshifting is an essential part of high performance, enabling us to restore our ability to perform in the future. One relaxing activity that can benefit players and parents alike is reminiscing. According to British researchers, feeling nostalgic about the past increases optimism about the future. Happy memories increase self-esteem and help shift our thought process from negative to positive. It is a great idea for players and parents to shore up memories of minor hockey and even display reminders like photos, trophies, and tournament mementoes prominently to trigger those memories during the off-ice season, and in later seasons of life.

In the following excerpt from the book I co-wrote with Mike Johnston, entitled Simply the BEST: Players on Performance, one of the questions I asked Sidney Crosby was:

Was there something about the experience of minor hockey that sticks out for you?

“I have nothing but great memories. It’s even fun sometimes just to think about it. I was so fortunate to play on winning teams every year. We played in provincials and Atlantics and all those types of tournaments. There are guys that I played with or against who are now either playing in the AHL or the NHL. You don’t think about it at the time, but it’s just fun to look back and remember those experiences. It was mostly the same group of kids in my first year and second year at every level of minor hockey growing up and it was fun to be around those kids. We all played either hockey or baseball together; it was a fun way to grow up, for sure.”

Sid fondly remembers the people he played with. That is, perhaps, the most important part of the minor sports experience. 

About The Author

Ryan Walter played more than 1000 games over 15 NHL seasons. Drafted second overall by the Washington Capitals (where he became the NHL’s youngest captain), Ryan won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens before finishing his playing career as a Vancouver Canuck...CONTINUE.

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