If you’re good, they’ll find you. You’ve probably all heard the saying, right? That isn’t really quite true. There is more to the story than that.
So I work for a large organization with locations across the country, several with much “better” weather than here in Minnesota. When my son was in youth hockey, there was a kid on his team from time to time that was towards the bottom of the pack. Great family, great kid, and he had fun playing hockey even though he wasn’t a star player. He still contributed to the team’s success in his own ways. One of the parents also worked for the same organization I did, so they decided to move to one of these states with “better” weather. There was hockey there, too, so they thought their kids would be happy with the move.
The kid ended up being a star player there. He scored goals like never before, and his teammates and coaches constantly praised his abilities. At first, the kid loved it. Of course, right? Sometimes a little worship is good for a kid’s self-esteem. After a while, though, the pressure of being “the star” player got to him, and he told his parents he wanted to keep playing, but not there. He knew he was only considered a good player because the competition was nonexistent. Since the parents were thinking about moving back anyway for a number of other reasons, this sort of sealed the deal.
If these parents didn’t know better, they might have just sat back and waited for those sweet, sweet offers to start pouring in. They might still be waiting. There are never going to be offers because scouts in that area know that when you take a kid from that organization and put him in a situation where he has to compete with kids from all over the world, the kid won’t stand a chance. Someone in the know might advise this family to get the kid on a team that offers more competition because they know that scouts go to where the players are.
Scouts only have 24 hours in the day like everyone else, so they are going to want to make the most of their available time. They’re going to look for players where they have had success before. That also means instead of hitting single games every night of the week, they’ll go to tournaments, showcases, and combines where they can see hundreds of kids in one weekend instead of 40 in one night. If they’re scouting for the USHL or NAHL, they’re going to look at teams and leagues where most of those players come from which means Minnesota high schools, Tier 1 AAA programs, and High Performance Elite League. They will look at a few other places, but most players come from there.
Even if you are in one of those leagues, that still doesn’t necessarily mean you can sit back and wait for things to happen, either. You need to put yourself out there by building relationships and going to showcases and combines. You need to show interest in the programs you are interested in and talk to your coach. Hockey is a small world, remember? Pretty good chance if the coach knows you want to play somewhere, if he doesn’t already know that coach, he can easily get connected to him with just one phone call. If you aren’t in one of those leagues, you can do the same thing--go where the scouts are and start building relationships.
Most junior hockey players have to do at least a little bit of marketing themselves or via an advisor because there are literally thousands of available players for each birth year.
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