Networking is basically the process of meeting the right people or establishing mutually beneficial relationships with other people. Now, this is usually thought about more purposefully and often approached with intent in business, but I hope you know by now that hockey is also a business. This means that all of the hockey people you know are in your network. That includes those kids you played with in squirts, that kid or coach you met at that tryout camp, that coach you had for that summer team, or that dad you met watching the game in the hotel bar at that away tournament on the team you never even played. Coaches grew up playing, so they have had a lifetime of making hockey connections playing and coaching. I’ll let you sit with that for a minute, and we’ll come back to it.
People have a natural tendency to go with the known over the unknown. If a coach has a choice between two players of equal skill, for example, and he knows one of them, chances are pretty good he’ll take the one he knows. If he doesn’t know either of them and he has the opportunity or the time, he will ask around to see if any of his contacts know either of them. This explains why you hear people say that so-and-so got on that team because they knew someone or why you hear people say that it’s all about who you know. It can be a difference maker.
My own player has been asked numerous times if he knows any insert position here, or he has gotten calls from coaches who have heard through the grapevine that he might be available. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence at all. Many players get on teams this way. People tend to stick with like-minded individuals, so if that player is a good fit for the team, chances are good his friends would be, too. Players and coaches both share other players’ names. (They also share bad stories, too...let’s not forget that!)
Now think back to all of those hockey people you know. Maybe your current D partner ends up behind the bench of a team where he meets other coaches or runs into other guys you played with. Maybe that kid you were best friends with in U16 ends up running a popular summer camp. Maybe your sister ends up marrying a guy she met in college on the other side of the country who also happens to be a hockey guy. Now maybe it’s 30 years later, and your own player is thinking about junior hockey and you don’t know what the current landscape is, but you remember your old D partner who is currently coaching a team. Are you thinking differently about all these hockey people you are meeting yet?
These connections happen much more naturally in hockey compared to the business world, especially for players, and the bond created with a new connection when you have hockey in common is stronger than it would be if you were just an insurance guy meeting a plumber, but I think this is an overlooked skill our players are learning. I also think it is an overlooked benefit to attending a tryout camp or a combine or showcase. Of course, it shouldn’t be the only reason to spend a bunch of money travelling, but I do think if you are attending an event already, you should take full advantage of the opportunity and not spend all the down time in your hotel room by yourself. Have a little fun and grab lunch or dinner with the new people you met or hang out in the lobby with some of the guys at that camp or showcase. Exchange contact information and stay in touch because you never know when your paths may cross again.
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