Despite what was showing on the outside, I think a lot of folks were hopelessly optimistic in 2020 until they found out it was too late. Most of us assumed it was all temporary, we thought we would just take a small hit, tighten the belt a little, and then recovery would happen naturally, but that isn’t what happened. We saw teams fold, camps and events get cancelled, seasons start and stop, and prices increase, many times at the last possible minute because those in charge were holding out hope for as long as possible that things would just work out.
I don’t think things are going to just work out naturally this year either, nor do I think things will just go back to the way they were for the 21-22 season. I think this is a transition year in which we will get closer to a new normal, but not quite there. I think more games will be played, I think we might lose a few more teams, and I think there will be a lot more rules to follow. I think most of hockey will continue to try to make this next season as normal as possible, but I think there will still be some snags.
I think it’s hard to come back from something like this, and I think for some, it will take longer than others. You first have to accept the situation and take inventory. While many did that this year, there are still plenty of folks out there who are still acting as if this is just a temporary belt tightening and that things will magically just go back to the way they were. Not going to happen. This was a whack upside the head with a 2x4, and those who chose to accept that right away are on their way to recovery, and the rest are still floundering along. Sure, there are probably some setbacks or bumps in the road along the way, but it’s far easier to adjust the plan than it is to try to fly by the seat of your pants.
So how do you make the best of that? The biggest thing you can do as a player is to change your mindset and make a plan to focus on your development. You can’t control the leagues or teams or what happens with the virus, which means you can’t focus on games or stats or standings, but you can focus on improving anything you do have control over. Work on your individual skills. Treat drills like game situations (you should be doing that anyway). Act as if a scout is watching because he may be since he can’t go to games either, and video isn’t always enough. Work on your skating. If you can’t go to the indoor rink, look for an outdoor rink or a frozen lake, and if it’s too warm, use inline skates on a tennis court. If you want this, you need to do what you need to do with no excuses. Mine has travelled to different states for ice and worked out with gallon jugs as weights and shot pucks in the driveway. A little shut down for a virus doesn’t mean you take days off. The high end guys are NOT taking days off no matter what.
This might mean you are playing on a “lower” level team than you had planned on or hoped for. It might mean you are on a team with a roster carrying so many guys they barely fit on the ice during practice. Newsflash, it’s not some hockey utopia elsewhere this year, and it won’t be next year either. Jumping from team to team, even with a “perfectly good reason,” makes you look like someone who can’t handle things when they get tough, or maybe you have an attitude problem, or maybe you think you are a better player than you really are. You have to quit worrying about the status of the team you play for and start working on your skills to get you to the next level no matter where you are.
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