Hard Work for Hockey
As an ex-hockey player, I have personal experience in dreaming of a professional hockey career. Penn State’s head coach, Joe Batista, once said to me “…the vast majority of kids have a better chance of becoming brain surgeons than playing in the NHL”. As much as youngsters don’t want to hear it, it is true.
Granted, the hockey gods have touched some players – Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Orr, Crosby, Ovechkin – to name a few. These players are rare. Generationally rare. Gordie Howe played in one era. Orr was in a different one. Gretzky and Lemieux followed, and Crosby and Ovechkin are todays generational hero’s. That said, Crosby and Ovechkin – those are merely two names in hundreds of thousands of kids who play the game worldwide. Two.
Even just making the league is difficult, let alone being a hockey icon. There are roughly 800 players in the NHL – the majority of who are destined to be journeymen with the constant influx of up-and-coming skilled players.
I played in a league with RJ Umberger a long time ago. It was evident, even at that age, that he was different from the rest of us. He was just better. With that being said, today he is an above average NHL player – a full time player, for sure, as he wear’s an “A” for the Blue Jackets, but most likely he’ll never win a scoring title or MVP.
That’s not to say hard work and perseverance don’t pay off – Martin St. Louis was never drafted, and this season he is currently the second leading scorer in the league.
The best advice for young kids is to keep their nose to the grindstone and always work hard – no matter how good they think they may be. If a youngster is leading leagues in scoring, he still needs to train hard during the off season. It takes hours and hours and hours of practice to even sniff professional hockey, let alone the NHL.