The Potential of Late Bloomers

Just a few quick thoughts on the mindset of youth hockey. I have heard at least 10 parents, players and coaches claim that a 14-year-old kid is the best player in the world—or at least North America. Pretty ridiculous. Everyone in youth hockey is so concerned and preoccupied with the best player at his or her age group: Who has the most points, who is going to play junior early, who is being scouted.

This emphasis on the “best” seems to push the fun out of the game, causing kids that may mature later physically and skill-wise to question their place in the game. I would guess many potential late bloomers even quit when faced with this onslaught of pedestal rising at such a young age. Meanwhile, at NHL training camps, teams are stressing patience and slowly bringing prospects forward. So why can a group of people—NHL executives—with more than 100 collective years of professional experience look past point production or speed because they see something in a player that a Midget team can’t?

I just finished reading an article on Tyler Bozak, who plays for Toronto. He is slated to be the first line center this year next to Phil Kessel. Bozak is two years older than Kessel and went undrafted because he was 5’9″ at age 18; it took him until the age of 24 to see his first games. Kessel was lighting it up in the NHL while Bozak was still playing Junior hockey. Yet Coach Ron Wilson thinks Bozak can produce 60 points or more this year. What if Bozak saw Kessel on TV and, instead of dreaming of playing on the same line, became dejected that he was only in the Juniors and gave up? This is one of many examples of two different roads leading to the same destination.

The people you meet, the places you get to see and the experience of going through the ups and downs of being part of a team is what the game is all about. So don’t try to rush yourself into the NHL at the age of 12—or beat yourself up because you don’t have as many points as Jordan from the rival team. Enjoy each game, give it your all and if you enjoy lacing them up, then stick with it. You never know what back-door route will take you to the NHL, and if you don’t make it, then you most definitely had a lot of fun along the way. I certainly did.

Hockey is a lifelong game that will give you immediate friendships at every turn. If you can skate and shoot, you can join the nearest adult league and become an instant member of the hockey brotherhood anywhere in the world there’s ice.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Brett Henning of Score100goals.com for this story.

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