In life there are few things that are as important as one's integrity.
That also rings true in the game of hockey. Players and coaches alike are constantly facing situations where one's character, and reputation, is being challenged. We are going to talk about this subject today; this article is not about any one situation, but I want to present a few scenarios where making the right choice can have an enormous impact on the future.
The player is minimally recruited, by a number of pay-to-play junior teams, during his senior year of high school. His dream was always to play in the North American Hockey League but for one reason or another he simply never earns their attention.
The player is invited to a few different team camps and quickly realizes that these events are little more than piggy bank fillers for the teams' owners. After the first camp, he is contacted by a number of additional coaches from the tier III level. Most are promising the same thing; it's a shot at reaching junior "A" hockey.
After careful consideration, and discussions with his family, a player decides to sign with one of the teams in Montana. An agreement is signed and the team announces his addition to both local and national media. Even his hometown paper picks up the story.
A few weeks later the coach that convinced him that Montana was a great place to play leaves the team for the opportunity at a higher level play. The player's family is concerned about the situation but feels compelled to live up to their end of the bargain. The initial payment is made and the player begins to prepare himself for the upcoming season.
Then the phone starts ringing, teams from across the entire spectrum are making suggestions that the player not report to the team he is committed to.
Coaches that recruit players that have committed to other teams are simply garbage. These are the same guys that will badmouth other leagues, teams, and coaches without any reservation.
They will do or say anything it takes to convince the young men's family into breaking that commitment and joining the offending coach's team instead.
These are generally the same coaches that jump from league to league year after year. The same guys who will sign 25 players in the spring before adding 10 more after the close of Canadian Junior Hockey League and North American Hockey League camps, leaving 10 guys to fend for themselves.
We see it every year; a head coach will get away with it one year and be gone by the next.
The way I see it, if a player wants to make a move after making a commitment, let him go. Who wants those guys on the team anyway? Every player that does this forces all future coaches to take a much closer look at that particular player's character.
What about the coach who is doing the poaching? Junior hockey is like a small small town, it doesn't take long as the word is spread, these coaches quickly run out of friends, contacts, and future opportunities. Is it really worth it?
Maybe it's time that more value is placed on the character of a coach and less on his winning percentage. Maybe it's time to force the bad apples out of the game.
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