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Daily Dish: You Are Not On The Team Yet - Junior Hockey News

Published: Sunday, 11 Oct 2020  
By: Stephen Heisler,

“My son is heartbroken that he was released after training camp!”

Yes, that is happening now, and it will continue for the next several weeks. When it comes to free-to-play junior, college, and pro hockey.... there are no promises. Making the team, and maintaining that roster spot, is always conditional. The coach is ALWAYS looking for upgrades and players below are always seeking opportunities to take that spot from whoever is there now. 

That is the constant with this game, with or without COVID.

New junior hockey parents always struggle with the harshness of these facts. After years of playing at the AAA, or even prep level, it’s difficult to comprehend the honest reality of the very competitive environments. 

Yes, families are dealing with life as commodities after years of being the customer. 

What does that mean?

AAA teams recruit and sign players with an eye on having enough players to cover the expenses first before worrying the competitive make-up of the team. Pay-to-play junior hockey, in most seasons, are the same.

So it can be very disruptive for any player that gets comfortable with a new team at training camp without realizing that a third of the players won’t be there next week. “Not me, coach talked on the phone and said he was excited to have me there.” No, the coach did not lie to him, he did not mislead him, nor did he give the player false hope. 

Every practice, every game, and every interaction with the community, is a “try-out” all the way through to the trade deadline date. Skating on the second line and getting power play time? Don’t get big-headed and think you “made-it.” Nothing could be further from the truth. That coach has another line and a pile of healthy scratches just waiting for the opportunity to take the slot. The coach gets five phone calls every day from advisors like me regarding about players that are ready to make the jump…all they need is a single practice to prove what he has to offer.

Players that have secured an early season roster spot are not in position to be too comfortable or overconfident. It is not the time to think outside of the box or elect to do your own thing. There are many outstanding players that will find themselves on the outside looking in by Thanksgiving. Why is that? Because the coach discovered the inability to trust that player. Yes, sometimes it’s best to play within the system the coach is looking for. Taking a risk will occasionally result in a glorious reward, but all too often the result is an extended period of time pulling splinters from the backside.

Then there are the twinemiders. The goalies are in the worst position right now. Let’s face it, there is not much difference between an .870 and .920 save percentage. But there is. It can be the difference for a current North American Hockey League goaltender to be sent down to the NA3HL or moved up to the United States Hockey League. That’s a hard pill to swallow and that word trust sneaks back into the equation.

Opportunities are what they are…opportunities. It is absolutely up to each player to make the most of them.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.
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