like they are a contender at training camp. Sometimes optimism can get the best
of us before the hard dose of reality can set in. Every league has a set of
favorites before the first puck is dropped.
There is one common
denominator within the heart of just about every championship team; confidence
and unconditional faith in the system. It takes more than just talented players
and just about any mega-rich guy can spend his money on hired guns to be a
competitor. In most cases, it is the team that did not take the shortcuts that
get to raise the cups.
How to make a champion
are good owners and there are great owners. The guys that provide a great
foundation for a coach to work with are the same guys that get to kiss the
Support- The team
needs an iron clad support staff and diehard supporters that will go down with
the ship if needed.
Coaching- The right
guy can make all the difference. Championship caliber coaches are made at championship
winning programs. Talking about winning and having the experience to actually
do it are entirely different animals. The coach needs to have confidence in the
players he brought to the table and be able to actually coach them through the
Chemistry- It only
takes a single floater in the punch bowl to keep everyone from drinking the
Kool-Ade. Coaches need to select guys that are going to fit into the system and
get along with the rest of the group. The programs that create a family
atmosphere often experience a high degree of success.
the guy signing the checks, to the coach and to the team captain, the leaders
of the team are always going to be the most important component of a champion.
cannot be taught or bought. It has to be installed at the first day of training
camp and reiterated all along the way with practice, patience, and execution. A
champion goes the distance expecting to win.
In 1990-1991, the
Anchorage Aces formed a team to compete at USA Hockey's National Championships
and managed to win the hardware. In 1992 and 1993, the team worked itself to
both finals, only to come up short. In 1994, everything was in place for the
club's second championship. 1995 saw the third 2nd place finish. During these
years, I learned about the difference between a champion and contender.
In 1995-96, I
skipped out on the Aces move to pro hockey to help jump start a new junior
program in Alaska. Because the closest junior teams were in Seattle or British
Columbia, we played an entire season against the strongest adult men's teams that Alaska had to offer. We begged USA Hockey's Dave Tyler to allow us to enter the
"B" tournament, but he would have none of it and forced us into the
"C". He can't say we did not warn him. Our team headed to Pittsburgh
with confidence and a roster choke full of guys with "A" level
experience. We leveled the competition and cruised to the championship.
Today, every player
on that team can reach back to that season for an easy smile. I am still very
proud of that group, a perfect mix of leadership, talent, and confidence.
There is an old
saying that you can't teach old dogs new tricks. I have a better one. A few old
dogs can teach the younger ones all kinds of new tricks.
Carry on with your
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