So You Didn’t Make the Team – 4 Do’s, 2 Dont’s

Posted on August 15, 2022

The end of August marks the beginning of Major Junior, Junior ‘A’, and U18 Major camps across this fine country. Hockey Canada’s branches will announce their High Performance Program teams soon, or have done so already. DJHL tryouts have been announced for September 19-29 (click link for registration info).

Lots of players are going to hear their names called as members of teams; however, there will be more players cut from teams than making teams. This is the harsh reality of high-level sport, and the harsh reality of life in general – supply and demand. Everyone wants to make the Provincial team, or the QMJHL team. But there are more players trying out (demand) than there are spots (supply).

So you didn’t make the team – here are 4 Do’s, and 2 Dont’s.

DO – Ask for feedback. Some coaches will write paragraphs of feedback – others are more jot note style (person and situation dependant). If you have a ‘jot notes’ coach, feel free to ask for clarification or more information. At some levels, coaches won’t give you much (if any) feedback. When I was let go by the Halifax Mooseheads back in ’02, Marcel Patenaude didn’t exactly tell me how to get better. That said, I wish I had have asked.

DO – Focus on the feedback and use it to make you a better player. For example, if your coach says you need to work on skating, enlist in the services of a skating coach. If that’s too expensive, hit up YouTube and watch skating stride videos. Not great positionally? There’s free education on the TV every night (World Juniors, NHL, etc). Watch your position, see where they go with and without the biscuit.

DO – Return to Camp the Following Season. Just because you weren’t selected one year does not mean you won’t be selected the following year. A lot can change from one year to the next. Even if nothing changes and you get cut the next year, you learn a valuable life lesson – persistence – which can carry over into your future endeavours. I’ll use the example of Ryan Stacey aka ‘Squeak’ here. I don’t know how many times that guy asked for a job before Kavy and I gave him an interview in the summer of 2020. 2 years later and he’s with the Nashville Predators organization.

DO – Stay Positive. You might not have made Team A, but Team B might be rolling out the welcome mat for you. Maybe it’s best for your development to play Junior ‘A’ for a season as opposed to Major Junior. Maybe you didn’t make the team, but you had a tremendous camp and can use that positive energy towards your next challenge (yes, you can have a great camp and not make a team). How you frame a situation is completely up to the individual. Choose positive.

DON’T – Play the Blame Game. The first step to developing confidence is accountability. Blaming the evaluators, the refs, the line mates, the mayo at Subway, the density of the pillows at your billets, etc etc etc etc is NOT developing accountability. Look within. Did everyone have to sleep in the same dorm bed? If you’re a clear cut, bona fide star, do line mates really matter? Sidney Crosby played with Andrew Newton and Scott Nause in U15AAA and U18AAA respectively. 99.99999% of the people reading this do not know those guys, but Crosby made them look like NHL’ers every night. Trust me I know – my teams were always on the losing end of it (I’m 0-14 lifetime vs Crosby’s teams)!

DON’T – Give Up. I don’t like the term ‘fail’ in school. In my opinion, the term ‘fail’ is best described as an individual who gives up trying. That is all. Simple. Instead, there are 364 more days (opportunities) to get better until next years tryouts.

‘But AP the such and such a team is stacked at forward – I have no chance of making it next year either’. I’ve heard that one a time or three. What about at the trade deadline when X Y and Z get traded? What happens if you get exponentially better, and players E F and G get hurt? Don’t develop? You just never know what can happen year to year. Don’t look into a crystal ball – get the running shoes out and step back into the gym. Keep getting better – that’s all you can control.

Note to Parents*** – Do NOT let the blame game manifest itself into irrational choices. Before you go after the coaches job, fire your advisor, go on a profanity-laced tirade on Twitter and/or hire legal counsel (yes I’ve seen this), ask yourself these questions AFTER sleeping on it for a night. Take 24 hours.

“Even if this helps my son or daughter in the short term, what about the long term?”

“Can I use this cut as a way to help my son or daughter improve at the game of life (accountability/dealing with adversity/persistence)?”

“Is making this particular team life-altering? Does making this team make or break my kids hockey future?

The answer to the third question is NO and NO. There is no team that you ‘have to make’. If you don’t believe me, ask Teddy Purcell. Back when Ted and I were coming through the HNL HPP program, U17 Team Atlantic was the bees knees of teams. One of our coaches at the time even said – in a parents meeting – that making this Team Atlantic was the be-all, end-all team. Basically, if you didn’t make Team Atlantic, your chances of playing at the next level were nil.

Teddy Purcell played over 500 games in the NHL – he didn’t even make our U17 Provincial team, let alone Team Atlantic! There is no such thing as a team you HAVE to make. No team makes or breaks your son or daughter’s hockey future. If someone tells you otherwise, send them my way. Hockey takes you down a long and winding road, filled with twists and turns. For every Connor McDavid (astronomical rise to stardom), there are 100’s of Michael Ryder’s – guys who were treading water with the Mississippi Sea Wolves in the ECHL before getting a chance. Guys like the Toronto Maple Leafs Michael Bunting, who played 5 years in the ECHL/AHL before getting a sniff in the NHL. One team, one stepping stone, one stop sign along the journey.

Team Quebec – World U17 2001-02. Notably absent name – Patrice Bergeron. All the same, this was a very good and physical team