Once pre-season conditioning camps are complete the league goes full force into tryouts. Each player belongs to an organization such as the Maple Leaf Athletic Club. The designation for which club a player belongs to is determined by the zones in which they live. A player must first try out for their home club prior to skating with any other club. This is where the politics of hockey can get involved. A player who wants to jump ship must be released from their home club and enter into the city draft. The player will then contact the club they wish to try out for and have their proper release forms prior to stepping on the ice. So where do players go that don’t make the cut? They either keep trying out at other clubs or they drop down from AAA or AA into the zone league.
Hockey Parents are notorious for being overly supportive and sometimes live vicariously through their kid’s hockey “career.” The try out process is stressful for all those involved but it is easy to pick out the kids who have parents that are pushing them too hard. I was working a Bantam AAA try out session when a kid fell and twisted his knee. After assessing and starting treatment the overzealous hockey dad came barging onto the bench; which is a major NO NO! After the hockey dad questioned the severity of this son’s injury he proceeded to tell his kid that if he’s not in the hospital, then he has to get back on the ice. This is a form of verbal abuse and is not beneficial to the player’s mental or physical health. It is my job to be an advocate for my players and speak to the parents/coaches about what is acceptable behavior. In this instance the parent had to be informed that their behavior was inappropriate.
Once try outs are well under way coaches begin to look not only at skills but also at attitude and personality. I try to encourage players to keep a positive attitude and try their best; even if they feel they are having a bad day. My other major piece of advice to the players is to not jump the gun and cut themselves from a team prior to their one on one meeting with the coaches. This is a common form of self protection from rejection but you’re not cut until you leave the arena with a release form!
Emma Van Ulden, BPE