“As the regular season turns into the playoffs let’s take a minute to reflect on the season that was!”
Hockey coaches have said this countless times. I’m a big believer that to get where you want to go, you have to know where you came from. People play hockey for so many reasons but, like any sport, winning a championship is one of the biggest. The truth, though, is that every championship a team wins is the result of overcoming adversity. The inevitable ups and downs of a season bring a team together and force them to grow.
Jim Playfair has been a head coach in the NHL, AHL and ECHL and my friend and mentor of many years. After leading the Saint John Flames to a Calder Cup championship in the American Hockey League he became a popular speaker in his home province of British Columbia and Saint John. While preparing for these speaking engagements he spent a lot of time jotting down notes, stories and anecdotes about his team’s championship run, and it soon became obvious to Jim that it was really more about the journey than the trophy.
During his speeches, Playfair would talk about the travel and equipment problems they had early in the season. He spoke about individual players struggling in the first half of the year only to become stronger leaders the farther the team went in the playoffs. He often chuckled that he usually ended his speeches with “oh yeah and we ended up with the trophy!”
Sometimes in hockey we get so focused on the end goal we don’t fully appreciate everything we’ve already accomplished. I can’t think of a team that doesn’t set goals for itself at the start of a year, but how many ever revisit those goals? Are we noticing how much individual players have grown over the season?
As leaders we need to seek out and celebrate all kinds of victories like improvement in skating, increasing leadership or maybe just a team that has grown closer. Take that moment as a team, as a coach or as a player to reflect on the past year. How far have you come? As Jim Playfair said, it isn’t as much about the destination as it is about the journey. To go back to an old hockey truism, no team is ever the same. It just isn’t.
Players, coaches and managers move on for all different kinds of reasons. But before you do, don’t forget to fully appreciate the season that was.