Variety is the Spice of Life

As the level of hockey gets higher, so does the intensity of the recruiting process. Midget, prep, junior, college, and pro teams all recruit players for their rosters. While the offers are different at all levels (contract $$ at the pro level, scholarships for college, an opportunity to play in junior), the reality is that there is at least one person choosing how to build a roster and what types of players and people to fill that roster with.

There are thousands of choices when it comes to building rosters. What traits do you look for? What types of personalities? The list goes on, and regardless of level, you’re almost always sacrificing one thing in favor of another – the reality is that there is no “perfect” player.

One thing that I personally value in my roster is variety. Variety of playing styles, variety of personalities, but most importantly, variety of experience. I don’t want to have too many players from one specific background. This can be geographic, hockey, socio-economic, cultural, etc. The more breadth of experience I can add to my roster, the further enhance the experience of my players is going to be. When a young man who was born and raised in Boston and played prep hockey becomes close friends with a junior hockey player from Ontario, they have both grown as people. College is about growth and development both educationally and personally. By maintaing a diverse roster our players get to see and experience a wide variety of interests and points of view. They leave as better people with a much bigger worldview.

As a coach, a variety of experiences challenges me as well. I have to work to connect with people from different backgrounds, with different goals and different habits. It also creates a roster where there are many different players at our disposal to use in many different situations. A diverse roster brings in different playing styles and methods of play, further enhancing our ability to compete on the ice.

Variety truly is the spice of life. Surround yourself with people who are different. Challenge yourself to connect with others in new and meaningful ways. You will grow as a person (and as a hockey player).

Systems vs Players

Do you build a system to fit your players or do you get players to fit your system? Sounds a little like chicken vs egg to me.

When building a system of play for your team, it is critical that the players on your roster have an ability to play that system. For example, don’t play a system predicated on a high level of hockey sense if you have very little hockey sense on your roster. Similar ideas with other systems as well – don’t utilize a speed based, north/south system with a slow roster, etc.

At the same time, you should have a system of play that you believe is more successful than others and you should attempt to build your roster to fit this system. If you like to play an offensive cycle game, you should build your roster with big and strong forwards who can use their body to possess the puck down low. If your breakout is based upon defensemen who can skate and make quick puck decisions, you should have those types of players on your team.

The bottom line is that you need to use a little of both when determining what type of system to play. Figure out what you like and how you want to play the game and then tweak it to fit your personnel. The best coaches are the ones who can adapt their system to fit the team they have while at the same time trying to build the team they want.

Knowing vs Doing

A fantastic read on the Oakland A’s and what makes them successful year after year. A great lesson to be learned here: determine what it is that wins and stick to it despite all distractions and gut reactions. The game isn’t any different for anyone, but those that stick to their principles and build teams in the correct model will have continued success.


“There is more than one way to skin a cat” – old English proverb

Much like anything in life, there is more than one way to play the game of hockey. Different methods to teach the game, different styles of play, different theories on success. Is there one right way? Is one system better than others?

The answer is yes, there is one system that is better than others. That system is the one that everyone on the team buys into, believes in, and executes to the best of their abilities. The X’s and O’s of the system aren’t important, it is the buy-in and commitment that matters.

There is also a system that better fits your personnel. It is hard to say what that system is without knowing your personnel, but there are better ways to play the game based upon the players that you have.

Good coaches have a belief in the way that they play the game and the ability to get their players to buy in to that system. Good coaches recruit players that fit their system and style of play. Is there one system that wins every hockey game? No, but there is a system that is right for certain teams and players. Programs that find the right mix of systems and personnel are usually the ones lifting trophies at the end of the year.