A short break away from tech posts this morning as I look back at the weekend in Plymouth, Minnesota…

It’s always nice to get out of the Valley and go to an area where hockey is King.  Perhaps a little disheartening to realize that what we call “AA” hockey in Arizona is only B hockey in another region of the country. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that Minnesota is not a strict adherent to USA Hockey rules. Minnesota uses school years instead of birth years to divide age groups. Minnesota doesn’t throw around bonus letters–AA is for the truly elite, such as hockey academies like Shattuck-St. Mary’s. A is for most areas top players, more akin to our Arizona AAA. B is subdivided into B1 and B2, traditionally used like Major (B1) and Minor (B2) — somewhere between Valley AA and A. C is for more rec-minded players, a cross between our B and House. Our decision, with a little guidance from friends in the Minnesota “know” was B2.

Due to our team being a very young 2000 birth year team, two-thirds of the kids seventh grade–born or after August 27th, that part of our team would have actually qualified as Peewee by Minnesota rules. So, we had Julian, born 12/31/2000, playing against two players the Wayzata B2 White team born in Fall 1998–two tenth graders playing against a seventh grader. Most shocking part of that: we beat the Wayzata team 3-2.

Our team was in their games from a competitive standpoint, at some point leading into the second period of two of our three games. Even the third game found us playing a dynamite third period…unfortunately a horrendous first period put us severely behind eight ball against a solid Minnetonka team.  Our goaltending was solid, highlight reel saves for my son he got peppered with close to 40 shots the first two periods alone against Minnetonka, after facing 30-plus shots from Ames on Friday night, standing strong.

Our problem isn’t talent. We have a very talented bunch of individual players. Many strong, skilled skaters comprise our team, along with two solid goalies. Our problem is heart. It has looked, in the early going, like some of our players just simply don’t care to put a full, sincere effort forward at gametime. Lackluster skating, blind passes to the other team, coasting after other team as they storm towards our goalies, watching the puck as though it’s a rare bird meant to be watched and studied instead of hustled after and controlled.

This isn’t to say all of our players do this all of the time. We have a number of kids that give 115 percent from first puck drop to final horn. But after a while, those kids start to notice some of their teammates lack the pride, motivation, and spirit–the heart, to match their efforts, and they become angry and disheartened that their hard work and effort is going for naught because their teammates are killing the momentum necessary to win hockey games.

I’m not sure of the solution. You can coach a lot of things, but how do you coach heart and desire?

Time to hit the shower and get ready for our last game…more hockey thoughts after the game…