My son is playing in the Gold Mites level. I was lucky I had some free time (yeah – lots of free time!) and was able coach his hockey team this year.
We started off with a bunch of terrible hurdles. First, the draft for the team left us as far, far weaker than the other team in our town. Several of our players were extremely poor skaters. Then, 3 weeks after the draft, the player I had drafted first – by far our best player – left the team to go play for a more advanced program. All of a sudden a bad team was a terrible team. I had never played or coached hockey before, so I didn’t really have much knowledge on what to do in practice.
The team started off as one of the worst teams in the league. We won only 1 of our 6 games preseason games. Many times our kids were in tears after the games – they are only 7-8-9 years old so these losses hurt. And we were getting smoked in game after game after game.
We were fortunate enough to have what appears to be the best 8 year old goalie on the planet. The little dude can stand on his head. One game he stopped 29 shots on goal. We lost that game 3-0, because we only had 2 shots on goal for the whole game. Even his awesomeness ended up working against us in the beginning, because we were seeded in a higher division due to our single win and low goals against. We lost our first 6 games in the regular season, for a total of 1-11 to start the year.
I a huge proponent of maximum effort. Trying, getting a little bit better, doing things wrong instead of not doing anything – the kids probably thought I was crazy for praising them for trying so hard when we were getting killed in games.
If you raise kids, or want to simply be better at things yourself, YOU MUST READ THIS ARTICLE. My kids are thriving in school due to praising for effort and not good work or intelligence. I used this with the kids on the team a bunch during this season.
After the holidays, things started turning around a little bit. We scored a few goals, which was a big deal for us. We started playing in the opposing teams zone far more frequently, even when we were losing.
Then, something happened for the playoffs. I don’t know what happened or why, but the team got much better as soon as the playoffs started. It’s like they learned everything we tried working with the kids all year in the last 2 weeks of the year. We won our first two games of the playoffs, which was the first time we won two games in a row. We then tied a team which had beaten us by 5 and 6 goals in the regular season. We lost our last game of the playoffs 5-2 – which put us in a tie for 2nd place in the playoffs.
We made it into the finals by winning a tiebreaker rule for the most goals scored! This was a team which only scored 5 goals during the first 10 games.
So we made it to the finals – where we played the team which beat us 5-2 in the game just before. This team had beaten us 2 times during the regular season, plus the 5-2 loss they handed us in the playoffs. Now, I felt we had “won” that last game in lots of ways – we controlled the puck for more time, had more shots, dominated with passing and played great all around. But we lost 5-2. It’s like that in hockey sometimes.
So, we play them in the championship game. I gave the kids a speech straight out of “Miracle” on this one. Told them we had beaten them the game before, but the score didn’t show it. That the way to win the game was to win your shift, win the puck battles. Go after the puck and be aggressive, play your position (which is very, very hard for 8 year olds).
The game was scoreless until 1:23 to go in the third period. Yep, the championship game was 0-0 for over 30 minutes (11 minute periods for the 8 year olds). It was an awesome game – our goalie blocked a penalty shot, there were tons of shots and great defensive plays.
Then, one of our defense passed the puck out of the corner to his twin brother who was standing in front of the goal, and he just shot it in!
1:23 later, the game is over. We won!
So Congratulations to the Oak Park Huskies Gold Mites 1 team! You should be proud of your hard work.