For every player it is something you do not want to do. Watching your team from the bench, play every game, knowing that the possibility of you being on the ice could change the outcome of the game. For me, it was my first year of professional hockey. The chance of being on the ice was minimal because of the level of the players we had in our lineup night in and night out. It was something that I was not used too, watching games. Wanting to be out there helping your team to win games, but being unable to due to coach’s decisions. I had games where I would dress for warm-up then told that I wasn’t going to be in the lineup tonight. Very tough words to hear from a coach, words that no player wants to hear, but you hear about it every day from the minor’s all the way to the top, in the NHL.
This is a point in a player’s career that makes them question everything, whether they want to play or not, whether they are good enough, whether they can make it further or not. It decides what a player is made of deep down and whether they can go to battle or not. Some players are handed everything, first line, power play you name it, but others have to catch breaks, work hard and consistently prove themselves to the coaches and scouts who watch. I’m not saying that these top players don’t work hard, don’t get me wrong, but I am trying to preach to others who feel that the battle for them to get on top is much greater, that they have to dig a little deeper to prove themselves.
Back to my story, after healthy scratching for seven games on and off the first half of the season I caught a break. One of the defenseman on the team got offered a very good job outside of hockey that he could not turn down. This is the opportunity I was looking for, the opportunity to be consistently in the lineup and prove myself night after night. Although I had been in a rotation of healthy scratches with a few other defensemen, we all saw this as an opportunity to play, usually the opportunity a hockey player waits for. Although you never want to see a man go down to injury or leave for another reason, it’s a door open, an opportunity for you to jump on and advance your own career. I tried to take advantage, getting opportunities on most nights and trying to put myself into a position to be a regular player, to be a reliable player. As the year ended I felt good about myself, I felt like I could belong in the league, like I could make the jump if I got the opportunity.
Sitting out that year probably taught me the best lesson in hockey, when given a chance take advantage of it and leave no room for regrets. As my father always told me, “just think of working a regular job every day” take advantage of the life of a professional hockey player, because it doesn’t last long, and I did. I ended the year strong and the next year was offered a new contract, a new opportunity only this time it was different, this time I was too be one of the guys on top, the power play guy, the top line guy and I made sure to take advantage of it. After this season, it totally changed me as a player. I developed my game and found my niche in the game of hockey. I was able to take advantage of an opportunity and make it into something that further helped my career.
In the end you have to be willing to sacrifice and battle through adversity in order to achieve your ultimate goal. Many players take a different road but most players has to be there time, clock in minutes sitting on the bench, but it’s those who are able to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented and do as much as possible to make it easy on the coach for his decision. It’s hard to sit a player down when they give it their all for a full shift, for a full game and as a player when you leave the ice knowing that you did everything you could, you will not go home with regrets, you will know that you saw opportunity and went out there and proved yourself and left it all out there and it is out of your hands what happens next. So if sitting on the bench isn’t what you want, seize the opportunity to be better and to prove yourself when it comes, don’t let it slip by, do whatever it takes. Leave no room for regrets!
About the Author,
Ryan Fairbarn is a former professional hockey player, a Rochester Institute of Technology graduate, founder of RyanFairbarn.com and Co-owner of Swedishstickhandling.com. Also a Well Coach and Director of Marketing and Social Media at Ideal Weight- Total Well Coach.