In the first our our new series, we’ve had a submission from an anonymous player who wants to tell us about how soul destroying it can be to get your first senior call up and then ride the pine. He’s got the 4th Line Blues!
You hear it a lot when players get signed. “They will add great depth to our line-up”. In simple terms they will come in and play about 2-3 shifts a night.
Mostly this happens with young players. You leave Junior hockey and venture into the world that is senior hockey and there’s a good chance you will be stuck almost immediately on the 4th line. You may have been playing 18 minutes a game in the u18’s, played for the conference, England and GB but when it comes down to senior hockey you start from scratch.
So, it’s your 1st season on senior hockey. After you’ve played up a few times whilst as a junior you are now too old. You are 18.
You sign for a decent side as a defensemen. You are certainly not getting paid. Or, maybe they throw you £20 a week. Maybe. But, you might get your sticks, gloves and a helmet. Take what you are given.
You work hard in practice and try to do the right things. You quickly realise that this isn’t junior hockey anymore. People don’t do an off-ice warm-up, team mates have fags and drink some red-bull. But, there you are with your pre-made shake, banana and you are out stretching to get your mind right. You have to get up for the game.
Warm-up comes and you get the legs going. You’re feeling good. You feel comfortable and that’s the best time because it all feels natural. You get back into the room for a team talk with the coach. They will call the lines and there you are…
You are 8th/9th D-Man. Rotating with a 29 year old forward.
In those circumstances it’s difficult. You lose your focus. You lose your confidence. The game hasn’t started and you are already lost. The other team has won.
Now, this can go one of two ways. Either, you say “F*ck you coach I’m going to prove you wrong and play my bag off”. Or, you wallow in your head.
I was on the F*ck you side until you realise there comes a time when this mantra isn’t effective. No, matter what you do, nothing will change.
It’s difficult. If you speak up, you are regarded as a bad-egg in the locker room. You aren’t buying into the coach and questioning their ability. So, you ask the questions. You approach the coach and ask them what do you have to do?
“Keep working hard and bide your time”
At 18,19,20,21 we all what to be living the fast life. We want things to be now and in the present. We want to be rewarded for our efforts. Not some loose promise of ice-time.
Then it gets to around December. It’s either leave or stick with it. You can’t really leave to a better team because they wouldn’t take you because you haven’t been playing.
So, you go to a lesser team. Maybe drop down a league just for ice-time. Then people say you aren’t good enough or the coach says “He couldn’t hack it”. But, you start to enjoy and appreciate the game (when you get older that is) for what the game is.
Now, the fans probably don’t know what it’s like to be part of a winning team but sitting on the bench for that. It’s horrible. You walk into the locker room after a game. Everyone is physically tired and elevated. You can actually see the steam coming off their backs.
You on the other hand can pack your bag and not even have to think about washing your sweats. It’s like you weren’t even there.
It feels like you aren’t part of the team.
You’re an outsider.
You don’t feel happy you’ve won on the way home because you didn’t do anything. You didn’t make that pass, or take that hit. You just took up a line on the EIHA game sheet. Padding out your game ‘played’ on Elite Prospects.
Sitting on the bench is soul destroying. I wouldn’t wish it on my most hated enemy.
Huge thanks to our first contributing author (you know who you are!). We’ll be publishing this series around once a week (as long as we have submissions).
Hockey player or coach who would like to submit to the series? You can reach us on facebook, twitter or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We can publish the article with your name attached or not as you prefer.