Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ex-coach: Depression, anxiety among factors in players leaving

It happens every August as WHL teams get their training camps rolling.
Some veteran players don’t show up. For one reason or another, they decide to move on to other things.
A lot of these players would be going into their 20-year-old seasons. Are they tired of the grind? Are they concerned about getting caught up in the 20-year-old game and its uncertainties, with each team being allowed to keep only three of them?
Some of the departing players are younger, perhaps feeling the impact of injuries or not wanting to be away from home anymore.
One former WHL coach wonders if this is just a sign of the times.
“Kids in general today do not have the same character required by people who have been in the game for 20-plus years,” he said. “Players have changed; managers, owners, coaches have not.
“The idea of ‘earning’ something seems to have gone by the wayside. Once a player gets drafted, it’s expected by the player, parents and agent for the ‘team’ to make him a player. (That is) unfortunate, but very true.”
This former coach also pointed a finger at the rigours of being a major junior hockey player.
These days, hockey at this level offers little in the way of down time. As a result, he said, “Players are getting worn out by pushing themselves in the off-season. Whatever happened to playing another sport?”
He suggests that hockey’s push to being a year-round sport has taken a lot of the “fun” out of the game.
“It’s a game,” he said. “But we do not treat it like a game. It’s all or nothing. TSN thrives on the business and compete part of the game. Rogers will do the same. It’s big business in the CHL.”
The former coach also touched on a couple of things that don’t get a whole lot of play in the hockey world.
“Depression and anxiety play a huge part in all of this,” he said. “The stress and pressure for a player to reach his ‘potential’ is a lot of times insurmountable. When you have been the best from 10-15 (years of age) in a small pool, expectations become unrealistic. Jump in the big pool, and the sharks eat you.”
It all adds up to a lot of burnout and pressure, he said, adding that “I would easily say that 75 per cent of players in the entire pool of players fall because of unrealistic expectations.”
Another former WHL coach wonders if some players who leave before their 20-year-old seasons would stay if they had no-trade clauses.
“The 20-year-olds don’t want to be suitcases and would like to play but not get traded,” he suggested. “As you have seen over the years, there is that the glut of 20-year-olds at the start of the season and players get moved or dropped to junior A. The kids are smarter now and don't like it.
“If the WHL wants to change this, then they need to open up the 20-year-olds to five or maybe even seven, and then they won’t quit.”
The ex-coach also is of the opinion that such a move would only help the WHL’s product.
“It would give better value to the $20,” he reasoned. “I also think that this would help the NHL coaches coming to the WHL as they won’t have to do skills and progression drills . . . just systems.”
From time-to-time, there has been talk among WHL officials about increasing the 20-year-old roster limit. However, it won’t happen without support from the OHL and QMJHL and, to date, that support hasn’t been there.

G Brett Zarowny didn’t report to training camp with the Prince George Cougars. Zarowny, 19, was a third-round bantam draft pick in 2010. From Edson, Alta., Zarowny played two seasons with the Cougars. He was 9-19-0/3.74/.886 in 2012-13; last season, he went 3-10-2/4.23/.885. . . . A groin injury suffered in late November limited Zarowny to 17 games last season. . . . Cougars head coach Mark Holick told Taking Note that Zarowny “has decided to go to school.”
With Zarowny gone, it would appear that the top two goaltenders on the Cougars’ depth chart would be Ty Edmonds, 18, and Adam Beukeboom, 20, with Matt Kustra, 17, perhaps third. Edmonds got into 55 games last season, going 19-19-6/3.85/.887. With Zarowny hurt, Beukeboom came on to play in 14 games, going 5-8-0/4.25/.887. Kustra was an eight-round bantam draft pick in 2012.
The Cougars’ roster shows four 1994-born players, the others being F Chance Braid, F Jari Erricson and D Wil Tomchuk.
Holick told Taking Note that Erricson is in camp and has been cleared to participate. Erricson had one assist in four games last season before suffering a season-ending brain injury during a fight with F Jessey Astles of the Tri-City Americans on Sept. 22.
In 192 career games, the first 129 with the Everett Silvertips, Erricson, who is from Prince George, has 62 points, including 26 goals.
There is more good news in Prince George as F David Soltes, a 19-year-old Slovakian, is on the training camp roster. He had his freshman season ended by a knee injury after just 15 games. He had four goals and one assist in those 15 games.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed Russian F Pavel Skumatov, 17, who was their second-round selection in the CHL’s 2014 import draft. He is from Mescherskoye. The 6-foot-0, 165-pounder played for Vityazi Chekhov in the U20 MHL last season. He was one of the youngest players on his team and had two assists in 26 games.
Stay home, or hand over big bucks and go to the game. Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle has that argument with himself right here.

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