Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend about why in particular the northern states are such a hotbed for developing excellent ice hockey players. We knew the first obvious reason would–of course–be the weather (even though, *breaking news*, the north has a summer too…). We also realized other reasons for the difference could be the lack of ice time afforded to the players in southern states, higher prices in the south, etc. Though the list went on, I still couldn’t immediately settle on a conclusion that answered the question of why we don’t see more top tier Junior, Division I, and professional hockey players from the southern United States.
So I decided to write about it.
With the introduction of 2 NHL teams to the state of Florida (Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers) in the ‘90s, the Floridian hockey market has expanded at an incredible rate. Over the span of the last twenty years, we’ve seen increasingly more kids being introduced to the game and a lot of ice rinks being built all over the state. Andrew Yogan, a native of Boca Raton, was the first “Florida-raised” NHL draftee (drafted in 2010), and we can now see about five other Floridian players in the league, but why not more?
I realized there is no good reason we don’t see more top-tier hockey players from the southern United States. It’s not about weather, and it’s not about the money it costs to play the sport. Players in the south, particularly the ones we coach at Crossfit SOFLA, have just as much potential as players in the north.
No matter where you live, there are three success factors needed to earn a hockey scholarship :
A simple fact of life is that every single athlete has a limited amount of potential. This is not to be confused with the fact that NO athlete is confined to a certain level of performance. So don’t ever give up! Everyone can improve. Even the most “untalented” athlete can make it big, if the effort is put forth. That being said, South Florida is exploding with talented players. Players whose superior genetics and nervous systems allow them to be incredible athletes with an absurd amount of untapped talent. I know because I see it every week.
That talent can be tapped through the following two factors:
How badly do you really want that scholarship, and what distance are you willing to go achieve that goal? Those are questions I ask every single one of my athletes. You must be willing to sacrifice a lot of your free time, friends, girls/boys, weekends, so that your training takes precedence and is only second to school itself. Be committed. Does that mean 1-2 training days a week? Nope. That means 5-6 days a week either on-ice, off-ice, reviewing tape of previous games/practices, stickhandling in the garage, running laps around the neighborhood, training in the gym, etc.
You don’t need ice to become better at shooting and stickhandling, you don’t need ice to get stronger, and you don’t need ice to get faster and more agile. Yes, you must practice hockey to get better at hockey, however, the biomarkers of the sport remain the same. Power, Speed, Coordination. We work on these in our gym, and honing these can help you become a top-tier player.
Know what you are training for, and figure out the best way to meet your personal training objectives. In my recent article titled “Why your teenager should be training with a strength coach,” I discuss the importance of this factor. Knowledge is half the battle and building strong foundations in the weight room will set you up for success both on and off the ice.
Schools in the south should realize what an incredible amount of talent there is in the local area — and northern schools should come recruit here more often. Both sets of colleges need to offer more scholarships to southern-raised hockey players, because they have the genetics, drive, and knowledge to be successes at school and in the sport.
For a young teenage hockey player, the time is now to make a commitment. Have the drive, obtain the knowledge, and get fired up to work hard and improve. There plenty of opportunities to make a name for yourself in the sport–so long as you want it. Don’t fall victim to excuses.
Now, let’s get to work!