'Kevin McLaughlin' <KevinM@USAHOCKEY by MLV6i9x


									"Kevin McLaughlin" <KevinM@USAHOCKEY.org> 9/15/2008 3:40:57 PM >>>

     Hockey Obsession Leading to Burnout Among Young Players
     Stu Cowan, Canwest News Service

     Published: Saturday, September 13, 2008

     MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens don't officially open training camp until
     Friday, when the veterans report to the Bell Centre for their physicals.
     But for many young players in this country, the organized hockey season
     began before Labour Day, with official practices and tryouts starting before
     the first day of school. In fact, for many young players, the hockey season
     now lasts 12 months a year, with no shortage of specialized summer camps and

     The Columbus Blue Jackets' rookie camp began last Friday, but Stefan Legein,
     the team's second-round pick (37th overall) at the 2007 NHL entry draft,
     didn't show up. He isn't injured. He simply doesn't seem to want to play
     hockey anymore. He's burned out - at age 19.

     When news broke late last month that Legein wouldn't report to camp and was
     quitting hockey, his agent, Doug Woods, told the Columbus Dispatch that the
     rugged right-winger - who was part of Canada's gold-medal team at last
     season's IIHF world junior championship - had simply lost his passion to
     play the game.

     Last season, Calgary Flames prospect Dan Ryder, the 21-year-old brother of
     former Canadien and current Boston Bruin Michael Ryder, decided he had lost
     his desire for hockey and walked away from the sport, taking most of the
     year off before deciding to try again this season.

     This scenario could become more common as the demands on hockey players in this
     country continue to grow from a very young age. Bob Nicholson, the president of Hockey
     Canada, agrees. "I was really surprised when (Legein) said he wasn't going to report,"
     Nicholson said in a telephone interview last week. "But it's certainly
     something that really does concern us . . . the burnout of players.

     "We haven't been able to talk to (Legein) to find out all of the exact
     reasons why, but it certainly seems like they're saying burnout was one of
     the key factors."

     Legein, who had 43 goals, 32 assists and 115 penalty minutes in 64 games
     with the Ontario Hockey League's Mississauga IceDogs in 2006-07 before being drafted
     by Columbus, suffered a separated shoulder in the gold-medal game at
     last season's world junior championship. The word out of Columbus is that
while recovering from shoulder surgery, the Oakville, Ont., native had time
to get reacquainted with his childhood friends and realized there is more to
life than hockey.

But the seeds of hockey burnout are now being planted long before a player
reaches the junior level, and Nicholson agrees it is becoming a problem.
"It's a big concern of ours that players aren't playing soccer, baseball,
lacrosse like they used to (in the summer)," he said. "We're in board
meetings now looking at ways to try to make sure that they're not playing
competitive hockey 12 months of the year."

Part of the problem is overzealous hockey parents with dreams of their son
becoming the next Sidney Crosby. They're the ones forking out the cash for
the summer hockey programs, which aren't cheap. "I think a lot of it comes right from the
parents," Nicholson agreed. "It almost seems like it's worse now with the 9-, 10- and 11-
year-olds. The message doesn't seem to be getting down to the parents right now."

Soccer has become more popular than hockey as a participation sport in this
Country (Canada), with 867,869 players registered with Soccer Canada in
2007 (including 732,521 under age 18) compared with 545,363 with Hockey Canada in
2006-07. The lower cost associated with soccer is often mentioned as the
reason, but the lower pressure level - both on kids and parents - might also
have something to do with it. Most Canadian parents don't dream of their son
growing up to be the next David Beckham. Plus, soccer season is in the
summer, when the family schedule is a lot less hectic.

But the slower-paced summer schedule also means more time for that power
skating, stickhandling or goaltending school so that your kid might have a
shot at making the double-A or triple-A team next season. And even if you
don't have dreams of your son playing in the NHL, there is still plenty of
pressure on hockey parents.

Last March, on the Grapeline radio show, host Brian Williams asked Don
Cherry what he thought about hockey parents whose kids missed games during
spring break to go on a family vacation. "What do I think of them?" Cherry roared. "You
want to know what I think of them? I think they're selfish rats that can't be counted on.
The parents that take the kids out of the team and go on vacation are rats that can't be
counted on. Can I say it any clearer? "That's not only my opinion," Cherry added, "but
real hockey people think they're selfish rats who can't be counted on."

Strong words against hockey parents who might need a spring break from the
day-to-day grind of real life. But whether you're a fan of Cherry's or not,
his words hold plenty of weight in Canadian hockey circles. Just look at how
many young Canadian players - including all three talented Staal brothers -
who make it to the NHL and quickly ditch their visors, even though they've
never played without facial protection before.
Two months ago, Brenda Branswell of the Montreal Gazette wrote an excellent article
about summer hockey camps in Montreal and spoke to Dolores De Michele, whose 11-
year-old son, Nicolas Kiss, spent a week at one. De Michelle agreed some parents get
caught up in the vortex of competition. "You hear of other children doing camps and
then all of a sudden, 'Well, my child has to do that, too,' " she told Branswell. But De
Michele added she doesn't fall into that trap, and that she and her husband aren't among
the parents who think their child is an NHL player. "Right now, we tell him, 'Go out
there, have fun, do the best you can do.' "

Sounds like good advice to me.

Montreal Gazette

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