I (Also) Had A Dream (or Two)

I know I haven’t posted much recently.  Trust me, that it isn’t because nothing has been going on in my hockey or personal life.  To the contrary, there’s been far too much for me to keep up with in type.  That said, I will have some updates for you within this and my next few diary entries.  Promise.

Yes, I also dream plenty, just like you…  Actually, the first one I want to mention took place back in the early 1980′s.

I can’t really recall now how I connected with a young guy who was the Secretary of the Australian Ice Hockey Federation.  It most likely came about from one of the hockey magazines I wrote for back then.

Anyway, can you imagine my excitement at being considered for a head coaching position within that country’s National Hockey League?  Aaaah, just picture the fun.

Which reminds me of something a long-time friend, Dave Purdy, once told me, in that I should “Never take a job that comes with too many keys!”  :D  Dave is a funny guy, but he was right-on with that observation.  What he meant, of course, is that we might not want a job that includes too many responsibilities (which also reminds me of my then 5-year old grandson telling his grandmother, “I don’t like ‘sponsibilities”).

So, what happens?  The first job offer I get from an Australian pro team is to be their Head Coach and Arena Manager.  Hmmmmmmmm…  Too many keys?

Now, before some young coach tells me that he’d have jumped all over that job, I want folks to appreciate that I was married, I owned a beautiful house in my hometown, and my one child, a son, was on track to enter one of the US’s top hockey playing high schools in the fall.  Would I have taken the job if I was single, or if we didn’t have real roots here in tiny Whitman, Massachusetts?  In a heartbeat.  However, I feared giving up all that, moving to a somewhat strange land about halfway around the world, and then discovering I hated the rink manager’s part of that job.

As it turned out, another job offer came on the heels of the one I’d just turned down.  This one, believe it or not, included coaching another NHL team, while also being the manager for their rink based restaurant.  (Geeeeeeeze!)

Now, could I have made either of those jobs work for me?  I mean, could I have hired a good enough assistant to get me out of most of the rink manager’s or restaurant manger’s duties?  It’s quite possible.  At the same time, picture the risk of uprooting my family with that kind of uncertainty hanging over my head.  Gulp.

Quite obviously, I eventually grabbed the telephone to let the federation’s secretary know why I was turning down those jobs.  With that, my dream job started coming into view.  My Australian friend said that he’d for years had an idea that placed someone of my qualifications in charge of all hockey development within a given state.  (A lot of years have passed by but, I think it was for New South Wales.)

Man, talk about my mind racing…  I was still only a few years removed from visiting Moscow and studying the development of Soviet athletes.  And I was also nearing the completion of my Physical Education Degree.  Ya, my mind was racing.

As another aside here…   I’m a pretty demanding guy — if you work for me or play for me.  At the same time, I think I’m a caring guy, and I’m pretty understanding when it come to certain situations.  As it pertains to what the secretary told me, I’d have to overcome a shortage of ice-time there.  Hmmmmmm…  I understood completely, and I vowed to myself that I could make things work without a lot of ice-time.  Actually, who better could they get to substitute a kzillion off-ice training routines and still have their players grow in leaps and bounds?

Oh, did I have a dream…  As I awaited word from Australia, I doodled and doodled and researched and researched.  And, even though I was doing that stuff in my spare time here in Whitman, I was gradually putting together a program that would ultimately put Australian hockey on the map.  I even recall moving around in my livingroom one morning, performing what would later become a program now called the “Goaler’s Dance”.  Yup, I arrived at that and numerous other ideas as I dreamed about that job.

Quite obviously, there’s a reason I don’t talk funny today, or drive on the wrong side of the street.  ;)  Darn, but my friend couldn’t get the funding he’d hoped for, and the job never did materialize.

Oh, that dream…  I’ve always known my stuff when it comes to physical movements, and I can troubleshoot skill problems with the best in the world.  So, I just knew that the model I devised for one state would ultimately be taken on by the entire Australian Ice Hockey Federation.

I’m kinda shaking my head when I think about all this in relationship to hockey here in the US.  I mean, could USA Hockey (or AHAUS back then) have used my model just as well?  LOL…  In actuality, I’d have given them something pretty dawgoned close to their modern day ADM program, only about 20-years earlier.  In truth, USA Hockey is laden with politics, so not unlike our Congress, it takes them a good many years to try and fail, try and fail, try and…

Anyway, all the work I did in preparation for that overseas job wasn’t for naught.  I put it all to use in my own local programs, and I’ve been pouring out talented young players for all the years since.

Come to think of it, if I had moved away, I would have never gotten involved with Roland Lacey of MediaRight Technologies or the M.I.T. women’s hockey team, and I’d have never been dragged (kicking and screaming, by the way) onto the Internet.

For sure, I’d have never run a site like CoachChic.com, where I have the privilege of helping hockey parents, coaches and adult players with the game.

Actually, I’d have probably never gotten into Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn, which means I wouldn’t have been able to call folks like you my friend.  And, if it wasn’t for social media, I’d have never met a guy named Mike Mahony, who helped me build my on-line hockey store.

Ya, it surely would have been a blast doing that Aussie job, but I would have likely missed a lot, too, including the thousands of great players and hockey families I’ve met closer to home over the past 30-years.

All that said, you have to be wondering why that old dream suddenly came to mind today.  Well, it’s because there’s something new on the horizon for me now, and it might just explain my absence here over recent months.

You see, awhile back, there were hints that new job opportunities were going to be opening for me in a number of small cities along the eastern seaboard.  As I heard bits and pieces, it appeared hockey folks in those areas were starving for better guidance, and that’s something I’ve always felt God put me on this earth to provide.   The best part was that I likely wouldn’t have to relocate, and I could continue helping local kids grow their game.

Over time, however, the group heading the above hinted at operation began to change their focus.  Oh, did they ever…

Yup, a few months ago, I was asked to become involved in a new Junior “A” league forming in Florida.  Oh, I’ve for years been joking — especially during harsh New England winters — that I’m looking for a rink with palm trees hanging overhead.  If there was a problem with the new league’s offer, it was that I’d had enough of long road trips.  (Again, some young guy or gal would tell me that I’m crazy, and that he or she would die for the chance I was getting.  Long bus rides can get tiresome, though.  Trust me.)

My counter offer was that I’d go down to the Sunshine State but, rather than GM and coach a team, I’d work for the whole league, and do community relations stuff with the six member rinks.  In other words, I’d show the players, parents and coaches Coach Chic’s way of doing things.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  I mean, I honestly think nighttime dreams are his way of helping us deal with daytime challenges.

For, what happened next was that I attended a local coaches’ meeting.  And, as fate (or God?) might have it, I had to constantly look up and view a movie poster on the far meetingroom wall.  Ugh.  That poster depicted a character that was almost me!  True story…  In real life, lots of years ago, the team featured in that movie was going to fire their coach, and I was to fly in overnight to be introduced the next morning as the new coach.  It never happened but, it surely didn’t prevent me from asking myself several times during the meeting, “What the heck am I doing here?”  In fact, that had to have played on my mind all that night as I tried to sleep, because I awoke with a start the next morning and told myself, “I have to do that!”

Of course “that” was to GM and coach a team in the new Florida league.  Geeeeeeeze…  Bus rides?  I’ve kinda missed ‘em, actually, and I also missed the closeness a coach can feel with his players when making those long treks.

A funny thing…  I’ve always acted the way I did as I awaited word from Australia, in that I always get psyched about a new undertaking, and I start to scribble ideas as they pop into my head.   The only difference nowadays is that more stuff gets saved on my laptop than on scraps of paper, and research can be more easily done over the Internet.  Trust me, though, that the excitement is still the same.

With the TEHL currently being in start-up mode, you can be sure things change from day to day (if not hour by hour or minute by minute).  Only a day ago I discovered my own personal assignment, as GM/coach of the St Cloud Thunder.  (Has a nice ring, doesn’t it?)

People on the ground in Florida right now have their work cut out for them, arranging rink lease agreements for six teams, plotting practice and game night ice,  ordering equipment, having new team logos designed, and so much more,

Of course, guys like me all the while are dreaming…  Ya, I want my players…

Over the past decade plus, I can’t tell you how much I envied my buddies who are local high school and college coaches, and awaiting their first practices.  Not that I often wished I was them, except for that one special night of the year.  I mean, the adrenalin used to pump so much in me that I could hardly sleep.

Okay, as I said moments ago, things are changing rapidly with the new league, so I’m guessing I’ll soon have a lot more to tell you about my latest dream job.

Before leaving, though, let me share something that fascinates me more than anything else when it comes to the TEHL…

From the onset, the league’s founder has talked about putting the league first, along with it’s main objective.  That objective?  It’s to help move every single one of our players on to a good college.  Championships are nice but, the measure of each coach’s success is really going to be in how many players he helps towards that end.

Better yet, I just got off the phone with another coach, and we both agreed that we have to be willing to help each others players.  For sure, we’ll try to beat one another on any given game night.  In the end, though, we’re going to be pulling for all the kids on all of the teams.

That said, I’m hoping that players from (literally) around the world get themselves to our first tryout camp — it’s approaching fast.  Good players are assured of making a roster if they’re seen early.

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