You know that dependable pair of jeans you own? They're versatile, they feel nice, they fit just right. You can wear them anywhere and they never do you wrong.
The NHL's version of those jeans are a team's glue guys -- Ryan Smyth
and Shawn Horcoff
in Edmonton; Matt Cullen
in Minnesota; Ray Whitney
in Phoenix; Sheldon Souray
in Dallas; Mike Knuble
in Washington; Andrew Brunette
in Chicago; and even a superstar like Jaromir Jagr
in Philadelphia can fall into that category at this stage of his career.
What exactly is a glue guy? You hear that term a lot from hockey players. Glue guys are the players who aren't necessarily superstars, but are the veterans who can keep a team together by doing the little things that go unnoticed. All of these guys I mentioned aren't just glue guys, but they are producing on the ice as well. There isn't a more valuable guy you can have on your team than a glue guy who can still get it done on the ice.
Sometimes teams are in a rush to get rid of the glue guy, that old, reliable, perfect pair of jeans that have never done you wrong. But before you throw out those jeans and buy a new pair of G-Stars because those are the cool, new, expensive jeans everyone is wearing these days, just remember what happened with the Bruins and Mark Recchi
last season and what he meant to that team.
Whether it's finding a restaurant on the road or handling ticket requests from family members, or things on the ice like getting advice on opposing goaltenders or defensemen or how to handle things like a scoring slump, these guys are super important.
There's nothing that prepares you for playing in the League like being in the League, and that's why these guys mean so much to all the young players who are getting to the NHL quicker than ever. The best thing you can have if you're someone just breaking in are guys like this to lean on. A player who is in the middle of a long career is a great resource for a young kid just getting his feet wet.
I would say this to a lot of the GMs and coaches: beware. I know you're itching to show off your shiny new toys -- your brand new pair of G-Stars -- but you still want to make sure you complement these guys with good pros. If nothing else, they are great resources to learn from. If you look at the Cup winners, you have a lot of glue guys that are a part of their team.
Yet some GMs want to throw a ton of money at young guys who are still just RFAs to avoid offer sheets and get them tons of minutes right away. Now you force feed them minutes and they struggle and you're surprised?
These glue guys are a hockey encyclopedia. It's all about the details. Some kids may not want to get a massage after a game or practice. You think Teemu Selanne
is doing that now? If Selanne's hip flexors are tight, he's going to take the time to do stretches, then get up on the massage table. It's all about having a maintenance plan, and it's never too early in your career to start that. It's all these little things that help you practice, recover, rehab. They are tools you need to be a long-standing pro.
People think development stops when you reach the pros. Guys that are smart, they get it. Guys like Joe Pavelski
spend the offseason working on their skating. It's not about going back to your hometown during the summer and shinnying it up with your friends and laughing. Evgeni Malkin
said this year he vowed to be a better pro and spent his summer working his tail off, and he's won a Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup!
I played for a lot of teams, so I got to learn from a lot of different players about what it takes to be a pro. Guys like Rod Brind'Amour
, Ron Francis
, Kirk Muller
, Brian Skrudland
and Mark Messier
When it comes to reaching a point in your career when it's time to start dispensing advice and being an example, everybody is a little different. Some guys are more natural and come out and tell you to focus on this or stop doing that. Some guys are more vocal, but a lot of guys want to see that guys are hungry. They want to see young players come to them and show they have a desire to get better. Just because you tore it up in Lethbridge and Kitchener, that doesn't mean it translates to the NHL. It might not translate to your role or the team you're on. Even if it does, a lot of these guys have knowledge.
Some young guys are receptive and some don’t want to listen. They look at veterans like they don't care, like they have everything figured out. My advice is listen to the people that have done it already. They can help you.
Even if it isn't a veteran player, there are assistant coaches on teams that can give advice on playing today's game too. You don't want to talk to Teppo Numminen
in Buffalo? You don’t want to ask Charlie Huddy in Winnipeg about what it was like to play with Paul Coffey
? The Devils have Scott Stevens
and Adam Oates
. That's endless amount of knowledge!
All smart players who have long careers will give credit to the players that helped them along the way. Young guys today should notice that and be smart. There's knowledge to be passed down, and it's right there in the locker next to you.