MONTREAL – A passion for the sport of hockey – just one of the important topics touched upon at the Quebec Hockey Summit.
A few former NHLers were among those in attendance at the weekend’s conferences with Bobby Smith, Stephan Lebeau, Donald Audette, Guy Carbonneau and Luc Robitaille all on hand to lend an ear and bring some experience to the day’s topics.
Called on to discuss the development of young players in the province, Luc Robitaille was quick to describe the importance of having passion for the game.
“The most important thing is that young players have fun going to the arena and playing hockey. When I was a kid, if I had a practice at six in the morning, I was up and ready to go at four. If you find yourself having a hard time waking up your kid to go to the rink, then there’s a problem,” related the Hall of Famer before going on to illustrate his point with another personal example.
“Everyone always said that I wasn’t a very fast skater. When I was 38-years-old, I was still working on giving myself a faster stride. It’s a little cheesy, but it’s true. After our practices, I would stay and work on my skating and my speed,” admitted Robitaille. “And what more, is that I never saw it as work. That’s why it’s important you make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.”
Former Canadiens player and coach, Guy Carbonneau, also in attendance at the Summit, shared his take on the way young players should approach the game of hockey.
“If changes are going to be made, they need to start at the youngest levels of the sport. There are 8-years-olds out there that are practicing systems and have only one thought in their heads: winning. If it was up to me, all young players would get the same ice time. I think we discourage kids at way too young an age, and that might not be letting them develop to their full potentials,” explained Carbonneau. “We’re not patient enough because we’re always looking for excellence from these players, even at that young age. We often have the tendency as parents to look at players like Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby and think that our kids might be capable of the same thing. But we have to start by really focusing on their development before we can start thinking about things like that.”
Clément Jodoin, the new coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs spoke about how the hockey has become less accessible as a sport than it had been in the past.
“Hockey has become a sport for people with money. A pair of skates costs around $400 now; a stick around $200. With the economic situation how it is at the moment, it’s way easier to go out, buy a pair of running shoes and play soccer. We’re losing players,” explained Jodoin.
The consensus: passion needs to return to the game of hockey, especially where young players are concerned.Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.SEE ALSO2011 Hockey Summit Player Prognostications Bold Predictions Second Gear The Comeback Kid True Grit