Sunday, 9 September 2012

Dreaming of the NHL - To Be or Not To Be

I have worked with Sam for about two years now. I have seen him come out of his shell and develop self confidence and with that a chance to progress to the next level. It is only because of his commitment and hard work that he is where he is... The question all hockey players who are striving to achieve have to ask is

To be or not to be?  That is the question.

I know that it was a question I asked myself over and over even after I was a pro. Sam shared his thoughts and I cannot thank him enough, I as always hope you enjoy hearing from a young man who is living it!

All my life I have always wanted to play in the NHL and strive to reach the goals that are required along the way; PW 1, Bantam AAA, Midget AAA and Jr. I have had my fair share of ups and downs, often not making the highest team possible in my first year in a given age group as well as never playing Bantam AAA. I spent most of my minor hockey career having to prove myself at lower levels just to get a chance at the next step to again prove myself and earn some ice time. In pretty much every case I was successful, it was really hard and every time without fail I caught myself thinking if I really wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I mean if no one else thought I was good enough why should I.

This year when I came to Bonnyville to play Junior hockey, I came with a lot of confidence having played the last two years at Midget AAA and earning a prominent role on the team. However, I was rudely awakened with how much harder I would have to work, again I caught myself questioning if this was for me. The main camp and fitness testing were hard but that was expected, it was once we got into practices that were 2, 2 1/2 hours long, with a skate at the end that really hit me. Not only is this league bigger, faster, stronger but I find myself with a coach who coaches a style of hockey I have never really found myself in.

He, not unreasonably, expects me to get pucks deep and put everything on net as well as finish every check. I don’t have my line mate of two years who I had created quite a bit of chemistry with and I’m playing 3rd and 4th line minutes with guys who I don’t have chemistry with yet. Overall this has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. Being away from home is hard but its not even as hard as the pressure I feel from myself and the team. I know I’m not playing my best hockey yet, but I can feel it coming. Every time I feel like quitting and going home the thoughts of how hard I have worked to get here and how close I am come creeping up. Even when I am sure I am done, a little voice in my head just won’t let me quit, I can't even tell you why for sure, I simply can't.

I know it is hard now, but my experiences in the past have helped make it easier for me to overcome challenges, I see this as just that another challenge. A challenge to show the coach I can be a first line guy, not in a year or two but right now, a challenge to show all the people who have cut me in the past that I can play at the next level and to challenge myself to prove that I can battle through adversity and that never again in my life will I be satisfied with taking the easy way out.

Even as I type this I can feel myself just wanting to go back home and go to school, sleep in, and hangout with friends. For whatever reason I know I won’t. At this point I’m just trying to remember why I play the game in the first place - To have fun.

Sam Plaquin
Bonnyville Pontiacs AJHL

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