The Art of Recruiting: The Most Important Thing to Tell Prospects

Kelvin Cech

Steady contributor in multiple roles over the years at The Coaches Site, current General Manager and Head Coach of the MJHL Niverville Nighthawks, former Assistant Coach with the UBC Thunderbirds Men's Hockey team.

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I’ve learned first-hand in the past 12 months that it’s not what the team says, it’s what the prospect hears.
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Goaltending is toughest position to recruit. For the past few seasons I’ve noticed there’s a disproportionate relationship between the amount of goalies looking for jobs and the amount of jobs a team has to give, namely two in most cases. There are a lot of goalies out there. It’s bottleneck the further you go up the depth chart. College and university hockey in Canada doesn’t have a farm system to look to when they need reinforcements, and you’re dealing with multi-year commitments. A goalie exiting college, on the other hand, can look to North American pro and reasonably slot themselves into one of six our seven spots between the NHL, the American League, and the coast. Most ECHL teams have relationships with southern professional teams as well, so there’s a backup plan. And then there are various European leagues that offer players the chance to make an honest living while travelling and enjoying life. 

So, there are a lot of goalies out there, but we all want to find the right goalies, or the right fit. We want the right combination of character, compete, and ability. Can she or he stop the puck and be a positive influence in the room? Can they steal a game here or there? If I started a new team from scratch and I had an entire town foaming at the mouth for a home opener 12 years in the making, would I be comfortable putting this kid in charge of the net? 

I don’t know what I don’t know. So why would I tell a potential recruit that I do?

A Player’s Perspective

People in the hockey business get annoyed when players look for guarantees, but who wouldn’t seek a guarantee if they could get it. Coaches and managers have contracts, employees working in an office downtown have salaries, the people who built your house have unique skills that will never go out of style. 

But work ethic isn’t guaranteed, and non-professional hockey players aren’t competing for the ability to feed their family. Time remains undefeated in every line of work, and there’s always someone coming along to steal a job. 

That’s not easy for a teenager to hear. It’s not easy for a 26 year-old looking for a contract to hear. Put yourself in their skates – if one team is guaranteeing power play time and a spot on the first line, and the other is promising a long look at training camp, what would you choose?

I personally doubt many teams make such guarantees, but I’ve learned first-hand in the past 12 months that it’s not what the team says, it’s what the prospect hears. Nowhere else in our game is clear communication more important, because the last thing your organization needs is a disgruntled player claiming promises made weren’t kept. Maybe it’s an irrational fear of mine, but integrity is the middle block in my personal pyramid of excellence, and I look at this thing every single day. 

I’ve learned first-hand in the past 12 months that it’s not what the team says, it’s what the prospect hears . . .

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