Having seen many players (goalies and skaters) once considered very good at younger ages only to become average when it really matters (2nd year bantam through midgets), I have noticed two common factors in every case: the lack of work ethic and passion for the game.
Although the player is ultimately responsible, coaches typically do not challenge their young “star players” enough to become better which robs their development for the future. This non-challenge atmosphere in concert with the player being told how awesome he is creates a lazy work ethic and a sense of entitlement which, by definition, robs the player of any passion. Both are death in hockey development.
Young players do not have the facilities and, particularly, the perspective to understand other kids will get better as they grow older. Opponents once dominated will significantly improve as they get bigger, stronger, and reap the fruits of their hard labor in skill development. The “star player” with little work ethic and no passion will be left behind or barely hold-on. There are only very few exceptions and no one should assume they are one of the exceptions.
Below is a quote about the work ethic and passion of one of the greatest goalies of all time. He has dominated since his rookie year in the NHL and has added to his exceptional talents by a consistent work ethic and love of the game. I have watched him practice several times through the years and he is a role model for all young players.
Every time I have watched him, it is clear, while working hard, he is enjoying his time on the ice. One practice I saw at their facility in New Jersey two years ago, Brodeur was challenging his teammates to shoot at his glove during a flow drill. When the puck was hitting his catch glove Brodeur would deflect the puck in the air above him and try to catch it behind his back. He was not simply screwing around, he was having fun while working in practice.
“It’s real important to work hard and you either have skill or you don’t, but you have to refine your skills by working hard. For me, I have a lot of skill, but anybody that’s played with me will tell you what makes me different from other people is the work ethic. I don’t care how skilled you are, if you don’t have the work ethic and put in the time to develop your talent and technique, you’ll never make it. It’s important. All the best goalies I’ve come across at All-Star Games and the Olympics, we have one thing in common and it’s that we really care about what we do. ‘