Making The Grade Means Hitting Both Books And Ice

RAISE YOUR HAND if you thought the expansion Vegas Golden Knights would rank among the top teams in the NHL this season. I'm guessing few folks outside of Las Vegas have their arms airborne.

Not only are the Knights winning, they're selling out T-Mobile Arena night in and night out. Despite what detractors said, Elvis was right-Viva Las Vegas.

But this is no first-year fluke, at least not to the people running the NHL's feel-good franchise of the year. The Knights found the right general manager, the right coach and made some shrewd roster moves that have made them more than competitive right away.

Basically, they did their homework.

That's not always a welcomed word in hockey circles, though. Oftentimes, getting your little knights to hit the books after hitting the ice can be as tricky as trying to wrap your mind around the irony of playing ice hockey in the middle of the desert.

But just as any good blackjack player will tell you, having a system and set of rules in place is the key to success.

Burlington, Wis., hockey mom and physician Briana Williams established the strict homework-before-practice routine when her son was in kindergarten, and is very proud of his work ethic. He comes home from school and gets right to his school work without complaining or fighting. Now in fourth grade, Williams' daughter is following his lead. 

"I think it helps tremendously that her big brother comes home and sits down to get his work done, so she is learning by example," mom says.

It gets more challenging as they get older. That's why Monarchs Tier 1 Girls' team coaches Tosh Farrell and Dave Broussard, from Rochester, N.Y.,  say when it's time to talk time management with your teen, the word sacrifice needs to be part of the conversation.

One thing is certain, no matter how talented a player is, if he or she does not have the right time-management skills, his or her chances of becoming a college athlete drop dramatically.

Broussard, a high school health teacher, advises parents to help their children formulate a schedule that accommodates all aspects of their active lifestyle. 

"Those organizational and time management skills are imperative to college life," he says. "Especially when there is no parent around to aid and guide the student all of the time."

"It takes a lot of discipline to excel both on the ice and in the classroom," Tosh adds. "A good student that is also a proven competitor gives the athlete a leg up in the real world."

Excelling both on the ice and off it is supposed to be tough for both student-athletes and NHL expansion teams. But as we're all learning this season, if you do your homework, you can definitely hit the jackpot.



John Hyland  / Drexel Hill, Pa.

As a former college hockey player, John Hyland is developing the next generation.

Working with the Springfield Hockey League in suburban Philadelphia, the Michigan native is taking what he's learned from his playing days and passing that knowledge on to local coaches in his role as an instructor with USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program. 

Coaching  players ranging from 6 to 18 years old, Hyland sees "potential" where other coaches may be looking for "talent" to fill their rosters. 

"We're not focused on wins and losses, we're developing coaches who will create better experiences for the players," he said.

For Hyland, the best part is helping these youth players build a solid foundation that will help them as they move forward in the game, and in life.

"It's about learning those life lessons: keep working hard, being on time, being a good teammate," Hyland said. "The things that translate into life and to be a good citizen."





Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
Matthew Knies
Brock Faber
Logan Stankoven
Logan Cooley
Total votes: 3