Stepping into your first junior hockey dressing room as a rookie can be exciting yet daunting.
You’ll notice the room is legit—stalls with skates hanging, stick rack, cold tubs, TV, maybe a lounge even.
It’s kind of like the big time. That part is exciting.
However, fitting in with the personalities within that room can be daunting…
For most of you reading this, you’ll likely get called up as an affiliate before you make a team full-time. You’ll likely get cut a little bit of slack by the vets, but you should still know the rules. As a rookie the next season, you’ll have to live by them. Here are the basics for fitting in as a rookie:
- A decent idea is buddy up with a vet. Usually somebody with a letter is good for this. Sometimes these guys can be good sounding boards, and odds are you’ll be billeted with one. You don’t want to whine about problems, but treat the guy as a big brother. I was fortunate enough to be billeted with the captain of our team my first year of junior. He really helped keep things in perspective during the up times and down times. What was new to me was typical to him. He helped show me the way.
- If you are still in high school, you’ll probably spent 80 per cent of your time with the other rookies (and the token veteran who can’t quite grasp that elusive scroll at the graduation podium). You’ll have a lot of classes together and since you’ll all be transplants at the school, you’ll be the only ones with a connection, at least to start. After two or three years together you’ll become quite tight. This is your crew, so stick together.
- On the ice, all is equal in practice and in games. You perform you play. You get treated how you play, by both teammates and staff… until practice ends and you have to pick up pucks. You gain respect from everybody in the organization by excelling at your roll, and doing your duties off-ice…
- Do your rookie duties in the room. Don’t complain, just do them. Vaccuum the carpet, wipe down the bikes, take out the laundry. The quicker you do it, the better. When you’re a scratch, come early and help the trainer. Within the first couple of weeks rookies develop a system.
- Do not seek significance in the room by way of your tongue. You will regret it. At the same time, don’t be quiet because you’re scared. Part of fitting in is showing that you actually fit in. The coach wants to see you as one of the boys. That influences some of his decisions and chances are he will ask the captain what he thinks of you in the room at some point.
- On the road, key things to remember are to sit at the front of the bus, double-up with other rookies (meaning vets get two seats to themselves but you two rooks sit side-by-side like geriatric love birds on casino tour). Always make sure you carry in the tickle trunk (trainer’s chest) and the stick bag before your own stuff. Your bag doesn’t leave the snow bank beside the bus until that’s done, always.
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