BY CAM TAIT

With Daylight Savings Time shining brightly across the land this weekend, we can celebrate and embrace hockey playoffs.

There may still be snow on the ground but things are heating up in arenas across Canada as some of the best hockey with the best rivalries facing each other.

Thousand of minor hockey coaches are digging deep into playbooks and reviewing videotape to prepare their teams to be the best they can. And good luck to them.

There’s another challenge coaches are faced with: to have their players say six word after they shift their equipment bags over their shoulder, reach for the dressing room door and walk through it until hockey season comes next season.

Those words, I think, really don’t have anything to do with the outcome of the final game players have. Conversely, they represent the experience they had over the past hockey season.

It would be easy, of course, to write those six words now. But we never know the final score in the first period, do we? What fun and suspense would that be, especially in playoffs.

So I’m going to save them until the last minute of the game, and this column. Who knows? There might even be overtime.

Amateur sports coaches. Our communities and our youth learn so much from them, not only on the ice or the field or the pitch, or any other sporting venue.

Coaches share one of the most valuable assets they have — their time — to teach young kids the fundamentals of the game, or games, they love. Chances are more probable than not that coaches are sharing experiences they enjoyed when they were kids.

If they played sports as youngsters, someone had to coach them. The fact they’re returning the favour is probably not even noted by many segments of the population.

Their task, perhaps, is different from the winters when they played minor hockey. We live in ultra-competitive times. Just look at how many television reality shows we have now. The emphasis on winning, on being the best, seems to be ingrained into our way of life.

And it’s only human, too, to want to do the best at a sport we love.

But, there has to be middle ground — or centre ice. I think there are two solid pillars of amateur sports for its players:  first, to have fun; second, to learn.

Sports can be a lifelong companion. We all dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup, but few of us get that experience. Yet sharing a few frosty wobbly pops after a late-night hockey game with friends is something of hundreds of thousands of Canadian adults enjoy.

But the key is this: they have to want to keep playing. And, that’s why minor hockey playoffs are so important.

Sure, the calibre of play is one thing. Creating cultures and environments for hockey players to enjoy themselves and feel they grow each time they lace up their skates is, perhaps, more important.

Coaches have the opportunity to do that.

And, if they do , more players will proudly proclaim those six words when they leave the dressing room the last time this year: “I want to play next season.”

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