Reaching any goal in life is often preceded by a series of steps one has to take. Some are bigger and more difficult to take than others. Over the next month, many hockey players will be taking another small step in their ultimate quest to make it to the NHL by participating in each team's development camps.
Each club gets a few days at these development to bring in their drafted prospects and invite a few free agents in to coach them up and see how they are progressing. They have become increasingly important in the evaluation and development process for each individual club.
To reach the highest levels of sport, the road is difficult and even being drafted is no guarantee that a player will make it to the pinnacle of the profession. That was the message shared by Jeff Blashill, head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins -- AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, as he addressed a room full of participants at the NHL club's camp.
The cameras for Red Wings TV went into the meetings as Blashill addressed the players. And though the rest of us might not be playing for the Red Wings anytime soon, it's hard not to be fired up by the words shared by the 2014 AHL Coach of the Year.
The video offers some great insight into the mind of a coach and how he speaks to motivate the players that are expected to carry the torch of an organization after its current players are long gone.
Every organization that drafts an athlete has the hope that the player will reach the NHL team and make an impact. They have an obligation to their investment in that player to do all they can to help that player achieve success, but ultimately, it's up to the player himself to do what is necessary to make the team.
Development camps are often one of the few chances an NHL team has a chance to sit down with their young charges before sending them back out to their junior, college and minor league teams for the next season. So it was pretty clear that Blashill wasn't going to waste the opportunity to impart a little bit of motivation on the future of the Red Wings organization.
“If you think you're entitled to something, you're in the wrong business,” Blashill told the group of teens and twenty-somethings. “If you guys sit in here and take an attitude in life that you're entitled to success, I'm going to tell you something right now, you're in the wrong business for sure.”
“I'm a huge believer that greatness is a daily choice. Every single day that you wake up, you either take a few step towards being great or you take a few steps away from being great.
"...You earn what you get in life. You wake up every morning and you take steps towards greatness or you don't. Period.”
Anyone else want to go for a run or something right now?
It's hard not to hear twinges of Mike Babcock in Blashill as well. Considering Babcock is widely considered as one of the game's best coaches, that's probably a good thing.
Blashill is a bit of a rising star in coaching ranks, as well. There's a reason the Red Wings did what they could to fight off other suitors for Blashill's services and awarded him a three-year contract extension. They like what he brings to the organization, but someday, probably soon, another team will come calling with an NHL head coaching job.
Blashill, just 40 years old, has been on a meteoric rise in his career after serving as an assistant coach in college hockey for nine years with stints at his alma mater Ferris State and later at Miami University.
Blashill won the USHL's Clark Cup in his first year as a head coach with the Indiana Ice. Two seasons later he was hired to be head coach Western Michigan University and pulled that program into national relevance in one year after many seasons of poor teams.
The following year he was an assistant coach with the Wings and then he was named head coach of the Griffins. Once again he won the title as a rookie bench boss and this year was named the league's top coach. Five of the last six coaches to win that award had NHL jobs soon after. Sounds like the kind of guy the players should be listening to.