CrossIceHockey.com is proud to introduce a new feature, where hockey captains have the opportunity to speak their minds about this generally thankless job. Here, Jared Cohen shares his experience of what it’s like to be captain of Hockey North America’s NY Knights team.
How did you become captain of your rec hockey team?
I was appointed captain because I took the lead, and that’s exactly what I try to do each game. Having absolutely zero hockey experience, I joined a beginner team in January of 2014. After a few sessions and seeing the camaraderie begin to develop with my new teammates, we were faced with the daunting task of selecting a team name and ordering our jerseys. For whatever reason I took charge of that—it must have been a slow day at the office or something. And when asked by the seamstress to which jersey she should apply the “C,” I emailed the team, asking them who wanted to be captain. After a few replies, it was decided I would be “El Capitan” of the NY Knights.
How do you determine who plays where, which position, etc.?
Since I was never part of a hockey team, I had no idea what a captain’s role was. How do I tell people what position to play? Who starts, who plays on which line? When do we change lines, etc.? And I remember thinking to myself, How do I earn their respect? What if they think I’m an a-hole dictator? What if they think I suck and I shouldn’t be captain? But then I decided to stop acting like an insecure jerk, and stepped up to the challenge.
When you have 17 guys—most of who are at a true beginner skill-set—determining positions was tough. But after a full season together, we seem to have our positions fairly set (with slight variations depending upon who shows up to each game. But that’s a story for another day). It’s a constant juggling act.
I also try to lead by example. I remember one game in particular when I even put myself on defense (which I am completely uncomfortable playing), so my guys could play where they preferred. I knew if I did this I wouldn’t feel as bad asking them to play where I needed them the following game. I’ve come to know who I can count on to step up for the team, and be sure to thank that person for their flexibility. The flexibility of your teammates makes a captain’s job so much easier and more enjoyable.
How do you balance your team’s desire to win versus ice time? What about the penalty kill, power play, etc.?
After a 5-game losing streak earlier this season, I switched the lines around with some feedback from a few other players I rely on for strategy advice (who know the game better than I do). We came up with new lines that totally revamped our play. Thankfully, the guys were open to the change. It turns out we play best when we keep the lines fairly balanced. I also like to rotate which line starts each game, which keeps ice time fairly even. I think this is very important. We all paid the same amount of money to join, and the ice time should reflect that.
Winning is awesome, but not at the expense of making a few teammates unhappy. No one is competing for a contract; we all have to wake up the next day to go back to work, so making it enjoyable for everyone, to me, is more important than the final score (just my opinion, but maybe that’s why we are 9-8-1 instead of 13-4-1). No one seems to care, though, so I must be doing something right.
Do you employ psychology in the locker room or on the bench?
I really don’t use any type of psychology with my players. As I said, I try to lead by example, and just hope the guys follow along. There are two or three guys I discuss strategy with, so I don’t think I’m implementing a “my way or the highway” type of mentality. It seems to be working fairly well.
How do you deal with a problem player?
I really haven’t been confronted with many problems on the bench. Of course, some guys naturally speak up during the heat of the game. And there are always those one or two guys who tell the others that their shift was too long and to get off the ice, or to sit on the penalty kill, etc. I generally just go with the flow. We’re all grown men, and I like to think that the majority of us act like it. I just try to diffuse any negative comments and compliment guys for their good hustle, and if they make an error that we’ll get it back the next shift.
As for those one or two usual suspects who take the two-and-a-half-minute shift, well, they just get reamed at to get off the ice. If they’re going to spend that much time on the ice and not have the self-awareness to get off, they deserve it. But thankfully, all of our guys pay their dues, inform me whether or not they can attend games, and are generally good teammates.
Any final thoughts?
The great thing about our team is we have a great group of guys. No one really bitches or makes my life miserable. But if you expect to receive a “thank you” or a pat on the back for being captain, good luck. It’s a tireless, thankless position. In the end, though, we love game nights and have a phenomenal time getting out there—whatever the scoreboard might read. And that’s all a rec hockey league captain should care about anyway.
Jared Cohen is CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management, a private-wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial. He resides in Palisades, NY, with his wife Stefanie and their two children, Harrison (5) and Ava (3).
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