Domestic Opportunities Often the Best for Brits
There are three things that will drive a hockey players decision on where to sign. Ambition, practicality and the good old fashioned ‘best deal available’.
Talent of course creates opportunities; but these three factors determine whether or not someone chooses to seize those opportunities. Sometimes two of those three factors come together. Very occasionally all three meet, as the perfect opportunity comes along.
British players are often, unfairly, accused of lacking ambition. In reality, the domestic game often offers the best opportunities.
Ambition drives everyone at some point. In rare cases it might last for your whole career, or it might last for that short time when you are young and care free. It may take you abroad, it may simply drive you to the top of the British game.
But at some point ambition is tempered by, well, life. Both in terms of what happens away from the rink, but also by the wisdom of growing up.
In a finite career, the opportunity to earn good money and get more ice time will hold far greater appeal than heading abroad (or even to a higher league within the UK) to play on the third line, often for less money.
Some of this is down to simply ‘economics’. British hockey fails to produce enough players of sufficient calibre for a given level, so those that have proved their ability are ‘guaranteed’ a job in many cases. With limits on the number of imports a team can ice, this example of sporting ‘supply and demand’ will continue until more domestic players of a given level of ability are produced (supply meeting demand etc).
Is that some form of safety net? Yes, of course. It means players can be more or less guaranteed a place on a team in the UK at the moment. It can also lead to some earning more playing at a lower level, as clubs seek to assemble the best roster they can within their budget.
You can hardly blame someone for seeking the most money and most ice time when a hockey players career is so short?
Practicality also factors in for some, especially in the Premier League and National League – where there are more semi-professional and amateur players. The ability to earn some ‘beer money’ whilst holding down a ‘real job’ becomes more important as life moves on. There are several players capable of playing at either a higher level or for a better team, but they choose to play for their local club.
Others look to maximise other opportunities playing for a certain club can offer – such as a local University or employment opportunity in that area. External factors that are important when we accept the reality that for many players, hockey is either a hobby, with the benefit of some form of payment, or the opportunity to ‘live the life’ in a sport they love before settling down in the ‘real world’.
This current situation may not seem to be the ideal one for the sport, its growth or the development of its players – but equally the situation is a product of our own making.
Again we come back to a point I have long laboured – until junior hockey, the foundation of the sport, improves then simple economics will ensure this cycle continues.