Every athlete has a reason for playing the sport they do and why they do it and hockey players are no different. The locker room antics, the sacrifices they make, their motivation for playing, and the team dynamics are just a few reasons why hockey culture is different than any other sport.
In the 1977 American sports comedy film Slap Shot, we get an inside look at hockey culture in action. Each player in the film plays a distinct role both on and off the ice. Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to be in hundreds of locker rooms and can attest that Slap Shot is on the spot when it comes to the attitudes of these players. This movie isn’t just about hockey, it is hockey.
Within sports psychology, there’s an idea that each athlete plays a different role in the locker room. For example, there's the team clown, the cancer, the leader, and the energy driver. The team clown is said to have a laid-back, humorous approach to most situations. When they’re not on their A-game, a team can be different, each role has that dilemma. The athlete that is deemed the cancer of the team is important, although sometimes unfavorable. They are known to complain, put people down, and can have an unhealthy attitude.
The leader and energy driver play crucial roles on a team. There are instances where they could be the same person but are generally represented by different players. The leader isn’t always the captain, but someone that expresses the goals of the team the most. They care about the team’s development and growth, not only the outcome. The energy driver is second in line and the hype man of the team who encourages each player to be the best they can be.
Many memories are forged and friendships start in the locker room. It’s known to be a safe space for hockey teams and their athletes where they’re able to blast music, be themselves, and spend time with people they share similar interests, goals, and passions with.
A commonly known and unspoken rule in hockey is that each teammate is like a sibling to one another. Other sports teams may be able to say this as well, but in hockey, players are known to fight for everyone on the ice, sacrifice themself to protect another, and do whatever it takes to stand up for a teammate.
Head coach of the gold-medal-winning 1980 Men’s USA hockey team, Herb Brooks once said, “When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.” In an article by Glen Binger, he discusses the “Me-First Mindset’ and the importance of selflessness in hockey. Brooks and Binger share that the sacrifice, dedication, and pride that hockey players have are what make a difference on and off the ice.
Whether an athlete commits to their sport to stay in shape, spend time with friends, or prepare for their future, they have a reason to play. The culture of hockey expresses that the purpose of playing is to compete and be the best version of one’s self and combine it with the effort of the team. A team is made up of individual players working their hardest to come together and fulfill the same goal of winning and growing as players and people.
Edited By: Sarah Wingo