From beginner and beyond
The first year out of beginner school (or C3 in WHAM) is tough.
Every team has a different character, and usually you won’t know what that will be–what the individual components will be–until you’ve actually played a season together.
In the AHA beginner school, you go into a locker room and take a jersey out of the big box. Everyone who wandered into Locker Room 1 is now a team… and everyone who wandered into Locker Room 2 is another team.
Not exactly scientific, or based on ability or geographic location. I’ve heard that the league will move players during beginner school, to make the teams more balanced. This didn’t happen in 2002 when I did the school.
And so your teammates aren’t people you’ve CHOSEN, they’re an accidental connection. Teams fall on a gradient between “fun” and “serious;” most people don’t want to be on one too far on either end of the spectrum (and we all know a team that is either too hardcore or too lackadaisical to cut it).
But in that locker room–or when you’re talking to people about your WHAM C3 team–you have no idea what people are like on the ice. How they’ll be on the bench, in the locker room.
That first year is tough. I was on the Bruins for the 02-03 season. We went 0-17. I think we actually scored 5 goals the entire SEASON, and that was because the league gave us some C1 level guy. I shudder to think what his season must have been like.
Our beginner school had only two teams, and the OTHER team (the “Ice Hounds,” run by Rick G______) sneakily asked all our better players to jump up to D1 with them. Great. We faced an entire season in D2 with the dregs of beginner school. It was a nightmare.
Whatever your first season is, it won’t be worse than ours. But it’s still tough. Even though the AHA has made great strides in making D2 a good place for teams straight out of beginner, it’s still tough because the learning curve is so steep.
And so you have to work against the cycle: your team loses, so people get discouraged and don’t show up. Which means you play shorthanded and tired, which means you lose, which means people get discouraged and don’t show up…
Focus on the small victories. Try to stay positive. The first year is still exhilarating: you’re playing hockey!
(and next year, when you know more about the game, and organization, and personalities, and all that stuff that makes a team, next year will be better)
How was YOUR team’s first year as wet-behind-the-ears newbies? We want the gruesome details.