Coming back from vacation is always a little tough. It takes you a little longer to get started in the morning and a few cobwebs have already strung themselves through your mind as you get back to work.
The Adirondack Thunder are having the same issues as the rest of us after their holiday break. The team had its longest break of the year with five days off, in part because they will have a shortened all-star break.
Coach Cail MacLean pulled the team together at the end of Friday’s practice with a longer message than usual in advance of Saturday’s game against Reading. He wants the Thunder to get focused and be professionals.
While this was a definite deviation from the norm — MacLean might have a few words for the team sometimes, but rarely a talk of this length — it was still a relatively restrained one. The coach did not stop practice and skate his players, which he has done before, but he did want to get his point across.
“It’s been OK the past couple of days, just OK,” he said afteward. “Our work ethic and energy level has been OK. We’re not in the business of being OK. If you want to be in one of the most competitive professions we have in our society, you better not be satisfied with mediocrity.”
MacLean reminded his players there are many people out there who would love to take their spots. Whether you play in the NHL or the ECHL, you need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know no one can criticize your work ethic.
The coach knew this could happen when he scheduled in the longer break. The extra physical rest and some mental time away from the game is good for individual players and thus the team as a whole. But on the other end, you have to shake it off when you get back. You’ve been focused on things other than hockey, and now you need to re-focus.
MacLean’s talk on Friday was directly in response to two practice sessions, but also had a little more behind it.
The Thunder have had some consistency issues recently. Their worst games of the season came this month, but they’ve also have strong games like the 8-1 win over Norfolk. Some of that also comes back to work ethic, execution and what MacLean calls being a good professional.
“So it’s that consitency, it’s that level of expectation,” he said. “If we want it to be high, we need to talk about it being high. But it’s not about results in the last couple of games, it’s the overall picture.”
So, MacLean challenged his team not to accept being OK.
“Are you guys good with that?,” he summarized the post-practice talk. “Because I’m not.”