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Work Ethic and the Hockey Player


Work ethic is the one quality hockey players appreciate most in a teammate


By Matt Schoepflin

Work ethic is one of those buzzwords we hear about all the time. Having the ability to work hard is vital to every hockey player. The tricky part is that “the ability to work hard” is usually how far our minds go when thinking about work ethic. Most players don’t dig much deeper than that surface level answer.

What you should be thinking about is this: What do I need to do to help me (or my child, or the players I coach) to develop a positive work ethic? Here’s the reality: the greater the work ethic, the more success you’ll have.


What’s one thing the best hockey players today all have in common? Think about guys like Crosby, McDavid, Toews, MacKinnon, Subban, Weber, and Price… really anyone that plays in the NHL. The simple answer is their work ethic is off the charts. The truth is, anyone playing at that level has an unbelievable work ethic because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be there.

While I’m not telling you to compare you or your team to NHL players, I think everyone wants to learn from the best. Therefore we can glean bits and pieces from those who have reached the top.

To back this point up even further, a few years ago the NHL started to take player polls. These were questionnaires that were distributed to all NHL players with the same questions, just to get their perspective on the game from those who play it.

The one question that stands out to me the most is, “What quality do you appreciate most in a teammate?” The leading answer by a large margin was work ethic.

Work ethic is truly one of those things that’s easy to talk about but difficult to master. But for those who can master and develop it into a strength, the ceiling to that individual’s potential is nearly endless.

How to Develop and Build Your Work Ethic

While there are some people who would argue that your work ethic is something you’re born with, I would completely disagree. Like most things, it can be built, trained, and constantly improved upon.

The first key component in building your work ethic is understanding your WHY. Like most things in hockey—and in life—if you don’t know why you’re doing them, or if you have no direction of where you hope to be going, you’re going to eventually lose motivation and direction and end up frustrated, lost, and uninterested. This is what we want to avoid at all costs.

There’s a strategic reason why I talk about the importance of understanding and defining your WHY. It’s because nearly everything you do as a hockey player can be traced back to that one foundational piece.

The next big area of importance comes through goal setting. This is important because this is the next component to building and developing your work ethic. You need to know where you’re trying to go. In other words, you need direction.

To summarize, there are two major components we need to have in order to build, develop, and train our work ethic. We need to understand why we are doing the things we’re doing, and we need to have a goal of where we want to go.

The 6 Keys to Building Your Work Ethic

Everyone’s definition of work ethic is slightly different, and that’s OK. The reality is that what one person defines it as, someone else might have a completely different opinion.

So when talking about something so subjective, how do we develop, train, and improve our work ethic?

I believe there are 6 key components that can lead to an improved work ethic. They are all things that you as the individual can control.

1) Honor Your Commitments – If you commit to doing something, then commit to seeing it through. Don’t quit and make an excuse for why everything didn’t work out the way you hoped. If you commit to working out three days a week at 6 am, make sure you show up. It’s easy to say you’re too tired, or you don’t feel like going, but by honoring your commitment and showing up you’re building your work ethic.

2) Be On Time – When thinking about work ethic and commitment, do you think you’re building it into a strength if you’re not on time? There isn’t a person out there who could argue that. Just like point number one, commit to showing up and make sure you’re on time. Showing up on time immediately gives you a boost of confidence because it’s a form of success. It’s a little victory that helps put you on the path to success.

3) Be Prepared – It seems like such a common-sense idea, which it is. But it’s so vital to be reminded about its importance. If you want to be at your best and be ready to work, you need to be prepared. If you’re scrambling before a game because you can’t find your gloves, or you forgot your jerseys at home, are you prepared? Of course not. And that in turn leads to you focus your time and energy on everything except the game you’re about to play. Set yourself up for success by making sure you’re prepared.

4) Have a Clear Vision of What You Want/What You’re Working For – As mentioned earlier, you need to know why you’re working hard and have a vision for what you’re working for. The more focused you are, the easier it is to put your best effort forward. When you know what you’re working for, it becomes easier to stay motivated and push yourself to the next level.

5) Have a Good and Positive Attitude – Attitude is everything. There are going to be days when you don’t want to work. There are going to be days when you face obstacles. And there are going to be days when nothing seems to be going your way. Your attitude is what will get you through it. If you can find the positive in the situation, keep things in perspective and keep going after the things you want; then you’ll be successful. This famous quote is so true… “Life (and hockey) is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.”

6) Never Quit/Never Give In – The hardest workers always believe there’s a way. If they’re down or losing, they know that hard work and sticking to the process is the only way to overcome obstacles. They know that nothing ever worth having comes easy, and only those who never quit or give in are the ones who will be left standing in the end. If you believe in it, keep working for it.

I’m a big believer in that if you’re really serious about developing your work ethic, and being the player that everyone always comments is the hardest worker on the ice, then commit to these six points. Over time, if you keep these in mind and follow them, they will become ingrained in who you are as a person and who you will be as a player. They will turn into your own definition, and help you define your work ethic.

Again, working hard to build your work ethic is not easy. And just remember, nothing here has anything to do with talent, physical capabilities, or who you know. They’re all items that you can control and use to define your own personal path.

Focus on your work ethic. Realize that it’s something you can work on and build. Whenever things get tough, that’s what will carry you through.

Matt Schoepflin is passionate about coaching and giving back to the game that has given him so much. Through his website, Boost Hockey, he aims to help players grow into the individuals they want to be. He is a frequent contributor to

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