Avs Story – David Jones

In this exclusive interview, Colorado Avalanche Cares was able to sit down with Right Winger David Jones. David talks about his youth sports experience, how he was discovered, and gives great advice to both youth hockey players and their parents.

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What sports did you play growing up?
David: “Everything. I played a lot of baseball, soccer and a little football when I was younger plus rugby in high school and basketball. Baseball, hockey and soccer were my top three.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who taught you how to skate?
David: “My old man. Probably from the time I was old enough to walk he had a pond in my backyard in Ontario. I was skating as soon as I could walk.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you start playing hockey exclusively?
David: “Even when I played Junior B I still played a little bit of soccer. It kept me in good shape. In that league we only practiced twice a week and had a few games each week. I still love to play soccer. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What is your greatest memory of playing youth hockey?
David: “I played summer hockey for a team called the Vancouver Selects. We used to travel all over and our team was unbelievable. We won a lot of championships and tournaments. I used to travel to Minnesota every year for a big tournament, so that was probably the highlight of each summer.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Describe the role your parents had in your youth hockey experiences. What impact did they have?
David: “They were everything. From the 5:00 a.m. practices to their commitment, my parents were great. My dad just loved it. When I played at Dartmouth I don’t think he missed more than five games every year and he’s in Vancouver, all the way on the other side of the country. My parents were really supportive and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who was the most influential person to your hockey career?
David: “I think my dad, because he taught me everything I know. He took so much time out of his day to help me develop. He’s the first person I call after every game so I kind of get the tough criticism from him; the kind of helpful critique that some other people won’t give you.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Where was or is your favorite place to play hockey?
David: “I’ve only been there once, but it has to be back home in Vancouver playing against the Canucks. During the one game I was there this year we won in a shootout and it was unbelievable.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice do you have for parents of youth hockey players?
David: “Don’t put too much pressure on your kids. A lot of times in youth hockey the parents get more wrapped up in the game than the kids. You hear stories about parents getting into fights in the stands and I don’t think there’s room for that. Encourage your kids, but don’t pressure them. Don’t try to live through them.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice would you give youth hockey players?
David: “Just go out, have fun and work hard. There might be times when you go to the rink and it’s not all that great, but you just have to push through those days. As long as you’re still having fun, you should keep doing it and keep playing hard.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How do you handle adversity?
David: “I’m a pretty positive guy and I’ve had a couple of injuries. In juniors I broke my ankle and was pretty frustrated but you just have to know that the next day is a new day. Be positive about whatever you have going. There are a lot of people in the world who are worse off than you.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you first believe you might play in the NHL?
David: “I guess when I was playing college after my sophomore year. I was playing with some good players and started to put up some pretty decent numbers. You look around and see guys who are graduating from the college ranks and playing pro. Around then Colorado came out and watched me a couple of times, so I thought they must think I have something to bring to the table. Then in my third year in college I had a pretty good year, so I thought I was ready to make the jump.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What was your route to the NHL?
David: “It’s funny actually. When I was younger I was only cut from one AAA team and that’s actually the coach that I’m closest with now. I got cut and a couple of guys didn’t live up to their expectations, so they were sent down and I was brought up and played the rest of the year. To this day, I give him a hard time about it. I skate with him a lot in the summers and he’s a great coach. I played AAA and played Junior B when I was 16 years old. After that, I went to Junior A for three years. Then I was drafted and committed to Dartmouth, where I played for three years.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How does “keeping the game fun” play a role in youth hockey?
David: “I think it’s huge. I’m the first one to say that it’s not always fun to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go and practice, then go to school all day. But I think a lot of it has to do with the coaches. Many youth hockey programs take themselves too seriously, but I think if you have good positive coaches you’ll love the game.”

Avs Story – T.J. Hensick

In this exclusive interview, Colorado Avalanche Cares was able to sit down with Center T.J. Hensick to discuss what it means to "keep it fun", what sports he played growing up, how he handles adversity, and the advice he has for youth hockey players!

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What sports did you play growing up?
T.J.: “Along with hockey, I played baseball and basketball. I also played football for one year, but didn’t really like it.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you start playing hockey exclusively?
T.J.: “It was probably around the time I was 10 years old.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who taught you how to skate?
T.J.: “Todd Gardiner, a former Michigan State University Spartan. He was my coach growing up from the time I was eight until the age of 15, so he was probably the guy.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What is your greatest memory of playing youth hockey?
T.J.: “Winning the Quebec Pee Wee International Hockey Tournament. There were about 112 teams, and it’s a pretty prestigious tournament. Winning it was probably the best moment of my youth hockey career.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who was the most influential person in your hockey career?
T.J.: “Probably my dad, just because of the support he gave to me. He was always there, through the good and the bad.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Describe the role your parents had in your youth hockey experiences. What impact did they have?
T.J.: “Without them I wouldn’t have been able to play. Driving to the rink every night, paying the bills for ice time and equipment; without them I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Where was or is your favorite place to play hockey?
T.J.: “Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The crowd, especially the student section, was great. Every Friday and Saturday pretty much the entire school comes out to cheer you on. It was definitely a different feel than on the pro level. Don’t get me wrong, playing in Denver is great, it’s just a different feel.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice do you have for parents of youth hockey players?
T.J.: “Relax and let the kids have fun. If they’re meant to be NHL players, then it will happen. Just sit back and let them enjoy it.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice would you give youth hockey players?
T.J.: : “Just enjoy it. If at any point you’re not having fun anymore, it might be time to move on to something else.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How do you handle adversity?
T.J.: “Just keep working hard every day. You’re going to face adversity, whether it’s on or off the ice. You have to battle through those times, because there’s going to be ups and downs in everyone’s career.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you first believe you might play in the NHL?
T.J.: "Probably when I made the U.S. National Program in Ann Arbor. That made me think that an opportunity might come down the road. Then, when you get drafted, it’s another opportunity that makes you think some day you might have a chance.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How does “keeping the game fun” play a role in youth hockey?
T.J.: “For me, that’s what it’s about. Sometimes you get the parents in there, trying to push their kids to be the next Joe Sakic. Like I said, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I think you just have to have fun. Maybe if you get to the age of 15 or 16 and think you have a chance, then you should push hard and try to concentrate on that one sport. But before that time, don’t sacrifice other things in your life.”

Avs Story – Brett Clark

In this exclusive interview, Colorado Avalanche Cares was able to sit down with Avs Defenseman Brett Clark to discuss what sports he played growing up, how he handles adversity, and the advice he has for youth hockey players!

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What sports did you play growing up?
Brett: “I played all the school sports. I played basketball, badminton and a little bit of golf growing up, but my main sport was always hockey.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who taught you how to skate?
Brett: “My parents. They ran a rink when I was young so I was out on the ice all the time. I picked it up from watching the older kids, so basically I just went to the rink everyday and picked it up slowly.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you start playing hockey exclusively?
Brett: “I probably started playing when I was four or five years old and it evolved from there. But hockey was always my main sport. The others were school sports to kill the time.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What is your greatest memory of playing youth hockey?
Brett: “My greatest memory was going to the rink everyday with my friends, just going out on the ice and having a good time. Learning to play and learning to do some new stuff.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Describe the role your parents had in your youth hockey experiences. What impact did they have?
Brett: “They played a very big role. They had to travel around, take me every place I needed to play and take me to the rink each day. They were probably the most important people in getting me to where I am today.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Where was or is your favorite place to play hockey?
Brett: “Playing back home at a little rink that holds 200 people was always a great experience. My favorite professional rink has to be in Montreal, because it has the greatest atmosphere.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice do you have for parents of youth hockey players?
Brett: “The only advice I have is to let the kids enjoy the game. Don’t force them if they don’t want to be out there some days, because it’s not a big deal. Let them enjoy it and have fun, so they can learn to love it as much as they want. That’s the best thing I’ve learned over the years.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice would you give youth hockey players?
Brett: “Basically the same advice, just go out there and have a good time. Even at the professional level, if you don’t love the game, you can’t be out there. Have fun every time you step on the ice, because it’s a joy and a treat.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How do you handle adversity?
Brett: “Handling adversity is just a matter of working hard during practice and not letting things bother you. You just have to go out there and do the same thing on the next shift. If people say anything about you, just go out there, try to prove them wrong and have fun doing it.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you first believe you might play in the NHL?
Brett: “You always dream of playing in the NHL when you’re young, but sometimes you don’t believe it will happen. When I got drafted, that’s where it started to take place and it snowballed from there.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How does “keeping the game fun” play a role in youth hockey?
Brett: “Keeping the game fun plays a huge role, probably a bigger role than anything. From the coaches on down to the players, you have to keep the game fun otherwise people don’t want to come watch it and the players don’t want to play it. If you make it fun, the kids will want to come back every day. Make them want to play the game, that’s what it’s all about."

Avs Story – Jeff Hackett

In this exclusive interview, Colorado Avalanche Cares was able to sit down with former NHL net-minder Jeff Hackett to discuss what advice he has for youth hockey players, the role his parents had in his success, what it means to keep the game fun, and more!

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What sports did you play growing up?
Jeff: “I played hockey, basketball, baseball and soccer, depending on the season. I believe you should enjoy every season and didn’t think it was right to concentrate on one sport.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you start playing hockey exclusively?
Jeff: “Probably not until I was playing Junior A, around the time I was 17 years old.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What is your greatest memory of playing youth hockey?
Jeff: “I think all the guys that I played with, because we’re still friends today. The guys I played with growing up, we had the same team until I was 15 years old. It was mostly about the people.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Describe the role your parents had in your youth hockey experiences. What impact did they have?
Jeff: “I had exceptional parents in that regard. I was lucky they didn’t pressure me into playing anything. They sat back and waited until something came up that I wanted to talk about, so they weren’t in my face all the time.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who was the most influential person to your hockey career?
Jeff: “My dad for sure. As I got older some of my coaches, like Jimmy Roberts in Springfield, were great influences on me.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Where was or is your favorite place to play hockey?
Jeff: “Probably in Chicago or Montreal. I had my greatest success as a player in those places and felt good about my game. I enjoyed both cities.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice do you have for parents of youth hockey players?
Jeff: “Don’t look at the end result. Just let the kids enjoy the process as they go along. Remember that hockey is just a game.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice would you give youth hockey players?
Jeff: “Always try to reach your dreams, but at the same time don’t miss out on enjoying the steps along the way.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How do you handle adversity?
Jeff: “Just work through it. Take advice, but know that you’re going to have to go back to your own core and realize what makes you a good player.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you first believe you might play in the NHL?
Jeff: “Probably not until I was playing Junior A. We had a good team and we went to the Memorial Cup, then I heard that we were rated. That’s the first time I thought I might realistically have a shot.”

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How does “keeping the game fun” play a role in youth hockey?
Jeff: “That’s a great question. It’s a sport; it’s a game and it’s meant to be fun. Sometimes coaches will try to get young players into systems and I think that’s totally the wrong way to do it. Let them enjoy the skills and learn. There’s no sense in over-coaching systems when they’re young. Let them learn the shooting, passing and skating and let it be fun. Don’t go out and skate them for no reason. Have a purpose to all your practices.”

Avs Story- Ben Guite

In this exclusive interview, Colorado Avalanche Cares was able to sit down with Avs Forward Ben Guite to discuss what advice he has for youth hockey players, how he made it to the NHL, and more!

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What sports did you play growing up?
Ben: "I played hockey, soccer, a little tennis and some football in high school."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who taught you how to skate?
Ben: "My father. The first time I stepped on the ice I was three or four years old."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you start playing hockey exclusively?
Ben: "I was probably 16 years old when I decided to play hockey exclusively."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What is your greatest memory of playing youth hockey?
Ben: "I just always enjoyed playing the game, which probably had a lot to do with my father coaching me until I was about twelve years old. He made it a lot of fun and made sure hockey was always a game. I think a lot of parents put too much pressure on their kids, but my dad made sure it was fun throughout."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Describe the role your parents had in your youth hockey experiences. What impact did they have?
Ben: "My mom was always there with motivational books and ideas, while my dad was also there for support. He played hockey, so obviously he knew a lot about it. The most important thing was that they both made sure I was having fun."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Who was the most influential person to your hockey career?
Ben: "Probably my coach at the University of Maine, Shawn Walsh. While I was at Maine, I was 18-to-22 years old and did a lot of growing up during my time there. He taught us how to become men and to be accountable for our mistakes. He was such a competitor and a great teacher."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: Where was or is your favorite place to play hockey?
Ben: "It’s always fun playing in Canada. During college, I didn’t get to play there for four years. Whether it was in the American League in Hamilton or the Maritime provinces – or in the NHL against Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton – I just always seem to have my legs underneath me and seem to be more into the game when I play in Canada."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice do you have for parents of youth hockey players?
Ben: "I would give them the same advice that my parents followed. If your kid is going to make it, he’s going to make it no matter what as long as he thinks the game is fun. You see a lot of kids who are super talented, but there’s just so much pressure on the home front that they lose interest. When push comes to shove and it becomes time to compete for positions, they lose interest and don’t have the drive to do it. When it’s fun, they just do it for themselves."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: How do you handle adversity?
Ben: "Just keep on working hard and stick in there."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: When did you first believe you might play in the NHL?
Ben: "Last year. Up until that point I had played seven years in the minors. You get to that point and think, “Is this as far as it’s going to go?” Then Colorado came knocking and gave me an opportunity. I kind of fit in their scheme and it happened for me."

Colorado Avalanche Cares: What advice would you give youth hockey players?
Ben: "Just work hard and have fun, because it’s just a game. Listen to your coaches and listen to your parents. Listen to people who have been around and have seen a lot more than you."

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