When you look at athletes, the one standout feature is size. Professional athletes are tall and muscular, which leaves every average Joe desiring for the same physique. Hockey is a sport where size is key. Players have gotten faster and stronger so the taller you are the better off you will be fending for yourself. Zdeno Chara is a prime example of this. Standing at over two meters on skates, Chara currently holds the record for the hardest shot in the league.
But where does that leave the 5’8” guys? Well many times they are ignored, take the Red Wings’ Brian Rafalski for example. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian when he was playing his first season in Finland for my team, HPK. I was 14 at the time and I was already the same height as he was. Granted I haven’t really grown much since those days, except maybe outwards with my gut and back with my butt. Rafalski is a prime example of ‘little guy big’. Last night against Chicago, Rafalski stepped up his game and scored an important equalising goal. He can be a physical force and boy can he shoot the puck. What is funny that the NHL wrote Rafalski off as he was too small and apparently couldn’t shoot. After three odd years in Europe, a Finnish championship in his pocket, the New Jersey Devils picked him up. He now has three Stanley Cup’s to his name, which really shows that you can achieve greatness if you keep at it.
Another really exciting guy to watch is Chicago’s Patrick Kane. Official stats say that he measures in at 179cm, but the guy looks tiny and there surely the stats office has added a cm or two to his stats. Kane is a prime example of a great player. He is skilled and plays hard. He has still a few years till we can see what he is really capable of, but he is definitely one to watch over the coming years.
Then there is my all time favourite: Saku Koivu. What can you say of a guy that is 5’10” and is one of the fiercest competitors in the NHL? Where his season ended up in disappointment, it was great to see the way he fought in the toughest areas of the ice (in the slot) with the biggest guy in the league (Zdeno Chara). Though Koivu might not be as chipper as he was back in his younger years, he is still one of the most competitive and unrelenting players in the league.
So why should I pay attention to these little big guys? Well because I am one of those guys who isn’t overtly tall. It is unlikely that I’ll grow from the 5’9”, but it is something I can use to my advantage. Where the bigger guys will use their size and weight to throw me around a bit, I can use my speed to get by them. I am not saying that I am like a punching bag for these guys as I can definitely stand my own ground in the corners and the slot. Like my idol, Teemu Selanne, my game relies on speed and Koivu’s unrelenting competitiveness. I think that by adopting this little guy big mentality, I have been able to get more out of my game than before. But I am happy that I have discovered it now, when I’m still young and have countless number of years to give to the game in me.
In trainings I need to focus on working on what I am good at and the areas where I need to improve. By working on these aspects, I will be able to lift myself to new heights and see the work that I’ve done off the ice, pay its dividends.