Confidence key for kids ready to rejuvenate Rangers

By CityNews Kitchener Staff


Tennis great Chris Evert once said, “In a decisive set, confidence is the difference.”

Confidence is a tricky feeling, especially when you're a teenager. It's a belief in one’s self that can be difficult to achieve, especially someone in high-school or college.

The members of the Kitchener Rangers approaching a professional hockey career are under even more pressure, thanks to a larger spotlight and more scrutiny.

Parents, agents, coaches, managers, teammates, peers, and media, all expecting results.

“A big part is having the players play with confidence,” said Kitchener head coach Jay McKee after Tuesday nights loss to the Guelph Storm by a score of 6-2. “When you have a young group, you have to teach them and at the same time manage the confidence levels.”

This is a team that is without ten players from last year's roster; a double-overtime-goal in Game 7 away from the Ontario Hockey League Championship.

They've been forced to get younger.

Opening night, they dressed four rookies, a defenseman who only played 24 regular season games and a backup goaltender who was credited with one OHL game, two years ago.

Tuesday night, they were without three of those first-year-players and were forced to call up three others; two of them rookies.

The Rangers have lost four-of-five games since the loss of overage defenseman Connor Hall and forward Nick McHugh in the same contest, at home to Guelph.

“When you go through tough times, it's easy to want to be hard on the guys nonstop,” said the third-year head coach. “We have to have a fine balance between the teaching aspects of things and being hard on them at times.”

“I know from experience,” added McKee, who had an 800-plus-game career in the NHL. “It's an easy game when you're playing with confidence and belief in yourself. But, when that leaves you, it's a very hard game. That's when mistakes are made, and you're afraid to make plays and you're afraid to make mistakes.”

It may be that experience that allows McKee and general manager Mike McKenzie to step back and look at the big picture.

It's hard to talk to either without hearing the word, “process.”

“We're trying to be a competitive hockey team that sticks to the process to get better every day,” said McKenzie. “That will result in good things happening not just this year, but years after.”

“It's something that needs to be built and nurtured and cultivated over a year or two. It becomes a habit and natural for guys to understand that's how we do things here.”

If the players embody the McKenzie and McKee belief, that confidence will be passed along each year.

For Rangers fans doubting this year's team, they may want to look at a lesson echoed by Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embid.

“Trust the process.”


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