Shawn Horcoff is the Detroit Red Wings’ director of player development and a NHL alumnus of 1,000 games.
He also happens to be a hockey dad.
So Horcoff, a Spartan hockey product now back living in Michigan, certainly knows what it takes to get to the NHL, and he’s currently tasked with helping develop junior and college prospects for the NHL level.
When it comes to his best advice for youth hockey players, however, it’s an all-encompassing, but simple word.
“Work - that’s all I can say,” Horcoff said. “Be a guy that does more things than anyone else does. Essentially, that’s what it comes down to. To play in the NHL, people don’t understand the level of work that goes into that, the level of effort… that’s nutrition, that’s sleep, that’s off-ice habits, on-ice habits, practicing, skill work, in the gym, there’s just so many different things.”
His advice to the Red Wings prospects isn’t much different, either.
“We worked long and hard on trying to figure out every aspect it takes to be a good pro,” Horcoff said. “That’s going to be from nutrition, that’s going to be from social media, how they deal with social media and media in general, habits on and off the ice. Not just systems or what it takes defensemen to be good or what it takes for a forward to be good. When I first started, it wasn’t really like that. Nowadays, everybody’s got a trainer, everybody’s got a nutritionist. To be elite, you have to treat your body elite. I think a lot of these young guys aren’t used to that and we’re just trying to expose it to them as quick as we can.”
Horcoff knows first-hand how difficult life can be as a hockey parent, as well. He said the best way a parent can complement development is by simply being supportive, finding that balance between encouraging fun and hard work.
“Get ready to drive,” Horcoff said with a laugh. “Nowadays, I got one myself, I’ve got a 12-year-old, 10-year-old and a 2-year-old… [My wife and I] just drive around. It’s a big effort out of parents nowadays if you want your kids to be successful.
“I’ve been around it before. I think, with my son, I’ve been through it with development like this… you get some great [parents], you get some crazy ones. I think it’s like anything else. The best parents are the ones that are just supportive, the ones that just want to encourage hard work, but also fun. That’s why we play the game, right? If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re never going put the work effort in that it’s going to take to be successful.”
And his advice for coaches?
“Just like the parents: encourage hard work and encourage fun.”