How Do I Tell My Son His Hockey Dream is Over?

The Mind Coach
Ask The Mind Coach is dedicated to the “mental” part of hockey from both player and parent perspectives. Shawnee Harle takes your questions and provides feedback based on her experiences and training. If you have a question to Ask The Mind Coach, email us!

“It feels like the dream is over for my son who wasn’t taken in his U16 draft. He doesn’t want to quit and is locked in on doing something in hockey at a high level but I don’t think he is good enough once I take my parent goggles off. We have had discussions about focussing on school and perhaps getting a job but he is determined to keep going,. He works harder than most kids but the talent just doesn’t match his effort level. What is the best way to tell my kid that his hockey dream is probably over?”

I suggest letting this play out a bit longer.

If you force him to quit, he may be resentful and blame you for squashing his dream.  Some athletes just won’t take NO for an answer and that’s not a bad thing.

It’s really difficult to let go of, or give up on a dream when investment is high.

“Those who invest the most are the last to surrender.”

If there aren’t any major disadvantages or life altering situations that will occur if he continues to chase his dream, let him keep chasing.  He has the rest of his life to work.  School should be a focus regardless.

In the end, the cream always rises to the top.

Give it more time.  At some point it will become obvious to him, one way or the other.

Shawnee is a two-time Olympian with 26 years of elite coaching and leadership experience. She is a Mental Toughness Coach and helps athletes of all ages gain a competitive edge, get selected to their dream team, earn that scholarship, and compete with COURAGE and CONFIDENCE when it matters most. And because it take a village, Shawnee also works with their parents. Learn more at

More from The Mind Coach

The post How Do I Tell My Son His Hockey Dream is Over? appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.


Changing the Game For Women In Kazakhstan

The prototypical men’s hockey journey is one highlighted by consistency and support. Players start at a young age and have he opportunity to progress from visible league to more visible league, earning access to the best coaches and opportunities available, and benefitting from a family able to provide the time and means to ensure he’s able to chase his dreams. It’s like an escalator, of sorts, steadily elevating young hopefuls as high as their skill can take them

For Ms. Bulbul Kartanbay, her hockey journey was less like an escalator and more like a gruelling hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.

The 28 year old from Kazakhstan was never pushed to play the game through her youth, instead arbitrarily being assigned to Ice Hockey at 13 after attending a sports school where her preference of playing soccer was unavailable. 

She was never encouraged by her family to pursue her dream, with Kartanbay’s parents instead telling her to go to college and get married rather than trying to make it in a “man’s sport.” 

Bubul Kartanbay is helping other young women break into the game through the Women’s Hockey Academy in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s first female-focused hockey school.

And her career could hardly be called consistent, enduring multiple pauses and delays, including a lengthy hiatus from ages 18-21.

Even within her triumphs, Kartanbay found opposition. She was unable to join the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after being drafted by the Boston Blades at age 18 following four separate denials for an American work visa, and injury from a car accident cost her most of her only NWHL season in 2019-20.

Despite these setbacks, Kartanbay always found a way to not only persevere, but succeed. She has become one of the most notable women’s players in Kazakhstan, representing the country twice in the World Junior Cup at ages 16 and 17 as well playing in five World Cups from 2012 through 2019 and two Olympic qualifying tournaments. 

Kartanbay’s hockey prowess has taken her from the NWHL’s (now PHF) Metropolitan Riveters to Tomiris Astana of the Kazakh Women’s League, and she’s recently decided to use her stories and skills to help other young women break into the game through the Women’s Hockey Academy in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s first female-focused hockey school.

Kartanbay has represented her country numerous times on the international stage and has played pro hockey in North America.

Kartanbay’s Women’s Hockey Academy is making a huge contribution to building the game overseas, providing an opportunity for young girls where none previously existed.

In Kazakhstan, hockey is primarily considered a sport for men, and even though women are allowed to play, a deficit in organized youth teams, skilled coaches, and available ice (there are only five ice rinks in Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan) means that their involvement and development within the sport are often minimized in favor of providing support to the country’s young men in the game. 

After returning in 2021, Kartanbay made it her goal to change the sports dynamic in her home country, and give young women both the chance and support in a place that seems content to leave their potential unrealized.

It all started when Kartanbay took part in hosting a charity hockey event for International Women’s Day, and found 12 Kazakh girls willing to participate within a 16-team children’s tournament. 

Realizing her ability to grow the game, Kartanbay started the Academy, with her mission immediately earning sympathizers. She was highlighted as one of Kazakhstan’s “100 New Faces” in 2021, and earned the trust and support of the Kazakhstani government after giving a speech to the President of the Kazakhstan Republic. 

Kartanbay would later meet with the Mayor of Nur-Sultan and the Kazakhstani Minister of Sports and Culture to discuss support for her initiative.

“They said that they will support me because the president supported me,” she says. “He told them and they did it for me.”

Since then, the success of Kartanbay and the Women’s Hockey Academy has been subjectively outstanding. 

Kartanbay was highlighted as one of Kazakhstan’s “100 New Faces” in 2021 for her work in growing the game of hockey.

In our interview, the current Tomiris Astana forward reported that there were only 171 professional female Kazakh players, while her academy was currently developing the skills of 75 young women ages 4-18, cultivating and ensuring the future of women in Kazakhstani hockey.

“What we did with the Women’s Hockey Academy … it’s really amazing,” Kartanbay said.

The Academy hosted open-door days in July of 2021 to allow those interested to see the possibilities of Kartanbay’s vision, and emphasizes the open collaboration she wants to foster within her program.

“My main goal is, first of all, move the national team to the capitol city,” she begins. “And then, involve more young coaches and coaches from other countries like Finland, US, Canada, to teach our players and community how to work. 

Bulbul Kartanbay’s initiative and fire to succeed may have started the ball rolling for girls hockey in Kazakhstan, but it is still an uphill battle.

Hockey is growing every day, every second. It’s new programs, new games, going faster. I also want to travel … there’s a lot of experience to exchange.”

Kartanbay’s passion for both the game and her ability to grow it are evident as she speaks. Her goals of creating a network to advance hockey within the country of Kazakhstan, especially for women, is not only noble, but revolutionary. 

Within a country that has not only failed to foster women in hockey, but actively discouraged them from participating, Bulbul Kartanbay’s initiative and fire to succeed have the power to change countless lives around her, providing an escalator to those who were never even shown the stairs.

With Astana, Kartanbay currently wears #99, made most famous by Wayne Gretzky. Some may call it sacrosanct, but it’s easy to see comparisons between the two if one looks close enough. 

Like Gretzky, Kartanbay is transforming and growing the game of hockey. The work she does through her Women’s Hockey Academy will have a positive impact not just on the girls she trains today, but on women in the game for generations to come in Kazakhstan.

girls hockey in Kazakhstan


If you are interested in helping more girls play hockey in Kazakhstan through coaching exchanges, equipment donations and other contributions, please email

Elite Level Hockey


The post Changing the Game For Women In Kazakhstan appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.


Hockey Academies Opening Paths to Success

Each hockey season, the Banff Academy includes in its annual schedule, a session of tournament hockey to be played along the U.S. East Coast.

The purpose of this road trip for the Alberta school is twofold. First of all, the hockey academies in the New England area of the USA are among the finest and most traditional schools when it comes to prep hockey.

Secondly, the trip is also viewed as a fact-finding mission. It provides both players and parents who opt to make the journey the chance to check out some of the top hockey-playing universities in the USA.

“We take all the kids to Boston for a week and play in a tournament in New Hampshire,” explained Banff Academy head coach Garry Unger. “The parents would come and we’d go on college trips.

“We go to Harvard and Boston College and some Division II colleges.”

The chance to pursue higher education is playing a significant role in the growth and popularity of Canadian hockey academies. But in Western Canada, where hockey academies have exploded in popularity, it’s become the first choice for top players no matter which direction they hope to take in their hockey development.

“There’s now essentially an entire sports school/academy-based league that really has kind of taken over British Columbia and Alberta,” said Jay Tredway, athletic director at Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont. It’s where the majority of (WHL) draft picks now come out of – these sports school-based systems.”

For those players in search of a scholarship to play college hockey at an NCAA school, the academy route is viewed as the ideal stepping stone along that path, especially among the Ontario academies and independent schools.

“Here it’s more of an NCAA bridge,” said Robb Serviss, head coach at the A21 Academy in Windsor, Ont. “St. Andrew’s (in Aurora, Ont.) had 12 NCAA commits last year on their roster.”

Players – and parents – are quickly discovering that college isn’t the only destination for which these academies can prove to be a solid starting-off point.

“Ridley College has OHL draft picks,” Serviss said. “They’re more half and half.”

Tredway believes that parents are coming to the realization that even if junior hockey is the ultimate goal, investing a couple of junior-eligible years at a hockey academy can actually prove more fruitful than jumping into the OHL at the age of 16 or 17.

“The good part for the student-athlete in hockey is there’s different pathways that are opening up,” Tredway said. “Schools like Ridley are there to help people who want to pursue that.

“One of the things that families have come to appreciate is that there’s going to be time to play junior hockey but what’s going to give you the best fundamental boost and the best developmental boost?”

If junior is the game plan, staying the course at Ridley, a boarding school, helps kids not only to improve on the ice, but also to excel in the classroom and grow accustomed to living a life away from home, learning vital time-management skills.

“It’s an opportunity to go somewhere where you’re not riding the bench behind a 20 year old,” Tredway said. “You’re playing full-on minutes all the time through.

“By the time you’re a 20-year-old and you’re in junior hockey, you’re ready to go. You’re already set.”

University, though, remains the first choice of destination for most students at schools such as Ridley.

“The students that choose Ridley, that’s what they’re pursuing primarily,” Tredway said of a college scholarship. “There are a lot of (OHL) draft picks in the mix with us but the majority of kids have chosen Ridley because they want to pursue post-secondary sport.

“The reality of hockey is that’s a year or two away. They may end up having to play (Tier II) junior until they’re 20 years old because their university is not going to want them right away. They’re not going to be freshmen at 18 or 19. They’re lucky if they’re freshmen at 20, and for some of them it’s 21.

“So, there’s this opportunity to have this development, this education-based development option that gets them to being an 18-year-old. And then, they still have two years of junior hockey to play before the university that wants them even wants them to show up on campus.”

Tredway looks at the world junior tournament, where USA Hockey has closed the gap and runs neck and neck with Hockey Canada most years, as a sign of the changing hockey landscape in terms of the development pipeline.

“You look at the rosters for those U.S. teams and it’s all college guys,” Tredway said. “It’s all guys that are either on the (USA Hockey) U18 development team, which is a pretty bespoke organization, or it’s university guys. And the Canadian team is made up of major junior guys and a couple of university guys.

“I think that’s where you’re going to see changes. People are learning that the educational pathway is not hurting their development at all. In fact, it may be giving lots of other upside that maybe people hadn’t been paying attention to before.”

The post Hockey Academies Opening Paths to Success appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.


Hockey Scouts Offer Advice to Parents

In this series on amateur hockey scouting, we compiled responses from 20 different hockey scouts and coaches that scout representing NHL, OHL, CJHL and NCAA teams about their unique job. Many wished to remain anonymous, which we allowed in order to get more candid responses to our questions.
These hockey scouts come from varying backgrounds, ranging from former players — from the NHL, junior and college ranks — to former coaches, including some with limited hockey playing experience. Believe it or not, there is even a former referee. Some have been a hockey scout for over 30 years and others only a couple.

In talking to hockey scouts for this series, it is clear that they all have stories of finding particular players or seeing late bloomers blossom. It’s no wonder then that the advice most scouts offered to hockey parents centred around patience and enjoying each and every moment of the journey. 

One CHL coach said, “Don’t rush the process and understand that your son/daughter are the one driving the bus, not you! Support your children in every way imaginable but be a parent first and always. Please do not put sport ahead of all other life priorities.” 

“Do not get caught up with the “right path” because there is none,” another NCAA coach said. “I’ve seen 14 year olds considered NHL locks that never make it and I’ve seen 19 year olds that were told they could never play Division 1 hockey make the NHL.”

“Have your kids do what they love, support their goals and enjoy the ride. “ 

A CHL scout/coach said, “Players develop at different rates and in different settings. To improve, a kid needs to play. Minutes are more important than the level or league they play at. Development requires teaching thus the importance of coaching can never be overlooked.”

Finally, the scouts were asked if they offer advice to hockey parents and if it bothers them when someone at the rink asks questions?

One scout said, “Absolutely not. I enjoy talking to the parents and spectators, but wait until the end of a period or the end of the game.  If you see me and you have a question, I always like to talk about hockey and most scouts would feel the same.”

Amateur Hockey Scouting

The post Hockey Scouts Offer Advice to Parents appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.