“All or Nothing”: The Road to the National Hockey League for Five Successful Danish Players Born in 1989

in Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  • | 2 School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada
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The purpose of this case study was to explore the conditions that contributed to the development of five Danish National Hockey League players born in 1989. Informed by the personal assets framework, we conducted nine semistructured interviews with six players, two parents, and a former head coach. The purpose of these interviews was to explore the conditions that surrounded the athlete’s development and facilitated their ascent to the National Hockey League. Generally, we found that the club coaches identified and targeted the National Hockey League players from an early age, were result oriented in their leadership approach, and provided exclusive training opportunities to identified players. During their specializing years, the players were encouraged to undertake an “all or nothing” approach, whereby they were largely expected to sacrifice opportunities to pursue dual careers. In addition, a relocation to the Swedish hockey gymnasium and club, Frölunda, provided an important developmental stepping-stone for nearly all of them. Furthermore, uncontrollable and fortuitous conditions (e.g., prosperous national sport environment, role models) inspired the players’ ambitions and perceptions of capability. The results of this study are discussed in relation to the literature and practical implications, and we highlight limitations and propose future directions.

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