Name: Cale Makar

Age: 20

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Current NHL Team: Colorado Avalanche

Position: Defenceman

On a sunny afternoon in the middle of July, twenty young hockey hopefuls took time away from their summer vacation, to step on the ice with one of the most talented up-and-coming rookies in the NHL. Twenty-year-old Cale Makar made quite an impression on young players that afternoon, just like he’s made quite an impression early on in his NHL career. 

This past April he suited up for his first NHL game, a playoff game against the Calgary Flames and scored his first NHL goal. He became the first defenceman to score a playoff goal in his NHL debut.  It also happened to be the same weekend, he won the Hobey Baker Award, the top prize for NCAA player of the year and he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche. Talk about a grand entrance.

“It was all just a flash I think. I mean it’s a dream come true scoring that goal and it’s a little step closer to where my eventual goal is to long term play in the NHL,” says Makar.

Makar is a superstar in the making, yet he’s not quite ready to take on the title. He was quick to downplay his star in the making status, instead wanting to focus on how his experiences could help the next generation of young hockey players. 

“Anytime you can get out in the community like this it’s really special and I am not fully there yet, but when a kid can get on the ice with someone who is even remotely even close there (to the NHL), it’s pretty cool. Looking back to when I was a kid and they (NHL players) would come out, whether it was Matt Dumba, or someone older, it was just incredible so I can’t imagine what these kids are feeling. Even though they don’t have a superstar on the ice,” commented Makar.

Superstar or not, Makar is determined to make his mark in the NHL next season and for years to come. We chose him as one of our Masterclass athletes because even though he is young, he already has a wealth of experience that can benefit so many other youth hockey players making their way. 

Here are Cale Makar’s top 6 tips for youth hockey players and parents:

1. Don’t be afraid to fail: 

I started skating at 1 or 2 years old when I was really young. I just loved hockey and being on the ice every day. I felt that I could get better and when I didn’t make Alberta Cup (Bantam), that was a big turning point in terms of working harder and becoming the person I am today.

2. Focus on where you want to go and set specific goals:

For most young hockey players, it’s every kid’s dream to play in the NHL or play at a high level of hockey. For me, I always looked towards that and never looked at anything else. I get asked all the time what my back up plan was besides hockey, but I just say I didn’t think about that. I had one goal in mind and I’m not there yet, but it feels good.

3. Compliment your game by playing a variety of different sports: 

Go out and have fun! It was big for me playing different sports and being away from the game whether it was in the summer or just playing soccer or golf. Just being able to get out there, try new things and still have hockey in the back of your mind. 

4. Work hard, train hard: 

I am a runner; I love running quick sprints, agility running whether it’s 30 yards. My advice when it comes to cardio is doing quick running spurts, multiple times off the ice. Don’t be afraid to work hard. Put in the work and the time and you’ll get there. 

5. Focus on mental health 

I am so into that mental side of the game, so any chance I can get or can take to improve mental ability and relieve some of that fake pressure is pretty important.

I’ve read so many good books and at UMass (University of Massachusetts) I had such a great psychologist. I suggest reading books to strengthen your mental health like:

Hockey Tough

By Sal Miller

Mindset: The New Psychology for Success

By Carol Dweck

6. Take time away from the ice and away from the game

Parents ask me that all the time, how much should their kids be on the ice. My advice is to give them a break. I played so much spring hockey over the years and as a kid you love it and you never want to get off the ice. But as you get older, it can wear on you when you’re on the ice every single day. If you notice your sons (or daughters) are getting tired, being able to manage them and make sure they are introduced to other sports as well is important. It’s so important to be integrated into everything as well.