By Matt Mackinder
Playing high school hockey last year in Minnesota, Rob Click knew he had a secure spot with Stillwater Area High School and didn’t worry too much about anyone bumping him from his spot on the blue line.
This season, Click is realizing that is not the case when it comes to junior hockey.
Starting the current season with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks and then moving to the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors, Click joined the cross-town Flint Jr. Generals a couple weeks ago to gain some needed ice time and game action in the NA3HL that will hopefully translate to another NAHL or USHL opportunity next season.
From the start of this season to now, compared to last year I would have to say there have been more emotional and mental challenges,” said Click. “Last year I was on one team where I had a deadlock position, so I knew where I was at for the entire season. Playing juniors, one never really has a locked position on a team, so it's a mind game. I've had to adjust to a new level of play, new coaches and a new way of living, so it's been extremely trying compared to last year.
“The bottom line is I'm still having fun through all the highs and lows, which could be said about last year as well where as a senior and getting a lot of ice time, I think that helped me develop my in-game skills and confidence with the puck, so it translated into the NA3 game.”
Leaving his home in Stillwater, Minn., has meant an adjustment period away from the ice for Click as well.
“It's a unique experience because most kids go off to college and are living with other kids, but when you play juniors, you go and live with a new family,” Click said. “The first couple weeks, I had to adjust to the daily schedule of my billet family because no family lives their daily lives identical to the next. It's such a great opportunity to build a bond with a new family and to live with people that you can eventually call a second family when it's all said and done. I know that I will be in contact with the McCombs for the rest of my life.”
Minnesota and Michigan are also two of the highest-volume hockey hotbeds in all of the United States. Having seen both states first-hand, Click leans toward his home state when it comes to hockey dynamics.
“I mean, there really isn't anything that compares to Minnesota high school hockey,” said Click. “In Michigan, there are different levels of play, such as midgets and high school. In Minnesota, it's just high school. Everyone aspires to play high school hockey and high school hockey is the main sport throughout the state. The talent level in Minnesota and Michigan is about the same, but the attention and focus of hockey on a statewide scale, nothing can compare to Minnesota.”
That said, Click said the experience in Flint has been very satisfying and has helped boost his case for moving on next season.
”The Jr. Generals are successful in every aspect from the top on down,” said Click. “Coaching, scouting, management and the players, they're all great. The coaches know how to motivate and teach the players in a positive form to give them the will and desire to give 100 percent effort night in and night out.
”In the short term, I look to build upon my skills and become a more confident hockey player. Long term, I aspire to play for a Division I hockey school. I set my sights for the NA, but my primary goal is to get back into the USHL.”