Respecting Your Rival
As we all know, rivalry games (even early in a season) are intense and can get downright nasty. But at the end of the day, players and coaches should appreciate being in those situations because if handled the right way, you can learn a lot about your team.
When NYU Hockey won the ACHA National Championship in 2015, we learned that the intense games against our league rivals in the Super East Collegiate Hockey League (SECHL) is what prepared us for the physical and mental grind of the National Tournament. Winning the National Title made us appreciate being in such a talented and competitive league.
In 2014, the University of New Hampshire, a member of the SECHL, won the ACHA National title. Our staff and players had so much respect for that team because they had a deep roster, they were disciplined and just flat out played the game the right way. To this day, we know every game against UNH will be a battle and a great test. The same goes for William Paterson University who has won an impressive five SECHL Championships in the past seven years. The only two times they lost the SECHL title was to UNH in 2014 and NYU in 2015 - both teams would go on to win the National Title each year.
Players will be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally against league rivals. Seeing how the players answer the bell is a big part of a team's development. Whether you win or lose there is a lot to learn in those rivalry games - some players/teams step up, while others become invisible. As a coach you learn that there is a big difference between the player that can do something and the player that can do it when it needs to be done.
Winning and losing with integrity is something every coach should instill in their team, no matter how difficult it may be at times. In the end you will be thanking your rival for giving their very best, because ultimately they are giving you the opportunity to bring out the best in you.