Oct 8, 2019
When the Cleveland Monsters players arrived for the 2019-20 season, the energy in the rink was palpable surrounding the arrival of new head coach Mike Eaves. With Eaves leading the charge, the players and staff found practices to be upbeat with a fast tempo and lots of physical play.
“They seem pretty receptive of the high-energy practice,” said Eaves. “They really compete against each other and are hard on the puck. The way you practice is the way you play, so that is a good sign we are moving in the right direction.”
Practice indeed translated to in-game performance in this case with the Monsters completing an opening-weekend sweep of the Laval Rocket under Eaves’ guidance. Twelve players registered points throughout the weekend with five players picking up a point in both games while Matiss Kivlenieks and Veini Vehvilainen combined for 57 saves.
With 34 seasons of coaching experience under his belt, Eaves describes his coaching style as energetic and attributes that fact entirely to his mindset. Recalling a famous quote by Charles Swindoll, Eaves bases his coaching methods off the idea that ‘10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we respond to it’.
“We get to choose everyday,” said Eaves. “I get to choose to come to the rink and say, ‘we get to play hockey today’ and that is pretty fun.”
From coaching behind the bench to being right on the ice with the players, it is evident that Eaves’ choice is infectious and noticed by everyone else in the rink.
Another factor helping the Monsters move in the right direction is the familiarity between the players on the ice. Out of the 30 players on Cleveland’s opening night roster, all but seven of them had played for the Monsters prior to the 2019-20 season. Among those 23 players returning to Cleveland is one of the Monsters’ captains, Nathan Gerbe, who has noticed how Eaves’ optimistic influence has impacted the team on the ice.
“I think we have the right blend of players,” said Gerbe. “We have a big group of older guys that like to work hard and come to the rink. We do not want negativity at the rink, and we do not want that around the room. We want to promote positivity and show that guys who work hard will succeed at each level.”
The open-mindedness towards Eaves by the team’s veteran players and willingness to help spread a positive mindset to their teammates has not been lost on the coaching staff, especially Eaves.
“I think their acceptance is imperative for us to move forward at a quicker pace,” said Eaves. “If the coaching staff is true to ourselves and show how we enjoy coming to the rink, the players will pick it up and feed off of that.”