That's the case for Gander's Ryan Matheson, who's competing in his third year with the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League.
After being traded to the Ramblers in the 2009/'10 season, Matheson has steadily improved his play. In 48 games in his first season with the Nova Scotia-based team, Matheson collected 14 points (four goals, 10 assists).
Matheson was named team captain the following year, and responded with a 33-point effort (seven goals, 26 assists).
In 20 games so far this season, Matheson has two goals and 12 assists for 14 points.
In an interview with The Beacon in 2010, shortly after being named captain, Matheson talked about how beginning a new season in a familiar setting helped boost his confidence.
"Coming into last year's season when I came to Amherst, it was a lot to adjust to. I already knew the head coach, but I had to adjust to new teammates and even new billets. It was an adjustment," said Matheson in the 2010 article. "This year, I'm with the same group of people, so it's basically just a continuation from last year."
This season, the majority of that 2009/'10 team remains in tact, and has fought and clawed its way to the top of the Bent Division standings with 45 points, and sit second in the overall standings (the Woodstock Slammers are in first with 63 points).
Matheson said some of the team's success can be attributed to experience and the fact the players are used to each other on the ice.
"It's a lot of the same players, because we've been together now for three years. Twenty-year-old players mostly dominate the league we're in, so we're at the stage now where we're all 20," said Matheson last week. "We really didn't have the experience before, but now we do, and it helps you win games. It helped that we added a couple of players and we're still going to be adding, because this is an important time in the league."
“We really didn’t have the experience before, but now we do, and it helps you win games.” - Ryan Matheson
However, along with a first-place run in the Bent Division, Matheson has endured, and overcome, a pretty significant injury.
The offensively-gifted defenceman suffered a concussion in a game against the Truro Bearcats on Nov. 6, and never returned until Dec. 8.
In four games since returning from the injury, Matheson recorded three assists. The team went 3-4 without Matheson in the lineup, and has gone 5-1 since his return.
"We started the season off on a winning note and we kept it up throughout the year," said Matheson. "Personally, I had a bit of a setback in November. I suffered a concussion and was out for the whole month of November, but I came back and started playing again in the beginning of December, and things have been good since then."
The team will begin play again Jan. 5 against the Yarmouth Mariners, where Matheson hopes to continue leading the Ramblers to key wins.
However, when he isn't on the ice, Matheson can either be found in the gym getting stronger, or speaking to his brother Andrew, who's a goalie for the St. John's Maple Leafs of the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League, or his father Paul, who's the trainer for the Central IcePak of the same league.
"Yeah, actually, I do," said Matheson, when asked if he keeps tabs on how local hockey teams are doing. "Like Andrew said (in a Dec. 22 Beacon article), we talk everyday, so we talk about hockey and how it's going. Our dad is the trainer with the Central IcePak, so he's always telling us how that's going. That's always interesting because that's my old team. Every now and then I'll read the newspaper to see what's going on. It's always good to keep tabs on everything."