Wow, it’s that time of year, you know, the time when every game is so important, teams are fighting for every single point en-route to trying to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Everything just feels different. The commitment of the players, the stake of the games, the feeling of morning skates, the air in each building, the energy in the crowd and the excitement of each win. Every player loves it. That’s why they play. For this time of year, when everything matters. I mean everything. So how do the big-time players do it? How do they get it done? Here are 5 tips to practice on your way to becoming a big-time player.
First of all, let’s be clear that all players can achieve big time status. Is the player that wins a D-Zone face-off with 15 seconds left in the game to seal a 1 goal victory any less big-time that the player who scored both goals? Not in our view. So, no matter what your role is on your team, the whole idea of being a big-time player is fulfilling your role when it’s time to throw your cards on the table. One thing is for certain, you better be all in!
1. Be You - I will never forget these words that came from NHL coach Andy Murray who I had the pleasure of playing for with the Canadian National Team. In his orientation meeting at the start of camp, he said “If you’re a checker, check. If you were invited here to score, score. If you like to play physical, be physical. If you lead, lead.” Then he said, you’re here because you’ve shown something special so go “Be You.” Those words left a huge impact on my philosophy as a player, man, son, husband and father. We all have our strengths. In the big games, you got to rely on them. Be You and WIN!
2. Trust in your Prep - Studying the best athletes in the world has become a real-world passion for me. I was recently watching Usain Bolt’s documentary on Netflix and couldn’t help but realize how many times he acknowledged his coaches and his teammates that pushed him every day. He referred to having the “Best Training Team” in the world. Guys, this is the world’s fastest running human ever. He was confident, but it wasn’t enough. He needed to repeat those words as if it provided some sort of physical advantage over the competition. Find the best people to work with to help you and trust in that process. Your training preparation is your result. You really do have the best training team in the world!
3. Small Chunks - Bad title, I hear ya. But being a big-time player necessitates “small chunk” thinking. The world’s best players never get caught up in the game. They never get caught up in the winning and losing part. So, what do they do? They chunk the process. They focus on reverse pinching that D-man on a DZ rim to get the puck out of the DZ. They focus on flexing and going knee down on dump back play on the PK. They focus about getting on the right side of the offensive player’s stick to execute a 1 hand BH stick lift while their opponent is racing down the ice on a Breakaway without taking a penalty. Everything’s about the small chunk. Everything’s about the process. It keeps the elite player dialed in and deliberate in their in-game performance. Small Chunks baby!
4. Believe in your Map - You know that little processor that you’ve got at the heightened north extremity of your being? Yeah you got it, your brain. It stores a ton of information, right? Believe in its contents. Believe in its map. Because the map is you guys. That’s how you roll. That’s how you act. That map is you. You gotta believe in it. The execution of special talents is automatic for the elite level athlete. That’s your map. Believe in it and when you do, the zone is yours.
5. Reset the Mind - I had a chat recently at morning skate with Nathan MacKinnon, he brushed by me and said his hands “were no good this morning” and he wanted to set up a medley of pucks to work on his feel. I quickly acknowledged him, smiled and said “Mack, your hands are always elite!” and he replied “Yeah, Yeah” and started zigging and zagging his blade in and around the pucks. That night he scored the game’s opening goal and netted the winner in what was so far, the biggest game of our season. The mind can play some awful tricks, reset it anytime you start to question your abilities. Your skill doesn’t go away, your mind does.
Watch this shootout winner and decide for yourself how Macs hands are doing!
So, friends. LET’S GO! It’s time to shine and go big-time. Be You. Trust in your prep like it’s your lifeline. Small chunk the process. Always and I mean always believe in your map and reset that funny looking organ at the top of your head anytime it starts to play tricks on you. After all, you’ve got your hands on the wheel, put the pedal down and WIN. There is no greater feeling in the world to executing your best YOU.