I’ve talked a lot about commitment, dreams and other things that I think make a successful player and how I integrate these things into my daily training, whether it is strength, cardio or mental. But hockey is not an individual sport. It takes 15 guys to suit up for a game and take to the ice, but that does not guarantee you a win. People often forget that the two things you need to take to the ice with all the skills you have are passion and belief.
You can never win a game or a championship unless you have a team that believes in themselves and has the passion to fight for every opportunity and for every loose puck. Belief doesn’t necessarily mean believing in a higher power, but it is believing in your team and your teammates. Herb Brooks said that All-star teams fail because they rely on the individuals’ talent, which I have become a great believer of. A weaker team can stage upsets when they believe in themselves.
Miracles in sport are not uncommon. Everyone remembers the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid when a bunch of College kids took down the Soviet hockey team, possibly one of the greatest teams and dynasties ever to exist in the sport. 1995 Finland wins the World Championship, without icing any NHL players and after being regarded as an underdog in the whole competition. I remember when the team made it to the final, no-one believed that they would win. No-one except the team themselves and that is what makes a winning team. Those are just a few examples, though I could list a number of others from the NHL, perhaps the most notable example of a team believing in themselves was the Rangers when they won their last Stanley Cup against the Vancouver Cannucks.
Personally I have witnessed what believing can do. The most notable example is from 2006 when we won the national championships with the Spitfires. We had decent team, by no means the best team, but a decent one. What kept us together when we faced bigger and stronger teams was that we believed that we could win as long as we focussed on our game and played to our strengths. We had a great coach who made sure each of us believed that we could skate away with the title at the end of the day. And we did. He kept us all calm and collected when we had guys whimpering and thinking that we couldn’t play a team that was physically bigger than us. I remember a London team we faced had a load of Slovakian players playing for them all notably bigger than us. We had guys scared that we would be out-hustled by the bigger players, but what our coach told us was that ‘Look, they’re big and slow and rely on big shooters. We are fast, smooth passing team. We can beat these guys!”
That is the type of believing that is required for a team to pull together and win. On the flipside of this, I remember playing for a few teams who always, during the first intermission said: “Good first period guys, keep it going. Remember that our second period is always our weakest one!” That automatically reflects on the team’s confidence and the belief it has in itself and amongst its ranks. Needless to say, because of the way we were forced to think about the game our second periods were our weakest and it cost us alot of games. Once we understood that we just needed to stick to our guns and BELIEVE that our second periods could be just as good, if not better, as the first we went on to win a significant number of games and being crowned Champions once more.
It’s funny what an affect a few words can have on the success of a team. Few wrong words here or there, repeated many times over can have a damaging effect on a teams’ performance. Teams who come out the gate believing in themselves for every training session and game will be the one who will go far, even if on paper they look weaker.
I believe that if the dedication I have put in to the game will warrant success. I believe that the team who has the most heart and belief in themselves that will go far in the season. Most of all I believe in my own abilities and my passion that I will make a difference every shift. I believe that if I have a strong season, I will have a shot at making it.