Saturday, 21 February 2009


Life is about finding comfort and being at ease with yourself and your surroundings. Sports and comfort are two things you wouldn’t necessarily associate together, but inadvertently they go hand in hand. Where some people may be comfortable on the couch with a beer, watching TV with their wife, it is something a hockey player cannot afford. Not on a game or training day at least. I tend to be a bit different in this respect to many other rec players, in that I might train harder than your run of the mill player.

Comfort comes with being able to push yourself outside the normal levels of performance. It might be delivering a hit on the biggest guy on the opposing team or simply skating till you’re sucking air through your ass. Comfort is being able to bust down the board, beat the D man and then have a shot on goal.

When do I feel most comfortable then? The thing is, I feel comfortable at home after a work out. If I don’t do exercise or work for hockey, I feel uncomfortable. I feel most comfortable in the locker room, when I’m putting on my skates. I think my first post is a good indication of the levels of comfort. I think the trash talk before the game is one of the finest aspects of the game or being part of a team and feeling accepted by that group of people.

The final bit of comfort on a game day comes from going through my normal game day routines and when you walk out of the tunnel to the ice, its the first two strides when the feeling of comfort completely sets in. It’s not necessarily about how the stick feels in your hands, the kit you’re wearing, but inner comfort of being able to face the opposition and go hell for leather every shift. It is the comfort of getting into uncomfortable situations on the ice.

Hockey and personal life are two things you need to keep separate in order to achieve true success and comfort is a big part of being successful. For the first time in a long time I feel comfortable on the ice and at home, but at the same time I can be uncomfortably comfortable on the ice and at home so I can prepare myself mentally for the game.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Going back a few posts (Fix You), I feel I forgot to touch on a very important area for athletes and well professionals in all walks of life in general. There is something that sets the great apart from the rest and enables to great to achieve greatness. Hockey, as said through out this blog, is about heart and it is an outlet that teaches you more about life and yourself in ways no university or diploma could ever do. I have explored the blogosphere and found some really good interesting blogs that draw from various sports or life experiences. These blogs and the individuals who write them give me great sense of motivation and encouragement in knowing that I am not a lone sports geek who is trying to find tangents and links between sport and life.

Sport and hockey in particular requires vast amounts of dedication and support from your loved ones in order for us to keep playing. I’m sure guys with kids feel the strains of the season even more than normal, but there is something in all of us that keeps us coming to the rink and lacing up our skates.

There is no simpler way of describing it, other than heart. Whether it means that we are playing on a Saturday night with a 23:30 face-off or that we have to travel all the way to Telford of all places to play a game, then we will do it. It takes heart and guts. What I find most interesting about hockey is the emotions you go through during a game, and what true qualities playing with heart shows. It shows that you really care, about the team and the result. When you play with heart, you don’t get down from the opponent scoring a goal, you go out there and you take it back. Heart means that you deliver some hits to create momentum for your team. It means that you go out there and you make things happen from thin air.

The downside of playing with heart is that you are passionate of what you do and you wont tolerate people who aren’t performing or who keep making simple mistakes. At this level people are prone to making mistakes and often you fly off the handle with the players and use harsh terms. I know I have done that to several players over the years and few of them have quit, more or less because I was constantly on their skin about it and wasn’t afraid to use harsh language. I guess you could say I was like Christian Bale on the set of the new Terminator flick.

The guys on my team who have shown tremendous amounts of heart, well there are many and they do it in their own way. But I think the most memorable is a guy throwing himself in front of a shot and eating it into his chest. This was no weak shot either and the guy still bears the mark of the puck on his chest. He blocked the shot (while the team was 8-3 down) and finished his shift, even though he undoubtedly was in a lot of pain. He didn’t whimper off to the changing rooms either but finished the whole game. That is what Don Cherry would classify as a class act and a guy who shows heart.

But what does this show of me as a person? It shows that I demand a lot from my team mates and expect that they treat me the same way. Playing with heart takes a lot, and like I said in here previously a game is a game is a rollercoaster ride that can take days to prepare for and live through. You go through all of it and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


One letter that epitomises each and every player's desire in a game. But in the corny words of Highlander, 'there can be only one' in the end. I started to think about this letter yesterday evening and I realised how obtaining that in a column on the stats sheet is not just about playing well during the 60 minutes. Getting a W in essence requires thorough preparation which is something that my previous team didn't seem to understand.

The key ingredients to W are: result, earning and caring. You cannot obtain a W without doing these things before a game. In essence the preparation for a game starts from Tuesday night when we get off the ice at training. After that it is up to each and every player to prepare for the games individually. The unfortunate thing of playing at this level is that there really aren't other chances for training. Everything after a team training is up to you and it pains me to say that a lot of guys don't understand that. Though the vast majority of the more experienced players come prepared to game days, there are still individuals who drag the team down, because they are not prepared and they have not carried anything from trainings to the locker room on a game day.

Result, earning and caring. Three simple things you need to do before you can ever dream of a W. To obtain that W you also need Wisdom. In hockey the key to wisdom is relatively simple and I suppose you can apply it to other aspects of life as well. The key to wisdom is setting yourself a goal for tomorrow. If your goal is to win and play a good game and all your actions leading up to the game serves that goal and that you will be a good player then you will accomplish your results, earning and caring. It is after that when you can really talk about winning.

In the end, we play this game because we love it and we don't enjoy being in the losing end of a game, but if we are, then you need to bring it back to the drawing board and work on the things that let you down and make sure that every player is playing for the same goals, rather than for an individual. The old saying of the name on the front of the shirt is more important than the one on the back has never had a more prominent ring to it.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Fix You

There are times in life and sport when you are faced with a seemingly steep slump. The lack of motivation and general drive might be missing from one aspect of your life and it can fester itself into the deepest corners of the mind.

In the rink a slump might mean that you are not as effective and you question your own abilities, which is what I did most of last season. Going from having great jump on the skates and being able to out skate opposing players seemed like a thing of the past, I was left reeling in a situation that pulled my confidence to the ground and left me questioning where had things like speed and scoring touch vanished. It looked like some one just sucked them out of me over night.

Same with work life, slumps can seriously affect the level of output and you can be left wondering where all the creativity and taking pride in your self have vanished. Sometimes the two can be intertwined. Maybe pressures in the rink are carried to the office and vice versa.

During the off-season I have been frantically trying to get back into physical as well as mental shape. I find that it has been a tough road so far. Physical training is easier to do as you get into a routine of things, but the mental game, and hockey is 90% mental. This aspect of the game is often not easy to master and it takes a lot of patience and self exploration.

Over the months from the end of my season in July, I have been trying to reflect on what went wrong last season. My career had really taken off and I was starting to get incredibly busy. Plus then there was a personal highlight of getting married. So last season was really manic outside the rink and I suppose that parts of the stress was carried over to the rink with me and weighed me down. Then there was the well documented knee injuries that plagued me for through last season.

The downside on playing at a recreational level is that you can be stuck with players who make your life difficult. You know that you are able to score goals and win games for the team, but games aren’t won by individuals, they are won by teams. If the team has weak links, it will ultimately weigh down on the entire team and individual players as well. It is disheartening at times, when you see that you have one line that is capable of creating chances each shift and then you know that the best chances of you seeing the offensive zone is when you are chasing an iced puck. In hockey you need five solid players on a line to make things happen, your job is ultimately harder if you have five guys out there but it is only the four guys who make things happen.

So how do you break out of a slump? Many players might start gripping the stick too hard and grind their teeth to get the goals. Ultimately, hockey is a sport that is all about confidence and the only thing that will feed confidence is success. It is the same in the office environment as well. You crave for results and something that will give you a buzz and you want to re-experience that buzz over and over again. And I’m not talking about taking narcotics. The best way to break out of a slump is depending on individual, but for me the best way is to ride them out and work hard. Sooner or later you will have a good game and you will be able to build up on the confidence you’ve gotten from it.

It is what I did when I returned from my knee injury. My first game was weak as I didn’t know how much the knee could take, but the second game after that, I scored two goals and two assists. From there, I was able to hammer home at least one point per game all the way up to the final game of the season, the bronze final, which we eventually lost.

I apply the same method to work as well. Whether it is securing an interview with a target publication or getting a great clipping from a press release are things that help you plough through from day to day.

Slumps are an inevitable part of life and sports. It is all about how we manage them and the mental games. It’s not like Coldplay say “When you try so hard and you don’t succeed”, it is through trying hard you will be able to fix yourself in the end.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Role Models

Every person has a role model. A person who has influenced them the most in their lives. For some of the pro players, it has been their childhood idols that they have looked up to and that have inspired them on with their professional careers. For me on a hockey level there have been and there are players I look up to. Saku Koivu, Mikko Koivu, Alex Ovechkin, Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St.Louis, Jarome Iginla, Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri to mention just a few of the players that I look up to and would love to trade places or skills with.

However I would have to say that the greatest role models I have is my family, my mum, dad and my brother. My mum and dad instilled me with the work ethic and how to deal with a variety of things. I don't think anyone could've gotten a better up bringing than me and my brother. My dad was not only a great influence and support for sports but for showing me what it means to be a man and provide for a family. During my days of playing in Holland, he was always able to give me pointers on improving my game and I'm sure that if it wasn't for his advice and recommendations I wouldn't have found the spark to push myself at this stage of my playing 'career'.

My mum instilled me with awareness and gave me so much self confidence. Yeah when it comes to sport, or hockey, I think my mum is more concerned about me walking away from the game unscratched, but its hockey, I have to get my nose dirty at times. In hockey terms she taught me to keep my head up during games. Outside of the rink, she taught me how to keep myself healthy and how to provide myself a meal. Ofcourse the list could go on and on for both my parents.

My brother has really been the ying to my yang, if I must use that corny and overused term. He has helped me put alot of things into perspective at times and has taught me a great deal of soul searching and what I want to do and accomplish. I cherish the time I get to spend with him as he completelly makes me forget all the crap that I have in my mind and I can laugh my head off at dumb things.

Then there is my wife. Though people often wrongly call women, or wives the ball and chain, I have nothing but good things to say about mine. She is understanding of the choices I make and understands me probably better than I do. She's always there to pick me up when I'm having a bad day and is able to take my mind off things when I want to focus on the game. I think before a game she notices when I'm over thinking things so she takes my mind off of the game and get's me doing something else.

This post isn't intended as a family tribute or a thank you, but it is a tribute to my role models and to the people who make all of my playing possible. It is these people that help me keep things in focus and play the game with a smile on my face. If it wasn't for them I probably would've hung up the skates ages ago. Every person needs an understanding and supporting background to achieve anything. I would go as far to say that I have been blessed with a foundation of people I know I can rely on when I need them. I should think that everything I do on the ice is possible because of the people I mentioned above.


Through this blog I've explored, at lenght, the finer points of hockey and why we do it. I suppose in a way the attitude I have towards hockey is the same I take for every aspect of my life, whether it is work, family or friends. To me hockey is about dedication and the game has taught me the ethic for work and my ambitions. What keeps me doing it, though? What makes me doing three sets of 15 reps of power cleans or squats, what makes me get up in the mornings and make me want to go to work or pull a late night with training? All in all it is fun and the fulfilment that I get out of doing things.

I think at the moment the most enjoyable player to watch and a great role model for younger players is Alexander Ovechkin of Washington Capitals. What ever your opinion on the guy is, you have to admit that he brings the fun element to the game. It's something I want to replicate when I'm on the ice or in the office. I want to have fun and make things count.

Last year my season, like said on this blog on many occasions, was ruined by a nagging knee injury. Hockey was no longer fun and going to the rink felt like a chore, training felt like a chore and along with that, everything felt like I was stuck in really thick porridge (for lack of a better expression). Human beings crave the feeling of belonging and success to be truly effective. Last season I had none of that through my leisure activities and that fed into a lot of things in my personal life as well.

However, when you find a spark for things and fight through a slump, you find the great things you first fell in love with. For me the turning point first came when I could skate pain free for the first time in over two years. It was at that moment in September last year when I realised that if I train hard to strenghten my legs, I would have a great season. I have started to find a lot of things I've been missing in my game and I know exactly what I need to improve on. At the moment, despite the shoddy weather and general misery of the British isles, I am possibly living the best stages of my life so far. And it is all because I am having fun again and I really feel that the professional approach I have taken to training and the mantra I have going when I get to the rink is really helping me push myself to new directions.

On a side note: A while back I mentioned about a Facebook group set up to support me in through the season and spur me on to train hard for a pro try out. I take the group as a source for inspiration and those people who have joined (some 67 so far) I think deserve to know what my plans are. I have decided that on the training part I am going to go hell for leather. Whether that will give me the physical strenght to go for it, remains to be seen, but I would rather give it a shot than live the rest of my life wondering what could've been. Life and hockey is about seizing opportunities and making the most out of those opportunities that present themselves through hard work.

When you train this hard, its more than just a sport.

Thursday, 5 February 2009


What is ultimately a rollercoaster of emotions, the season is straining for any player, regardless of the level. I remember when I played in the First Division in The Netherlands four out of seven days were planned around my hockey season. Whether it was food or timing of the foods, curfews, homework and so on, everything was co-ordinated to fit around a rigorous schedule. Much hasn’t changed in the last five years since I returned to the sport. During the season, everything revolves around hockey. All our social life and activities are planned around it so that I have enough time to recoup, focus and train for my games and keep myself in shape. Yet another sacrifice the player and the family has to make.

During this rollercoaster ride, we as players go through so much during 60 minutes of playing. Tempers boil over, your team mates can be your worse enemies at times and you are trying to put all the mistakes you might’ve made in a period out of your mind so you can perform better in the next period or shift. It is a struggle against the other team, your own mind and body.

So how do we cope with all of this? How can a group of guys survive the company of each other for all the long road trips and games? We get through with humour. Laughter is one of your best friends during a tough season. No matter how pissed off you are that you lost, there are always a few guys who can lift the mood in the dressing room. Jokes that keep us going are something that people would normally throw tumble weeds at, but if it works and lifts the team’s spirit for the remainder of the game it’s something we will use.

People who are able to use humour to their advantage in tough situations act as great leaders of the team, whether or not they wear a C or A on their chest. Sometimes the people who contribute more in the changing rooms and on the bench can be more valuable than the top scorers. Ultimately it is these guys who get the team going.

The only downside of the season and the sport in general is that you spend most of your free time with 35 guys.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


When you ask an NHL professional what would you give up to win the Stanley Cup, you might hear a variety of answers, mainly involving giving up a great deal of limbs. I have to agree, again with biass, that in the world of sport there is nothing greater than the Stanley Cup. It is ultimately the toughest trophy in all of professional sports to win. You battle through 82 games to get to the playoffs and then you have to pull out 16 wins to obtain the cup.

People make unbelievable sacrifices in their lives. In sports, athletes put everything on the line to achieve their dreams. You might let go of dreams in order to support others or vice versa. I have to say that people have sacrificed for me to achieve things in life and I am eternally grateful to those who have made everything I have today possible.

Sacrifices are something that people on this level of playing know all too well. Every single one of the 35 guys on the team sacrifice their time when I'm sure that we all could be in our warm beds or spend time with our families. There are the long weekends when you plan everything around the games. Obviously the other thing we all give up is the chance to enjoy the summer. On the off chance that there is a sunny day you'll probably find most of the guys playing in the summer cup holed up at the rink. Plus then there is the money. Think of the hundreds or thousands of pounds we bleed into the game.

To be truly succesfull at anything you must be willing to sacrifice. People need to determine whether a night out with friends is worth putting before your team. I'm not saying that you need to become a complete hermit and ignore your friends, but its something we all deal with from April to August. What would I be willing to sacrifice to achieve greatness? I would be willing to lay everything on the line. If it means that my living room is the gym and my second home is the rink, then so damn well be it. I have a great group of friends and it seems that they understand my choices, so I hope they are not offended if I choose an hour at the gym over a few cold ones. It is weird. We are 'only' playing for a summer cup in a recreational league, which is something that will hardly make the pages of your local news paper, but I would be willing to give up a few of my limbs to be the winning team at the end of the season.

Do I think we have a chance? Yes, if we all put in the same effort and sacrifice our bodies, minds and souls for a few months of the year. It is a small price to pay for something that will live on with us till we all become old and senile.

Few pics from last season

All pictures courtesy of Claire Stanton Photography