I WAS MENTALLY WEAK!! HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BE MENTALLY TOUGH!
I thought I would have fun today, make light of myself and think of one thing that I was mentally screwed up on when I played, talk about it and talk about how you can deal with the situation if and when you encounter it in a mentally tough way.
Way back when I was 15-years old I am in science class in Spencer Junior High Langford (Victoria, BC). I get called to the principals office. As I’m going there I’m thinking, not again lol. When I get there they let me know my dad was on the phone. There were no cell phones in the 80’s. So he couldn’t call or text me directly. My dad tells me he’s coming to get me right away. The Portland Winterhawks just called the house and they were bringing me up to join them on their Alberta road trip to Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Calgary. Immediately my stomach went into knots. I was a little bit excited but more nervous. When my dad picked me up he said we have to get you a suit. You have to wear a suit. That’s what Portland’s General Manger Brian Shaw told me. So on the way to the airport we stopped at Sears (my mom worked there) and they got me a suit. My plane lands in Calgary and I eventually make my way on the team bus. Now I had watched this team play this year and they were good. They had the likes of Cam Neely (Boston Bruins and Seabass on Dumb and Dumber), Richard Kromm (Calgary Flames), Ray Ferraro (New York Islanders), Brian Curran (Toronto Maple Leafs), John Kordic (Montreal Canadians), and a few others.
When I got on the team bus, boy was I nervous, a 15-year old meeting a bunch of NHL 1st round draft picks basically is what it was. (Portland moved on to win the Memorial Cup that year and Cam Neely was MVP). We drove to Medicine Hat for the first game.
Now the coach Ken Hodge was very intimidating; it was like meeting Clint Eastwood. He told me I would just sit on the bench for these three games and wouldn’t play.
The first game in Medicine Hat we go out for warm ups. Oh my God, I could feel Cam Neely’s slap shot through my pads and my arms were bruising up but I was so in awe that it didn’t matter.
The game starts, I am sitting on the bench. Bruno Campese is in goal for Portland (Bruno is now a scout for Vegas Golden Knights. I eventually organized Bruno’s stag when he got married to his beautiful wife Maria). Bruno is a great guy but we really didn’t talk before the game. I’m sure he was just focused on his job.
Well, you wouldn’t believe it. 5-minutes into the game Bruno goes down. And I fricken panic!!!! My heart was beating so fast. My whole body froze. The fans were yelling at me “get ready to get lit up sieve!” I was thinking of every possible worst case scenario you could imagine. You’ve heard of fight or flight. I went immediately into flight mode. FEAR really stands for False Evidence Appearing Real and all my negative thoughts were false evidence but they were appearing real to me. For me in that situation FEAR really stood for F$#% Everything and Run, not False Evidence Appearing Real.
As Bruno lay in pain on the ice and Inness Mackie (the funniest trainer in all of hockey) is on the ice attending to Bruno, I’m sure Inness was telling Bruno to stay down longer and look real hurt so that I would freak out even more.
Well then, Mr. Hodge (The Coach) looks at me with his freakishly intimidating Clint Eastwood with Coke Bottle Glasses face and says in his voice which was deeper than the Grand Canyon “Peter… you’re going in, get ready.” I was so scared I wanted to grab the mic from the P.A. announcer and say “If anyone in the building has goaltending experience, get your butt down to ice level as I have some goalie gear for you to wear.”
Bruno eventually got up, Inness Mackie had a great laugh and I did not go in that game…
Basically, as John Stevenson would say, I was a “Mental Midget”.
Here’s a strategy for you so that when you get brought up and the other goalie goes down and you get the call to go in….you will be excited and not freaked out like I was.
Simply realize that fear and/or confidence come from what you focus on and how you move. I was focused on anything and everything that could go wrong. Do your pre-game visualization to increase your confidence. When you get the call, immediately stand up tall, shoulders back, like you have a superman cape on. Smile. Do your anchor or power move if you need to (we’ll talk more about those another day). Run a quick highlight reel of you making some great saves.
This is one of the many things John Stevenson and I will be working on at all our Goalie Mindset Workshops. You can register at www.goalieseminars.com