For most of the parents who are regular readers of the good ol’ NSWC blog, chances are you have some memories of your own athletic past. There are plenty of hockey players amongst us, as well as volleyballers, soccer do-er’s and probably the occasional basketball aficionado.
What do you remember about sports in your youth? The triumphs? The catastrophic failures? The ups and downs of competition weave themselves into our lives whether we like it or not, and it’s the most intense among these moments that burn into our memories on a permanent basis. Well, there’s nothing more intense than playoff hockey. We all wanted to win back in the day just as our children want to win tomorrow.
However, above all else, we want to make an impact on the game. It’s a bit selfish, but it’s often through selfish motivation that the greatest collective achievements are realized.
You might not have playoff hockey games to play yourself, but here are a couple rules you can pass on to your impact-hopeful children.
The skates are sharpened, sticks are taped and everything is ready to go. Right? Well, what about the body? What about the mind? If you’re bringing your child to the rink, ensure they’re bringing the absolute best version of themselves, because it’s what they deserve and it’s what their teammates and coaches deserve. There are ups and downs during the regular season, but there are no excuses during the playoffs. The necessities of your best self?
Every player contributes to the team atmosphere in their own way - sometimes in incredibly not-constructive ways. The playoffs are a grind, and it’s only through the collective dedication of everyone on the team that the focus remains where it ought - on the task at hand. Push your teammates with encouragement, push them by leading by example and push them by making something happen on the ice.
What you start with is not what you’ll finish with. One of my favourite aspects of playoff hockey is venturing into the unknown - even when that unknown very well might represent a devastating first-round playoff exit when you were supposed to win it all. That’s hockey; that’s sports. The best way to avoid these painful memories is to keep improving every period. Find something you can focus on during every intermission and chances are you’ll be able to forget the pressures of playoff hockey and just play - and play with confidence.
We play hockey because it’s a national religion and we want the status that comes with being good at it. When the playoffs begin, it’s time to put aside differences and individual motivations and pay for the team. Play for each other. The strongest memories are those created alongside our teammates. In the dressing room, on the ice, on the bench - it doesn’t matter.
Play for the person next to you and they’ll do the same.
And who knows what will happen next.
Heartbreaking Ryan Smyth image courtesy of Lowetide.