Tag: Playoffs

The Stanley cup is the oldest and most revered trophy in professional sports. Originally donated to the “professional hockey club of the dominion of Canada” in 1892, it has since become the crown jewel of the NHL, traveling to the headquarters of each NHL champion since 1958 (Schwartz, 2017). Players not only leave their legacies engraved upon the cup, in a tradition unique to the NHL, they are each allowed one day with the cup to celebrate how they please. The cup has traveled to Europe, been used for baptisms, schlepped up mountains, and has even been shared with the winner of the Kentucky Derby (Anderson, 2016). Yet despite its many travels and travails, there are 11 teams who have never won the Stanley Cup.  

So what helps teams and organizations put themselves into a position to raise Lord Stanley’s cup?  One philosophy and contributing factor is infusing an adaptable playing style in high pressure game situations. “What compels adaptability are two things: the skill to notice a gap between where you are and where you need to be to be effective, and the will to close that gap” (Boss, 2016).  It will not solely matter if a team has a head coach that has been to or won a cup before in order to make it there this playoff season.  It is eminently more important a coach makes it a point to tweak lines and game plans based on the strengths of the team members. An example of this is Minnesota Wild’s Bruce Boudreau’s development of an up-tempo attacking style for players like Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund who both had career-best totals last season with 42 and 44 points respectively. By using their strengths of speed and agility to their advantage, both players have already surpassed their previous season point totals with flying colors prior to reaching playoffs this season (Dowd, 2017).  

This adaptive mentality can be beneficial for all coaches and players alike. Coaches who know the chemistry of their players/team members can use adaptability as a tool to develop effective game plans for their team’s success. Additionally, when players and coaches work as a cohesive unit, adapting to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, it is then that the team is able to produce optimal levels of performance. Coaches that depend less on one or two of their players and instead adapt and mold players together will be hard to beat.

With all of that being said, coaching takes commitment and hard work-Not only to teach concepts and strategy to the players, but to really learn and understand the environment that each player thrives best in. Whether that means a player performs better with one teammate than another, or he needs the speed ramped up to be more successful, a good coach will do whatever is needed to get all players playing at their best. It may take some compromise along the way, but with the help of careful thought and deliberate change, adaptations will greatly be to the coach’s advantage.  

As the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, I encourage you all to think about ways in which you too can add adaptability into your sports repertoire. Displayed by both hockey players and coaches alike, you will find that team performance is greatly enhanced when each member can play to each other’s strengths, not just their own.



Anderson, C. (2016). The 10 Craziest Stanley Cup Celebrations


Boss, J. (2016). The Most Effective Teams Adapt to Change


Dowd, J. (2017). The Minnesota Wild Will Avoid Its Annual Collapse This Season

Schwartz, J. (1997-2017). Legends of Hockey- NHL trophies- Stanley Cup https://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_splashstanleycup.shtml

With high school fall seasons coming to an end in Minnesota, and across the country, playoff season has just begun. As a high school athlete, you may be prepared physically because you have been training all season, but how much have you prepared mentally? Playoff games can feel much different than regular season games because they have more riding on them; for example, the chance to go to the state tournament. They are typically more intense and require everyone to be on top of their game.

In a study done by the University of Montreal, sport psychologists worked with a professional hockey team to help them prepare for the playoff season. What were their tips on how to prepare mentally for playoffs? Get focused and stay focused so it is easier to “stay in the moment”. Many playoff games go into overtime because ties are not an option. This extra time on the field or on the court may be a challenge for some athletes because they might be physically and emotionally drained. If you can learn to stay in the present moment and overcome that fatigue, you will be more likely perform at your optimal level. One way to stay in the present moment is to think about your role on the team during that game. If you are a golfer, your role may be committing to your putting stroke on the selected line; if you are a volleyball player, your role may be setting up the ball to your teammate who makes the spike. Focusing your energy on the task at hand will keep your mind sharp and help block out distractions.

Maybe you have never experienced a playoff game before or have had very little exposure. Many “don’t know what to expect and they don’t know how to respond” (Halliwell, 2004). How do you prepare if you’ve never had experience? Watching video clips of experienced performers, preferably of your same skill level, and using imagery techniques can help you “get extra practice in.” Studies have shown that just by using imagery, neural pathways in the brain associated with your sport become more “grooved” and essentially lead to better performance. Another strategy to help give you confidence is taking time to think back to where you played your best. Knowing that you have performed at a high level before gives you confidence that you can do it again. If you are an experienced athlete, don’t forget to encourage your young and inexperienced teammates since it may be a new environment for them.

Stanley Cup winner and Hall of Fame player Raymond Bourque gave this advice, “Enjoy this great opportunity.” Sometimes you may forget why you play or love your sport. It is important to take a minute and think about this statement because passion is essentially why anyone plays the game–they enjoy it. Going into the playoff season with an open mind and a smile on your face is the best advice anyone can give. So, don’t forget to focus about your role on the team, use imagery to give you confidence, and enjoy the great opportunity you were given! Best of luck to all the student-athletes participating in playoff games!


Reference: Halliwell, W. (2004). Preparing Professional Hockey Players for Playoff Performance. Athletic Insight, 6(2), 25-33.