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Hockey: A Game of Mistakes

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After a frustrating weekend at a tournament three hours away from home, it’s hard not to think about what kinds of things we could do better. We didn’t win any of our four games, even though we were playing as the better team in each game, always losing by one goal or tying. In our final game, the other team may have had three or four real scoring chances and they capitalized on two of them. Some players on the team are calling it “bad luck,” but no way am I going to say that. As a goalie, I see almost everything that happens on the ice and I can tell you, in hockey bad luck doesn’t exist, but mistakes do.

Hockey is a game where things are going to happen but it’s not out of bad luck — it’s out of the other team executing the play, or even a portion of the play, better than you. It sucks, yes, but it’s hockey and it happens. I can give a prime example of something that everyone calls “bad luck” that is just a big no. In the second half of the game (there were only two 22 -minute periods for some reason) the other team is coming on a two-on-one, my defence is staying in the middle to cut off the pass, the other team’s girl with the puck cuts across the middle of the ice by the hash marks, then she shoots the puck through my D’s legs. A decent shot with an average chance of going in if you consider that she’s shooting far side while crossing over to the other side boards. I stick out my leg and get all of the puck, but I didn’t follow her perfectly while she was cutting across the ice. I was a bit ahead of her in my crease and so when I tried to make the save I needed to reach more than I should’ve had to. This made me tilt just the slightest way so when I got the puck with my leg, it deflected up high and into the top far side corner of the net. It was not a case of bad luck: it was a case of me playing it wrong — and that happens in hockey. If I was challenging more or even stuck square to her rather than cheating it that little bit then it would have been a solid save.

If something happens in a game and you call it bad luck then you have to look at it again until you realise what you could’ve done instead of saying, “Oh well, that was just bad luck.” I’m not saying go crazy and dwell on the past. Don’t ever do that. What I am saying, is that you have to look at your mistakes and use these times as learning opportunities. Examine the play, or even your effort in the play because you may not have made a fault, then figure out what you’re going to do to make sure it’s not going to happen again. Even if you didn’t do something wrong on a play, chances are that, if it ended up badly, there’s something that you could have done better.

There are so many times on the ice that I notice small things that I’m doing wrong and I’ll pick up on it and try to correct it mid-game so that I can narrow down the other team’s chances of scoring. It’s something that everyone needs to do during the game. Just because Coach doesn’t say anything about your last shift doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything you could do better. It’s your job as a player to evaluate your own game and recall the situations so that you can improve. Coaches are there as guides and to be the brains of the operation, players are there for the coaches to use in his or her operation, and it’s up to the player to decide how much work they want to put into making themselves better through drills given to them by their coaches and by their independent use of time towards improving. Even after that, you can be the strongest person on the team but still be the weakest player because your mental state isn’t there. In this case you have to improve on thinking about situations and what you’re going to do on your next shift. Never put bad shifts to the back of your mind, not until you’ve looked at them, evaluated them, and say “This is how I’m going to change it for my next shift.”

Hockey will never be a case of bad luck. “Bad luck” is just a term used to mask our mistakes. Even for a bad bounce to go in, the puck had to have hit something or someone and that happens because it’s hockey and it’s a game of mistakes. You can’t dwell on your mistakes yet you can’t put them away. Look at your mistakes and fix them, that is how we get better. Consider every bit of the field and make your decisions. That’s hockey and that’s how we get better.

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