Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Even the Cup Finalist Kings and Devils Experience Nerves

Do you get nervous before an important game? Worry not, you are not alone. The NHL's best feel nerves, too. Rewind back to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Los Angeles won in overtime 2-1 over New Jersey, but both teams felt they played far less than their best game on the brightest stage. After Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals the Devils and Kings cited nerves as a reason for the sluggish start and poor decision making .

The Devils pointed to poor execution, careless play with the puck and Game 1 jitters. President and GM Lou Lamoriello spoke to the team after the Eastern Conference final about the distractions of the Cup.
The team still felt nerves, however.
"The reality is, you know, until the puck drops and the games start, this is a different situation you're dealing with," said DeBoer. "You have to handle it the best you can."
While acknowledging hindsight is 20-20, the Devils coach said there wasn't anything he would have done differently in the leadup to the game.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said a lot of his players said they felt sluggish Wednesday.
"I thought we had some nervous players," he said. (from NHL.com)
More on a nervous Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals:
Devils show some nerves in Game 1 NHL.com
So, the best in the game, playing the best hockey of their lives felt nerves that caused them to be sluggish and make mistakes. When you get nervous you are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with it.

To experience stress and anxiety often called nerves is not unusual. In fact, if you look at it in the right way it can help your mindset going in to a big game. It is all about how you interpret the physical and psychological symptoms of your body preparing for an important game. Sweating, butterflies, heart pumping, accelerated breathing, mind racing are all things that are attributable to stress. But, a little stress is not a bad thing. It helps us prepare to play our best. Martin Brodeur, who has often been considered one of the most mentally tough goaltenders in league history, describes thinking beneath his cool demeanor under pressure:

}“I love it! I like the fact that whether there is going to be ten shots or forty shots, I’m going to make a difference. Just one of those shots could mean a win or a loss for us, and that for me is a great pressure, knowing that I can make an impact at any moment of the game.” (Rush, May 2001)

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, when asked about the pressure of being a goaltender
The message then is to interpret, or view, your stress as a normal part of the process of preparing for a game. Most players will tell you once you start the game the nerves go away, especially after the first shift when you take or give a hit.

In the end it is normal to experience nerves before games. If you did not experience nerves then you might question whether you are ready to play. The key is to not allow butterflies in your stomach to create doubt. Like Brodeur interpret the pressure in a way that helps you feel confident and ready.