Lessons from Playoff Hockey

When I was 3 or so years old, it wasn’t uncommon to hear me yelling “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” or “Michael, Michael Motorcycle” as I sat in front of the TV watching a little black puck move across the screen. I was able to recognize the players by name and was excited when my parents brought home a Bun Bar with a special Mario Lemieux collectors card inside (I swear that thing sat in our freezer until I left for college).

As I sit here 27 years later watching my hometown team (with coverage airing 5 seconds earlier than back in the ‘Burgh), I find myself wondering if the players are paid similar to those on Dancing with the Stars and drawing many links between the NHL playoffs and normal, everyday life.

Fight and Move On

One thing that I admire in most hockey players is their ability to be radically candid (more on that to come in a later post). Players throw a few punches, tear off their gloves and their opponents helmet, maybe draw some blood and move on with it. Sure, some bad blood lingers well into the season and after but they make clear their intentions and continue toward their goal. What if life in general was like that? What if we provided constructive criticism? What if we stood by our beliefs and morals, voicing our opinions without fear of failure or being liked? What if we sat back and listened and appreciated everything others had to say even if it differs from our own voice? What if we engaged in healthy arguments and raised our voices every now and again? While none of those things involve physically hurting another, what would it hurt to use our words? When did we become so “nice” in the workplace and in our lives to quiet the voice inside? Why can’t we fight, listen and move on?

Find Your Line

The cool thing about hockey is how coaches and players unite to then divide players into smaller teams or lines. To find those individuals who can advocate and support one another. You have the penalty killers and in Pittsburgh’s 2016 season, we had HBK, amongst others. Every team is a tribe with a bunch of little tribes built in between. Find an advocate within your organization. I believe in the power of having a mentor (formal or not) that is older than you and one that is younger than you. Find your advocate and be one in return. There will be a time when you need your teammates to pick up the slack and help you and you will be needed in return.

Give 110%…Then Rest

Do you know of any one athlete that plays every minute of every game? Probably not. If you watch any hockey game, you’ll see players coming off and on to the bench as quickly as the puck exchanges sides. Life should be the same. Get out there, give life your all then take a break and get right back at it. There is no harm in taking 5 minutes out of every hour to recharge. Burnout happens when you work continuously without taking a breather. On top of that, it’s bad for your health as prolonged sitting and stress wreaks havoc on the body. Your work and reputation will thank you for those short little breaks. Doing so does not make you less of a person or employee so let go of those limiting beliefs.

Draw a Penalty

Push the envelop. Ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Most of what we are afraid to do never materializes into the worse-case scenarios we conjure up. If you approach everything from a place of kindness and genuine concern, more likely than not, the worse thing that will happen is that you draw a penalty. It’s okay to take risks. With that, however, be willing to accept constructive criticism in return. Be willing to hear that you shouldn’t have responded to a customer’s email in the way that you did. If your boss is decent, he or she will provide you with a recommendation on how to be better the next time around. When it comes to life, be willing to deal with any regret or negative emotions for your actions. If that happens, go back to the first point above.

Go to the Penalty Box

In line with the two notes above, send yourself to the penalty box. Take a time out. Allow yourself some time to sit in silence and reflect on your actions and devise a strategy to be better moving forward. Take 2 minutes to let others help you out while helping yourself. Learn from your mistakes and get back out there with all you’ve got.

Sports give us hope. They allow us to play out fantasy’s by watching the athletes and teams that inspire. While not all of us have the novelty of embroidering an “A” or “C” on our shirts, we each have the power to have the same attributes of those larger-than-life figures both on and off the field or ice. Life is a team sport. We are each pawns in this huge game and while our lives aren’t available on instant replay, we have the power to change each play moving forward and be champions.


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