Below is the text of an article written by ex-NHL goalie Kelly Hrudy about the most-have trait: mental toughness.
It’s no secret that the most successful professional athletes get to the highest level because they possess one invaluable trait.
We’ve all watched kids growing up who have all the talent in the world but not the mental strength that’s needed. It’s especially obvious when they’re trying to play through those difficult stretches that arrive in every season.
It’s easy to talk about channelling all that emotion and energy in the right direction, but it’s a difficult task to master. You want to feel those emotions, but you can’t get too high for a game. You have to be able to channel the emotion and energy in a way that improves your performance, not hinders it.
Case in point: St. Louis Blues goaltender Chris Mason and his remarkable 47-save effort against his former team, the Nashville Predators.
He admitted this was a weird game for him. He had played six years for the Predators and this was the first time he was playing against them. It didn’t matter because he was able to put that weirdness aside and he played the game of his life.
Not that Mason harbours a grudge, but all athletes will tell you exacting some measure of revenge against the team that shipped you out feels “sweet.”
I, on the other hand, found that I was almost too emotional on the two times when I played my former teammates for the first time.
I wanted to win so badly that I wasn’t very sharp and felt distracted.
I lost 7-4 to the N.Y. Islanders, and beat the L.A. Kings 7-6 in overtime in the two contests.
Once that first emotional game was behind me, the significance of facing my previous team lessened.
In terms of mental toughness, the next challenge now facing Mason is he needs to find that same emotional high he discovered in the Nashville game and carry that over for a stretch of games.
Now that he knows this feeling, hopefully he can build off that emotion.
Mason is known for being a battler, which is a great quality, but to be an even a better goalie, he needs to play at this level for an extended time.