Rookie of the 2008-09 Season: Steve Mason

June 19, 2009

All three had great seasons (Bobby Ryan is ging to be a monster in this league shortly) but was there any doubt Steve Mason would win?


NHL Awards Show Saves of the 2008-09 Season

June 19, 2009

The 2009 Vezina Goes to….

June 19, 2009

Congratulations Tim Thomas. You are an inspiration to anyone who has a dream on- and off-ice. Your perseverance and hard work are examples to all young people regardless of their ambitions in life. You epitomize what a person with a dream is all about.

Battling the Cripples of Anxiety While in Net

June 16, 2009

THX10301132106No position in sport may be more susceptible to anxiety issues than goaltending. To add to the pressures of performing, a goalie spends the entire game following the puck and there can be plenty of time for the goalie to think about what has happened, what is to come, and the consequences of failure.

Anxiety is a negative emotional state in which feelings of nervousness, worry, and apprehension that affects the mental, physical and behavior of athletes. Typical anxiety is related to fear of failure or being injured, what a poor performance will cause others to think, and the unknown. Goalies need to learn to regulate their anxiety levels meaning the goalie must become aware of the feelings during practice and games and learn to control or adjust the feelings so performance is not affected.

Although some levels of anxiety are necessary for success, too much can lead to muscle tension, reduced flexibility, and mobility according to Hanin (Emotions in Sport, 2000). Additionally, Weinberg and Gould (Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2003) found anxiety can affect a goalie’s performance by hampering concentration with a narrowing of the attention field. Simply, goalies may not scan the play as thoroughly as required leading to poor decision-making from lack of information.

There are two broad methods a goalie can use to control anxiety.

First, one technique is through relaxation. Simply, goalies can tighten and relax muscles. Goalie begins with arm and tenses up the muscles toOsgood Wave the count of five. Then, he relaxes the muscle. This is repeated a total of 2 or 3 times and then focus is switched to leg muscles. This relaxation is designed to increase awareness of muscle tension, reduce anxiety, and enhance energy levels by identifying between sensations of tension and deep relaxation.

Second, is controlling breathes. A smooth, slow, and regular breath during inhaling and exhaling with counting to five for each cycle (i.e. inhale for 5 seconds and then exhale for 5 seconds). Breathing through the nose as opposed to the mouth tends to reduce anxiety levels more effectively.

Both of these methods can be used by the goalie as the play is in the other end of the ice making either, or both, ideal for goalies to implement during a game.

Top goalie makes Avs his first stop

June 16, 2009

From today’s Denver Post-

GustoJonas Gustavsson received the burgundy-carpet treatment from the Avalanche.

Gustavsson, the 24-year- old Swede considered one of the best goalies in the world not currently playing in the NHL, wrapped up an approximately 24-hour trip to Denver on Monday. The Avalanche is one of four NHL teams he is considering joining.

Denver was the first stop on his four-city North American tour that will proceed to San Jose, Dallas and Toronto.

Avalanche vice president Jean Martineau said Gustavsson arrived Sunday and left Monday afternoon. He was not made available to the media, but Martineau said Gustavsson met with several Avalanche players and management staff, including new coach Joe Sacco, and was given a tour of the city and the Pepsi Center, including the Avalanche’s dressing room.

Because of NHL rookie/age collective bargaining bylaws, Gustavsson can earn a maximum of $900,000 next season, a number the salary cap-strapped Avs could afford. After next season, Gustavsson could earn considerably more, and the Avs will have more cap room then.

Martineau confirmed that former Avs star Peter Forsberg has spoken on the team’s behalf, in an unofficial recruiting effort. The team would not divulge which players met with Gustavsson.

Gustavsson led Farjestad to the championship of the Swedish Elite League this year. He posted a 1.96 goals- against average and .932 save percentage in the regular season and wants to play in the NHL.

The Avs will receive tough competition in the battle to sign Gustavsson, including from a Toronto team that just signed famed goalie coach Francois Allaire.

Mason’s Dedication Has Paid Off

June 15, 2009

From Canwest News Services (06.15.09)

Mason #4One of the players who may take centre stage at the National Hockey League awards in Las Vegas on Thursday is Steve Mason.

The Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender, who is vying for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie, nearly quit hockey four years ago.

Seeing limited action in 2005-06 with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and playing away from his Oakville, Ont., home, he wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“I was really frustrated,” Mason, 21, told the Columbus Dispatch. “I called home a lot, because there were more than a few days when I thought I just wanted to walk away. I thought I’d go back to playing hockey with my friends, go back to a regular school and get on with my life.”

This year, however, his dedication has paid off.

He was second among NHL goalies with a goals-against average of 2.29 and led the league with 10 shutouts. He also was ninth in wins (33) and 11th in save percentage (.916).

“His dad took most of those phone calls (in 2004),” Mason’s mom, Donna Mason, told the newspaper. “We always knew he was just going through a rough patch, like all athletes – all kids – do from time to time. We thought if he got through it, he’d be OK.

“But I didn’t have a clue he’d end up where he is today. This is every kid’s dream.”

NHL Feature Video on Mason as the NHL Awards is held in a few days-

Intro to Goalie Management 101 – Power Thoughts

June 14, 2009

The first principle in a goalie managing his mind, according to Saul Miller is the mind is like a TV: thoughts are controlled by the individual so if we don’t like what our mind is thinking, simply “change the channel” and focus on positives. When a goalie controls his mind and uses positive power thoughts, his performance in the crease will improve.

There are three kinds of power thoughts: feeling thoughts, strategy Nabbythoughts and affirmations.

Feeling thoughts are simple statements a goalie can think (examples below). As the goalie thinks of the phrase, he needs to allow himself to feel or experience the thought (very important). Before, or throughout a game (while puck is the other end or a stoppage of play) the goalie should repeat this phrase in his mind and then actually do something to physically experience the phrase.

Below are some examples of thoughts and actions to experience the phrase.

  • “Quick Feet” – drop to knees and alternately kick legs out in full pad extensions as well as quick movement around the crease using all of the goalie specific movements.
  • “Smooth Movement” – skate in and around crease using all specific goaltending movements (scull, shuffle, t-push) in controlled smooth manner. Particular attention needs to be paid to the movement of the feet from pushing off to stopping.
  • “Battle” – quick movement from goal post to top of the crease’s arc and back to post to simulate quick passes during an offensive rush by the other team.
  • “Compact” – use goaltender specific movement around the crease making sure stance is compact (elbows in), knees are bent, chest is upward, and stick is always covering the 5-hole. Openings within the 5-hole resulting from movements should be quickly closed (no dragging legs from pushing off).

For more experienced goalies, adding additional statements to each power thought improves performance even further. For younger and/or less experienced goalies, keep it simple.

The second power thoughts are referred to as “strategy thoughts” which are used to sharpen on-ice judgment and stay focused while simplifying the game. Also known as “ABC’s” these are used to define the basics of what needs to be done in different scenarios.

Each goaltender can create his own “ABC’ for general overall performance and different game scenarios, and, of course, they need to be based on good habits and strategies.

BeezerAn example for general overall goaltender performance is retired NHL-great John Vanbiesbrouck’s quoted in Miller’s “The Complete Hockey Player.”

A. Good Position – aggressive, square to shooter, anticipate

B. Focus – keep puck focus during entire game including breaks. Use breaks in play to re-charge rest and refocus instead of socializing with teammates.

C. Faith and Calm – maintain composure regardless of what happens, nothing upsets.

For specific game scenarios, goalie should develop an “ABC” for situations he struggles in. Example is the breakaway- 

Crosby Miller

A. Aggressive – Challenge shooter, get to initial position above crease arc

B. Patience – keep on feet skating towards crease, watch for visual cues of shooters intent, don’t commit – wait for shooter to make move

C. React– move with shooter, get to post in deke

To create “ABC” the goalie needs to be clear what he wants to do on the ice. Clarity needs to be simple power thoughts and should be able to bring an image to mind just by saying the thought. It begins with thinking of different situations, writing down what needs to be done, and committing to memory. The “ABC” are important keys to developing a clear focus which allows for greater success in the crease.

MasonThe last of the power thoughts are affirmations. These are positive statements a goalie can repeat to receive strength. They increase attitudes, identity, and confidence. Affirmations can be in the first (“I am…”) or second (“You are…”) person, need to be powerful, and repeated frequently.

Examples of affirmations are:

  • “I control my crease”
  • “I battle for every puck”
  • “I have a quick glove”
  • “I’m a force in the net”
  • “I love to be the difference for my team”
  • “I’m quick as a cat”
  • “You’re mentally tough”
  • “You can’t be beat”
  • “You are a winner”
  • “You’re unbeatable”

It may require time for the goalie to implement each kind of power thought but he should aim to use all three. Once incorporated, power thoughts will improve a goalie’s performance immensely in a short amount of time.

Next Goalie Management 101 entry will deal with mental imagery