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Self-talk: Sounding Crazy/Crafting Mentality


seagoal
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It's  a common joke in hockey about crazy goalies talking to themselves and battling the demons in their heads.  The infamous goalie in the movie Goon who talks to his dead mother all the time comes to mind, which I recently rewatched.

It is funny, to be clear.  But, I think there can be an extremely positive, constructive side to positive self-talk.  It's the idea of setting yourself up for success and resiliency and training your mind to be able to withstand and overcome the mental challenges and ups/downs of hockey.  Playing goalie is quite demanding on us mentally and emotionally, as we all know, and if we are not tough and resilient in those areas, our gear, our athleticism, our flexibility, our skills all go out the window without the foundation of sound mentality and emotions.

Self-talk is a proven psychological technique to prepare the mind and emotions whether it be in sports, business, school, or in life and general. If we train the mind and emotions to see positively and act positively and respond positively to the stressors of life, we will be more positive people, generally.  This certainly applies to goaltending in hockey. 

So I was wondering how many of you verbally talk to your selves in a game either before, during, or after.  Who does it?  When do you do it? What do you say?  How does it make you feel and why do you do it?

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I'll start.  My goal for self-talk is simple: prioritize and emphasize only the things in hockey I can control, which is to say, myself.  I don't want any emphasis of my mind or feelings on my team, the other team, the shot totals, the score, or the refs because I can not control those things and in my mind that is wasted effort and energy spent on displacing responsibility away from myself and onto "others."

Here's what I verbally say out loud before all 3 periods:

"alright, here we go. All we gotta do is have good footwork, active stick out in front, active hands out in front, stay present, stay calm, play your game, simple hockey, shots and saves.  The most important shot is the next one and the most important save is the next one.  The score, total shots, your blood sugar (I'm a diabetic if you don't know) DO NOT matter.  Focus on right now, every moment.  Be effective. "

So 100% before every period of every game or before a pick-up game that is what I say to myself out loud.

If I make a good technique save that a goalie coach would be proud of I will verbally say "good, positive save there. Build off that."

If I let in a goal but played it correctly with good technique that I will say "you played that perfectly and those are the save you want to make.  Just got to have better timing next time. Positive play there, build off that."

If I have to make a scramble save or if I let in an ugly goal with poor technique/timing, whatever....plays that will make goalie coaches squeamish, I will say "well, you fought well but we gotta work on more control and better technique next time.  Keep fighting."

So those are regular things I say to myself out loud during play. I battled demons mentally and emotionally a lot as a younger goalie but now at 40 years old with a bit more wisdom and experience under my belt, I feel more in control and more durable here and I'm a happier, healthier, all around better goalie now than I ever was at any point in my life prior to now.  I credit a HUGE part of that to positive self-talk during play. 

Edited by seagoal
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Actually verbally talking to myself? No, never did that. There was a period of time when I found my mind drifting, and I would tell myself to "focus and fight" repeatedly to get myself back on track. The last few years I have been turning myself inwards like an autistic transcendental jedi monk (hey, that would make a good user-name actually ;) ) I don't say anything to anybody, including myself. Just in my own silent little goalie world out there. Not sure how high up that is on the weirdo-goalie ladder, but it works for me ;)

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3 minutes ago, estogoalie said:

Actually verbally talking to myself? No, never did that. There was a period of time when I found my mind drifting, and I would tell myself to "focus and fight" repeatedly to get myself back on track. The last few years I have been turning myself inwards like an autistic transcendental jedi monk (hey, that would make a good user-name actually ;) ) I don't say anything to anybody, including myself. Just in my own silent little goalie world out there. Not sure how high up that is on the weirdo-goalie ladder, but it works for me ;)

I struggle with wandering mind too.  It sorta goes off fast and sometimes chaotically.   That's what my "Stay present, Stay calm" addresses and I actually have those words painted on the back of all my 3 painted helmets.

Oddly I'm known as a "quiet goalie."  I don't say much on the ice to my team and in the locker room once I am dressing in my gear and in goalie mode I am pretty stern and quiet.

Edited by seagoal
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So this thread makes me think I should talk MORE to myself, and LESS to my team mates... but then I know for a fact that my team mates say much nicer things to me than I say to myself, so maybe status quo should be maintained in my case... lol!

There was a thread - or part, thereof - about having a mantra, and I took that one to heart. I'll throw in the odd "next shot, next save" and "no big deal" which I apply equally to highlight reel saves AND garbage goals. But the one that works for me, that I now say all the time after good/bad/routine plays is "Are you busy? Are you busy?"

The reason for that is a bit of an inside joke. When they were younger, I would sternly (though disingenuously) say to my kids "Are you busy?", to which they would typically say "no". I'd then follow with a big smile and say "can I have a hug?" Now, and for some years, all I have to say is "Are you busy?" and I get a hug from one of my children. So for me, saying that aloud during the game reminds me of them, of how they inspired me to chase this crazy dream of playing goal at my advanced age, and also reminds me of what really matters. Oh, and I only say it loud enough for me to hear, as players are skating away... not looking for bear hugs from players out there, y'know.

Believe it or not, having been off for >500 days due to COVID, when I finally returned to the ice, I had forgotten what my mantra was. I was a wreck! It finally came back to me after a few skates, and I'm in a good place with it now. Well, emotionally at least; statistically, it's still hit-or-miss - LOL!

Edited by Lucky Pucker
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That's funny @Lucky Pucker about forgetting your mantra, haha.   Part of hockey rust :)

One other thing I will say aloud during a game depends on how we are doing but in either case I remind myself that the score doesn't matter and I still need to focus on what I can control about myself and that my mission has not changed at all.

If we are winning: "these boys are playing well in front of you so keep playing your game and building off your positives."

If we are losing: "this score does not matter, what matters is the next shot and next save.  Stay focused, stay positive."

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When I'm in a good mood and playing well I'm pretty chatty. I tell myself "next shot, next shot" after a save or goal, just to settle down and focus on the next shot. I'll also remind myself to take a breath, give the posts a tap, or give the stick some love after a shaft save (inspired by MAF - https://streamable.com/65qah)

If I'm feeling really good/at a good group game I'll yap at the players. A good glove save will be a "oh hey, do you want this back?", if a player falls or skates into me I'll say "oh you looked pretty good out there. Thought you could skate, too", or complimenting someone's hair/stache if they get a little too cozy on a screen.

 

If I'm in a bad mood or playing poorly or if I'm playing really well and in the zone, I don't say anything, haha.

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4 minutes ago, indykrap said:

When I'm in a good mood and playing well I'm pretty chatty. I tell myself "next shot, next shot" after a save or goal, just to settle down and focus on the next shot. I'll also remind myself to take a breath, give the posts a tap, or give the stick some love after a shaft save (inspired by MAF - https://streamable.com/65qah)

If I'm feeling really good/at a good group game I'll yap at the players. A good glove save will be a "oh hey, do you want this back?", if a player falls or skates into me I'll say "oh you looked pretty good out there. Thought you could skate, too", or complimenting someone's hair/stache if they get a little too cozy on a screen.

 

If I'm in a bad mood or playing poorly or if I'm playing really well and in the zone, I don't say anything, haha.

Nice, love it.  You get it.

I encourage you to use those same tactics when you are in a bad mood and playing poorly.  Those are the times you can learn to take control and train yourself to stay positive and be proactive in getting yourself out of those situational slumps. Negativity spirals and builds on itself and the more we learn to jump off that train and start building ourselves up towards positivity, the better we will be and feel and play. 

If you don't say or do anything when you feel bad or are playing poorly, you let it win.  Those are the times to double down and stay positive.

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32 minutes ago, seagoal said:

Nice, love it.  You get it.

I encourage you to use those same tactics when you are in a bad mood and playing poorly.  Those are the times you can learn to take control and train yourself to stay positive and be proactive in getting yourself out of those situational slumps. Negativity spirals and builds on itself and the more we learn to jump off that train and start building ourselves up towards positivity, the better we will be and feel and play. 

If you don't say or do anything when you feel bad or are playing poorly, you let it win.  Those are the times to double down and stay positive.

This is great advice for sure - a good way to snap out of it for sure. Considering I'm starting pretty fresh after a long layoff (just back on the ice a month ago) it's a good chance to build in a good habit! Thanks.

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44 minutes ago, indykrap said:

When I'm in a good mood and playing well I'm pretty chatty. I tell myself "next shot, next shot" after a save or goal, just to settle down and focus on the next shot. I'll also remind myself to take a breath, give the posts a tap, or give the stick some love after a shaft save (inspired by MAF - https://streamable.com/65qah)

If I'm feeling really good/at a good group game I'll yap at the players. A good glove save will be a "oh hey, do you want this back?", if a player falls or skates into me I'll say "oh you looked pretty good out there. Thought you could skate, too", or complimenting someone's hair/stache if they get a little too cozy on a screen.

 

If I'm in a bad mood or playing poorly or if I'm playing really well and in the zone, I don't say anything, haha.

I just stumbled up some wise words related to this:  Negativity is addictive.  Positivity is hard work.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I talk to my team constantly, even when they can't hear me, but never to myself.  A long time ago I read that you shouldn't worry about making all the saves, instead, just think about making the next save.  I also read that stopping to think slows down reactions, so I strive not to think while I play unless the thought is about the next save, and anytime I catch myself thinking I'll remind myself that the only thing that is real is the next save, and anything that isn't the next save exists only to distract me from the next save.  When I'm on my game I barely think at all, whether about the save or not.  On bad nights I'll try to rally myself by singing the chorus to "Too Sick to Pray," but that's the exception, not the rule.

Some distractions are obvious, some took me longer to recognize as being distractions.  Things I used to think about that I no longer allow myself to think about while playing:

-whether I'm "outplaying" the other goalie or not.  a)any brain space spent thinking about the other goalie is brain space that isn't thinking about the next save, b)comparing two goalies will always be "apples and oranges" because if each save is like an equation, neither goalies will face the same equations making comparisons misleading at best, c)I am not increased by outplaying someone else, nor am I decreased by being outplayed by someone else.

-whether I "should have" made the last save or not.  Whether I just made a fantastic save I had no business making or shat the bed in the most unforgivable way possible, the last shot is not the next shot, therefore, it is an illusion that exists only to distract me from the next shot.

-whether I am being favourably judged or not.  Whether people like me as a goalie is a distraction from the next shot.  This one is harder to tune out though, because deep down we all know that if we are judged unfavourably enough we won't get to play anymore.

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33 minutes ago, keeper_13 said:

I talk to my team constantly, even when they can't hear me, but never to myself.  A long time ago I read that you shouldn't worry about making all the saves, instead, just think about making the next save.  I also read that stopping to think slows down reactions, so I strive not to think while I play unless the thought is about the next save, and anytime I catch myself thinking I'll remind myself that the only thing that is real is the next save, and anything that isn't the next save exists only to distract me from the next save.  When I'm on my game I barely think at all, whether about the save or not.  On bad nights I'll try to rally myself by singing the chorus to "Too Sick to Pray," but that's the exception, not the rule.

Some distractions are obvious, some took me longer to recognize as being distractions.  Things I used to think about that I no longer allow myself to think about while playing:

-whether I'm "outplaying" the other goalie or not.  a)any brain space spent thinking about the other goalie is brain space that isn't thinking about the next save, b)comparing two goalies will always be "apples and oranges" because if each save is like an equation, neither goalies will face the same equations making comparisons misleading at best, c)I am not increased by outplaying someone else, nor am I decreased by being outplayed by someone else.

-whether I "should have" made the last save or not.  Whether I just made a fantastic save I had no business making or shat the bed in the most unforgivable way possible, the last shot is not the next shot, therefore, it is an illusion that exists only to distract me from the next shot.

-whether I am being favourably judged or not.  Whether people like me as a goalie is a distraction from the next shot.  This one is harder to tune out though, because deep down we all know that if we are judged unfavourably enough we won't get to play anymore.

I do this too.  I watch the goalie in warmups and about halfway through the 1st, I check in with myself on that goalie:  "I can outplay this guy if my team gives me a chance to" OR "this guy is good, I need to work hard and stay focused on my game to outplay this guy."

Edited by seagoal
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Self talk for me is one of two things. The first: When I let a goal in (I said WHEN not IF), then I talk to myself about why/how it happened and what I did wrong. That is my thought process from the whistle of the puck in the net till the ref drops the puck. Soon as the puck is in play, the second thing comes in: Next shot, next save. I'll say it to myself a few times to get me ramped up for the next shot.

Never cared about how the other goalie or team is doing. Only care that I'm giving my team a chance (what they do with it is on them).

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2 hours ago, loki1416 said:

Self talk for me is one of two things. The first: When I let a goal in (I said WHEN not IF), then I talk to myself about why/how it happened and what I did wrong. That is my thought process from the whistle of the puck in the net till the ref drops the puck. Soon as the puck is in play, the second thing comes in: Next shot, next save. I'll say it to myself a few times to get me ramped up for the next shot.

Never cared about how the other goalie or team is doing. Only care that I'm giving my team a chance (what they do with it is on them).

Love it man.   That's a very healthy,  positive mindset.  I appreciate you sharing that. 

Next shot, next save is a good theme in this thread and for very good reason.  If that's our focus,  we can move on from mistakes and feel less negative about playing.   It's a great mindset.

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Weirdly, in my odyssey of attaining better mental health, I am trying to live more like the rabbit in goal than in real life. When I let in a goal, my reaction is anywhere from nothing to even laughter. My mind is there and nowhere else. Hockey is my happy place, after all.

Self talk can either hurt you or help you. When I let in a goal, I will even say aloud “At least I won’t get shipped to the third tier farm team 200 miles away from a major airport.” 
 
Do I want to play well? Of course, but I am not obsessed with it. I have never slammed my stick in frustration. It’s just a game. Now that I am attaining better mental health, I am much easier to get along with.

Self-compassion is what most of us need. We can say things to ourselves that we’d never say to another human being unless we wanted them out of our lives! Be compassionate towards yourself.

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6 hours ago, bunnyman666 said:

Weirdly, in my odyssey of attaining better mental health, I am trying to live more like the rabbit in goal than in real life. When I let in a goal, my reaction is anywhere from nothing to even laughter. My mind is there and nowhere else. Hockey is my happy place, after all.

Self talk can either hurt you or help you. When I let in a goal, I will even say aloud “At least I won’t get shipped to the third tier farm team 200 miles away from a major airport.” 
 
Do I want to play well? Of course, but I am not obsessed with it. I have never slammed my stick in frustration. It’s just a game. Now that I am attaining better mental health, I am much easier to get along with.

Self-compassion is what most of us need. We can say things to ourselves that we’d never say to another human being unless we wanted them out of our lives! Be compassionate towards yourself.

Great post Bunny.

Learning to laugh at myself while playing hockey has been one of the most valuable lessons I've learned in life.  I'm very competitive and my standards for myself in many areas--particularly health and playing goalie--are high.  So I put in a LOT of effort in both to be excellent and disciplined and constantly improve.  Obviously, any health issue and playing goalie are directly correlated and intertwined (for me, it's living with an endocrine disease, not mental health). So I find it important to have both in mind at all times.

When I was younger, in my 20s-early 30s, I had no discipline and much poorer control over my physical/emotional/mental health and thus, I was a wreck as a goalie.  I hated every goal, hated every mistake, I would have bursts of rage and get flushed with emotions and negative thoughts haunted me quite a bit.  I had a very difficult time having fun playing hockey, which was horrible because it's been the thing I love the most in life outside of the people in my life since I was 12 years old. As I got into my mid to late 30s, my discipline and control got so much better and I started to keenly seen the correlation of overall health with playing hockey.  I became a better, healthier person and thus a better, healthier goalie.  Started having fun and laughing at myself when I made a mistake or let in a stinker.  This was the result of a lot of self-talk but in general just overall discipline and taking personal responsibility for myself.

I'm currently the happiest I've ever been and also the best goalie I have ever been.  The key to this, for me, was personal responsibility and fulfillment and taking ownership of my physical/mental/emotional health and my particular disease management.  So I hear you loud and clear.

Cheers buddy.

Edited by seagoal
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Drifting into derailing the thread here, but you guys may also want to look into breath work.

During the course of the game, our breath can become quick, short, and labored as we exert effort.  This triggers the fight or flight response in our brain and can lead to negative performance issues (cramps, muscles tightening up, effects on your mental state) - and it has potential to supersede whatever your positive internal monologue is.

Make an effort every so often to slow down and take a couple deep breaths through your mouth and blow through your nose.  It'll bring you back down and it works as a great mental reset tool.

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4 hours ago, Chenner29 said:

Drifting into derailing the thread here, but you guys may also want to look into breath work.

During the course of the game, our breath can become quick, short, and labored as we exert effort.  This triggers the fight or flight response in our brain and can lead to negative performance issues (cramps, muscles tightening up, effects on your mental state) - and it has potential to supersede whatever your positive internal monologue is.

Make an effort every so often to slow down and take a couple deep breaths through your mouth and blow through your nose.  It'll bring you back down and it works as a great mental reset tool.

Great addition to this thread, for sure.

This is especially good after scrambles or rushes or desparation plays that elevate heart rates and adrenaline.  Breath work can help bring heart rates and adrenaline down and promote relaxation.  This in turn will make mental and emotional work easier and more successful. 

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17 hours ago, seagoal said:

Great post Bunny.

Learning to laugh at myself while playing hockey has been one of the most valuable lessons I've learned in life.  I'm very competitive and my standards for myself in many areas--particularly health and playing goalie--are high.  So I put in a LOT of effort in both to be excellent and disciplined and constantly improve.  Obviously, any health issue and playing goalie are directly correlated and intertwined (for me, it's living with an endocrine disease, not mental health). So I find it important to have both in mind at all times.

When I was younger, in my 20s-early 30s, I had no discipline and much poorer control over my physical/emotional/mental health and thus, I was a wreck as a goalie.  I hated every goal, hated every mistake, I would have bursts of rage and get flushed with emotions and negative thoughts haunted me quite a bit.  I had a very difficult time having fun playing hockey, which was horrible because it's been the thing I love the most in life outside of the people in my life since I was 12 years old. As I got into my mid to late 30s, my discipline and control got so much better and I started to keenly seen the correlation of overall health with playing hockey.  I became a better, healthier person and thus a better, healthier goalie.  Started having fun and laughing at myself when I made a mistake or let in a stinker.  This was the result of a lot of self-talk but in general just overall discipline and taking personal responsibility for myself.

I'm currently the happiest I've ever been and also the best goalie I have ever been.  The key to this, for me, was personal responsibility and fulfillment and taking ownership of my physical/mental/emotional health and my particular disease management.  So I hear you loud and clear.

Cheers buddy.

Mental and physical health are hand-in-hand. What ended up destroying my colon nearly made me cash in my chips. And every day with no colon can be a different challenge. I have yet to have it interrupt a game, even when I had an ostomy bag. But it has interrupted workouts, shortened bike rides, and made permanent changes where I simply can’t do what I used to do. Taking charge of my physical fitness has been helping, but I still face challenges on a daily basis and sometimes it can get me down. 
 
In essence, I had to get my meds right, then reinforce what I was doing by doing more physical activity and changing my eating.  
 
I remember a kid I used to play with. He was struggling mightily in goal, getting shelled in 10-4 games in college and worse in drop in. I confronted him. I asked him what was keeping his head out of the game. It turned out he was soon to be an accidental dad. I congratulated him, then I told him to try and figure out his happy place on ice. The next time I saw him play, he looked better. His (now) wife had the little baby in tow. He was over the moon! 
 
We often forget that this is a game. Hockey should be your happy place.

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Don't have too much time to elaborate right now, but I wanted to bump this thread and say that my brain is in overdrive right now thinking about the mentality difference between, as goalies, focusing on our mistakes vs. focusing on the number of goals we let in.   These are drastically different. 

Any thoughts?

Also, fistbumps to @Chenner29.  Love you, brother.

Edited by seagoal
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On 10/4/2021 at 1:39 PM, seagoal said:

...I'll start.  My goal for self-talk is simple: prioritize and emphasize only the things in hockey I can control, which is to say, myself.  I don't want any emphasis of my mind or feelings on my team, the other team, the shot totals, the score, or the refs because I can not control those things and in my mind that is wasted effort and energy spent on displacing responsibility away from myself and onto "others." ...

I am fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked.  I talk to myself all the time.  Sometimes mentally and sometimes aloud.  I bitch to myself about myself.  I bitch to myself about my team, I bitch to myself about the other team, the refs, fuck I knew I should've had my skates sharpened this week...just as I should have last week or the week prior, fuck why is the ice so bad tonight, shit why don't these assholes back check better stop being so lazy.  Great here comes a breakaway because this asshole is lazy and won't back check, I hate this team.  Yoooooo nice goal thank god I am on my team and not playing against my team.  I love this team.

I'm a fucking mental mess when I play.

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I would have the habit of, if it was a slow/easy game, singing to myself various songs. But usually I would be effin and blindin at my team if it was a slack goal against me, calling out my D to where they should go and what to do and not do! i.e. do not pass the puck past me from behind the goal line (pet peeve) calling out my guys when they’re offside and don’t know that they are. The occasional shit talk when I’m getting masked/heavy traffic. I’d get a bit physical with my stick during such moments! 
 

But reading everyone else’s posts, it’s a good healthy thing to talk to yourself. Skaters/non goalies don’t always understand our position and what we do to be our best in the ice. Positive reinforcement is vital. We may get the occasional big up from our team on a good save for example, but during plays we are on our own. So talking to yourself is good! Plus it can throw off the other team! They may think your nuts and that gives you a psychological edge!

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I play best when I'm doing, not thinking. So I play songs in my head to keep me from thinking too much.

One shinny, I wasn't doing so well. Couldn't find a song that fit. About halfway through, the theme song from Mr Bean popped into my head (https://youtu.be/WmtIrkR6O7I); looped that motherfucker like there was no tomorrow. I was lights out for the rest of the ice time.

Makes it a little irritating if the score keeper insists on playing music during stoppages, but I'm pretty good at blocking that out when it happens.

Don't talk to myself or my posts, never have. Buncha weirdos. :P

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13 hours ago, SaveByRichter35 said:

I am fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked.  I talk to myself all the time.  Sometimes mentally and sometimes aloud.  I bitch to myself about myself.  I bitch to myself about my team, I bitch to myself about the other team, the refs, fuck I knew I should've had my skates sharpened this week...just as I should have last week or the week prior, fuck why is the ice so bad tonight, shit why don't these assholes back check better stop being so lazy.  Great here comes a breakaway because this asshole is lazy and won't back check, I hate this team.  Yoooooo nice goal thank god I am on my team and not playing against my team.  I love this team.

I'm a fucking mental mess when I play.

I quit one of my long standing teams because of this almost exact mental process when I played with them. Didn't help it was lower tier hockey too.

I didn't think I realized how awful it all was until recently. I've been playing on a team that just has absolutely no bullshit involved on or off the ice and the removal of that level of frustration has made the hockey a hell of a lot more fun. Also helps it's a higher level too.

I subbed for them once this year and it was horrendous. I was resorting back to that mental cycle of frustration and doubt, even to the point where I'm yelling at my D-man to close the gap and stop fucking letting them skate uncontested to the damn hash marks and letting it rip without even the smallest amount of pressure.

Don't miss it in the slightest.

 

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