One Important Hockey Lesson I Learned The Hard Way (that every player should pay attention to)

Ben LevesqueMental Game, Stories2 Comments

One Important Hockey Lesson I Learned The Hard Way (that every player should pay attention to

In Major Junior, I came close to losing it all.

If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you know that I was lucky enough to win a President’s Cup.

But what you don’t know is that it almost didn’t happen.

It almost slipped away.

And there’s one lesson I learned from nearly losing it all that I’ll never forget…

Today, I’m going to share this lesson with you.

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Hopefully, you can learn from it and not make the same mistake my team and I did a few years ago that almost cost us a championship title.

If you’re a player, parent, or coach, I urge you to read on…

The confidence conundrum

As hockey players, we learn from a young age that confidence is everything.

That’s because it is.

A hockey player without confidence is like a car without gas—it may look good, it may be able to do all kinds of great things, but it just won’t run without fuel.

As hockey players, our fuel is our confidence.

And while we’re usually in search of additional confidence, it sometimes happens that there’s too much confidence.

How can too much confidence ever be a bad thing, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is, and to prove it I’m going to walk you through an event that happened back in 2009…

The shift that changed everything

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We were facing Shawinigan in the finals for the President’s cup.

We hadn’t faced any adversity until then, winning our first three series without losing a game.

Saying our confidence was through the roof would be an understatement.

Our power-play was firing on all cylinders at nearly 40% effectiveness, our penalty kill was the best in the league, and  we had no doubt in our minds that the trophy was ours for the taking.

We went out and won our first three games against Shawinigan, putting us up 3-0 and just one victory away from winning it all.

And that’s when over-confidence hit us like the plague…

In Game 4, during what seemed like an innocent shift, one of our players got into an argument with a forward on the other team.

The other player was an agitator-type player and was just trying to get to our heads…and it worked.

Because we were over-confidentwe started yelling back from the bench.

Some guys arrogantly pointed to the scoreboard because we were winning.

Others were yelling things along the lines of “your season is over in a few minutes,” and a whole bunch of other cheap shots (not to mention terrible body language).

Long story short, we let our over-confidence get the best of us and we were completely off our game from that moment on.

We ended up losing Game 4.

But that’s not all we lost…

They used everything we said and did to them that game as motivation and went on to win the next two games, forcing a Game 7 on us.

We went from being up 3-0 in a best-of-seven series against a team who seemed to have packed it in, to fighting for our lives in an ultimate showdown four games later.

All because of our arrogant behavior.

Instead of remaining humble and focusing on our own game, we bashed the other team and gave them all the ammunition they needed to get back in the series.

Luckily we were able to get it together and win game 7, but it was much closer than it should have been.

A hard lesson learned


Confidence in hockey can be your enemy as much as it can be your ally. Remember to always stay humble and focus on the task at hand instead of letting your opponent get to your head.

As soon as you lose focus for even just a short moment, it can be all the other team needs to  make headway and get back into the game—even the series.

My old coach taught us two rules to help us deal with over-confidence when it kicks in, and I want to share them with you so that you can remind yourself to be weary of it:

  1. Don’t be the barking dog
  2. Don’t wake the sleeping giant

He would always say how it’s not the barking dog you should be scared of, but the one that doesn’t say a word. We learned the hard way that he was right.

Don’t run your mouth—all it does is waste precious energy and make you lose your focus. Instead, be quiet and let your actions speak for themselves. Don’t get mixed up in barking matches—the other team is only trying to make you lose focus.

And this goes for individual players as much as it does entire teams.

The second statement he shared with us was “don’t wake the sleeping giant”—unfortunately, we did the exact opposite back in 2009 and almost paid the price.

When you’re playing an opponent that just doesn’t seem to be in the game or isn’t playing particularly well, let them sleep.

Don’t do or say anything that will fire them up or motivate them to play harder. The last thing you want is to give them hope.

That’s what we did because we were overly confident.

And it almost came back to haunt us.

Have any stories like this one where you let confidence get the best of you?

Leave a comment below because I’d love to learn how you deal with confidence issues in hockey.

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About the author

Ben Levesque

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Ben has been playing hockey for 20+ years and has learned a ton from playing with the world's best coaches & players. Among his accomplishments are a National Championship, a President's Cup, a Semi-Final finish at the Memorial Cup, several Queen's Cups and a helmet in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

2 Comments on “One Important Hockey Lesson I Learned The Hard Way (that every player should pay attention to)”

  1. Cody

    Great article about a very important factor of the game. Would especially recommend this read to minor hockey players because the mental battle starts early.

    1. Ben Levesque

      Hey Cody, thanks for your comment! Definitely agree. Confidence is a hard-fought battle right from a young age. It’s usually about a lack of confidence, but it can be about too much confidence at times. Cheers!

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