I constantly marvel at how Bill (IwoCPO) and his disciples at Abel To Yzerman can be so pompous and full of themselves throughout every regular season, but come playoff time they collapse into wavering puddles of stress and nervousness as they anxiously await the impending and unavoidable collapse of the Red Wings in the post-season. First round or third, it doesn't matter. They know that the Wings will hit the wall and they agonize over every little sign that something has started to go wrong.
His latest post (and the comments) is just one example of this peculiar phenomenon.
Here at Mile High Hockey, we Avalanche fans have it a little easier. Sure, we're still used to our team making the playoffs and reaching at least the second round every time, but last year's debacle and this year's near-miss have jaded us a bit. Some of us are probably just satisfied that the team clinched a spot at all. Some of us maybe even wish they hadn't because it probably means a certain mustachioed head coach will get an undeserved contract extension---and you know what that means.
But in case you are a nervous wreck or your mental stability is wavering, I'm here to help.
Men's Fitness ran an article called Mental Toughness Training, and it's full of great advice that can easily be applied to the lives of Colorado Avalanche fans as we enter April, the first month of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
BE A SELF-STARTER
The root of mental toughness lies in motivation. Those who are deemed mentally tough typically exhibit what sports psychologists call "intrinsic motivation."
You too can exhibit "intrinsic motivation" by pre-ordering that Colorado Avalanche 2008 Stanley Cup Champions t-shirt and matching ball cap, even if there's no refund and the Avs only have a 30-1 chance of winning it all. F that noise. Quit slacking and get ordering.
FIND YOUR "ZONE"
Achieving this (cool-headed, calm) state and holding on to it despite distractions, pain, and your own instincts to give in for the sake of self-preservation is the essence of mental toughness.
So what if Adam Foote just got 20 stitches in his ear after taking a puck to the head against Vancouver two days ago? So what if Peter Forsberg's ankle/groin/small intestine is connected to his body with just cheap string and bubble gum? So what if Joe Sakic is so old that he mostly talks about the weather and "that Muslim Obama" in the locker room instead of giving quiet, veteran advice to the younger players?
None of that should matter to you. Once you're in the zone, knowing that the Avs have to start the first two games of the first round (regardless of their seeding) on the road won't bother you at all. Knowing that Paul Stastny, David Jones, Jaroslav Hlinka and both Codys are all untested in the playoffs (and Wolski only barely so), won't even faze you. Knowing that Jose Theodore's Pimp Cane might actually be hollow plastic instead of oak or something equally solid won't even register on your radar. Your calm is fully enhanced.
Anytime you catch yourself slacking, questioning your motivation, or feeling like you want to quit, repeat your mission statement.
"At least it's not the Red Wings in the first round. At least it's not the Red Wings in the first round. At least it's not the Red Wings in the first round."
TALK TO YOURSELF
Repeat mantra above, over and over and over and over...
Keep positive mental images running through your mind throughout the playoffs, and never divert your focus from them. Don't even think about nightmare scenarios. Picture the team's goal---the Stanley Cup---and use it to ground yourself and push through the shame and heartache that inevitably lies in wait.
Various forms of meditation have been used for thousands of years for almost any purpose you can fathom, including reduction of stress, enhanced mental clarity, and simple relaxation.
Find a relaxing environment to meditate in and take some time to sit quietly and focus. Take deep breaths. Concentrate on the things that make you happy. Channel out all those negative thoughts and allow only positive ideas to dominate your mindset.
You can’t settle into a routine and expect to make progress.
Now get the hell out of that relaxing environment and start changing things around. Paint your living room. Buy a new car. Divorce your wife. Something. Shake things up as you get ready to root for the Avalanche in the playoffs. They can't win if your life doesn't change somehow, so get cracking. And rest assured, Coach Q will be doing his part by changing the line combinations after every single shift.
Finally, BE PREPARED
Naturally, you can’t be prepared for every eventuality, but try to be anyway. Anticipate any problems that could arise, and have a solution in mind
While we're all hoping for the best, understand that the end could come at any time, and from the least likely of sources. Knowing what bad things could happen might help prevent them from actually happening. Don't forget that.
Now take a deep breath, everyone. As the Avs play their final game of the season on Sunday and then prepare for the playoffs, don't become a liability to them by getting strung-out and worked up. Practice the tips listed above and you'll be ready for anything.