Behind The Bench: Optimism

By Michael Moore

Has it been two weeks?

…Yup, it’s totally been two weeks! Wow! Needless to say, my plate has been full lately. So much so, that I had completely lost track of time and am only now posting this newsletter. It is still October …right?

This morning, I responded to a new client’s question about mental preparation. His question was, “What are your thoughts about mental conditioning?”

My response was, “It is AT LEAST 85% of the battle!”

I may have seriously underestimated that percentage. 

There is no doubt that metal preparation is vital in ice hockey and in life. We tell all of our prospects that go to a visit with a Junior club or that skate at a camp or combine, not show frustration, anger or disappointment after a bad play. Reset, refocus and get ready for the next shift. The reason we say this is because players that keep their emotions in check and can manage themselves effectively, do not get frustrated, angry or disappointed in themselves. They simply evaluate themselves, make the necessary adjustments and try again. Coaches recognize that skill. Teammates feel that skill. Champions capitalize on that skill. 

The greatest opponent you will ever face is yourself. I have said that here and in life. It could not be more true. Staying positive in the trials of competition raises a good player to a great player.

I often tell goalies after giving up a soft goal, I want to see you “calm, cool and collected.” That is far easier said than done. How many times have you seen an NHL goalie get frustrated and obliterate his stick? That’s usually the moment that goalie is finished. Same goes for skaters. That skate to the bench feels much longer after a blown play. The more you hang on to it the more likely you are to face it again. 

Recognize it. 

Fix it. 

Forget it. 

The best players can do this. It is not easy and just like your backhand it takes practice and refinement. Your mental game deserves as much attention as your stickhandling.

So with this topic in mind, I bring to you two articles that are about mental conditioning. More specifically they are about optimism and positivity. Both articles have been featured in previous newsletters. The first- “OPTIMISM” has been featured twice and deservedly so. It may be safe to assume it is my most favorite feature.


The Hidden Asset

By Bruna Martinuzzi, Mindtools

Among the topics that young people study before they enter the workforce is calculus, the mathematics of change and motion. While training in calculus is undoubtedly valuable, I believe that training in optimism is also important.

Just as it is good discipline to solve problems like the velocity of a car at a certain moment in time, it is also crucial to figure out what drives people to give us the very best that they have to offer. Ironically, Leibniz, one of the inventors of calculus, is also known for his philosophy of optimism.

He was considered to be an inveterate optimist, asserting that we live “in the best of all possible worlds”.

Optimism is an emotional competence that can help boost productivity, enhance employee morale, overcome conflict and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

In writing about optimism, you face the danger of being seen as advocating a “Pollyanna” or quixotic approach.

The truth is, however, optimism has been proven to be a powerful tool that will pay dividends for your personal life and give you a competitive advantage professionally in your career.

There is a lot to be gained, indeed, in cultivating an optimistic outlook.

Take leadership, for example.

Nowhere is optimism more important than in leading organizations.

Highly effective leaders have a transforming effect on their constituents: they have the gift of being able to convince others that they have the ability to achieve levels of performance beyond those they thought possible. 

They are able to paint an optimistic and attainable view of the future for their followers: They move others from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better”.

In The Leadership Advantage, an essay from the Drucker Foundation’s Leader to Leader Guide, Warren Bennis tells us that optimism is one of the key things people need from their leaders in order to achieve positive results.

Every “exemplary leader that I have met,” writes Bennis, “has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism – and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”

Perhaps more significant are the countless studies that have shown that people with an optimistic outlook have healthier relationships, enjoy better mental and physical health and live longer. In The Wisdom of the Ego, Dr George E Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, writes about individuals who have “both the capacity to be bent without breaking and the capacity, once bent, to spring back”. Vaillant mentions that, in addition to external sources of resilience (such as good health or social supports), these individuals have important internal sources which include a healthy self-esteem and optimism.

So, where does optimism come from? Is it something we are born with or is it learned?

For some lucky individuals, being optimistic comes naturally. The good news is that, for those who don’t have it naturally, optimism is an attitude that can be learned and practiced. Here are some strategies you can consider in your journey to becoming more optimistic or in helping someone else who suffers from pessimism:

         1.   Avoid negative environments. If this is not realistic, make every effort to seek the company of positive individuals in your organization. Sometimes this may mean fraternizing with peers in other departments. Stay away from the professional complainer.

         2.   Celebrate your strengths. The key to high achievement and happiness is to play out your strengths, not correct your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well. (If you are not sure what your signature strengths are, consider reading Now Discover Your Strengths which includes a web-based questionnaire that helps you discover your own top-five inborn talents.)

         3.   Take care of your spiritual and emotional well being by reading inspirational material on a daily basis. This may be different for each person. Some may be inspired by daily quotations, others by reading biographies of successful people in their field and yet others may derive inspiration from reading about all the innovations that we are graced with. A useful website for this is the World Future Society, which keeps up with new inventions.

         4.   Manage or ignore what you cannot change. When faced with setbacks, identify what you can change and proactively try to find ways to do something about it. We have often heard this advice – it bears repeating. Be inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s words: “While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us.”

         5.   Learn to reframe. This involved deliberately shifting perspective and looking for the hidden positive in a negative situation: the proverbial silver lining. Look for the gift in the adversity.

If you are serious about developing greater optimism, there is no better book than Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Dr Martin E Seligman. Learn Dr Seligman’s ABCDE model for disputing pessimistic thoughts. This is a very useful and powerful tool to help you change the way you explain events that trouble you from optimistic to pessimistic. 

         6.   Adapt your language and outlook. Consider how a simple shift in the language you use can make a difference in your outlook: Do you frequently say: “yes, but….” in response to your constituents’ suggestions? The “but” automatically negates anything you have said in the beginning part of the sentence. A simple shift to “yes, and…” might make a positive difference. Check the emails you have sent recently. Count the proportion of negative to positive words. It could be enlightening.

Become aware of your stance in business meetings. Are you known as the “devil’s advocate”, the one who is quick to shoot down others’ ideas? Jumping in too quickly to negate an idea can derail the creative process. Often valuable ideas are the result of an initial “crazy” thought. At meetings, even when we don’t have the floor, we are under a magnifying glass. Practice being more upbeat, practice speaking last, and see what happens.

         7.   Focus outside yourself, on important people in your life, on pursuits and projects that fire you up. Bertrand Russell once said that the quickest way to make ourselves miserable is to continually focus on ourselves. It was his love of mathematics that kept him going.

         8.   Nurture a culture of optimism when you are in charge of other people at work. Expect people to succeed. Even when they occasionally fail to achieve what they set out to do, encourage them so that they can tackle the next challenge. A simple: “I know you’ll do better the next time” can have very positive effects.

         9.   Cultivate spontaneity. Consider putting aside all your plans once in a while to take a walk with your kids, play a game or catch a show. Getting out of your comfort zone by being spontaneous helps to develop your optimistic muscle, as spontaneity essentially involves an expectation of having a pleasurable experience.     

         10. Consider the health benefits. If you need an extra motivation for practicing optimism, consider the statistics linking optimism to greater health. As Dr Seligman explains, there is evidence to believe that immune systems among optimistic people are stronger than among pessimists.


By, James Manktelow,

Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker? Learn About – and Change – How You Think

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Zig Ziglar – Personal development guru.

These are two powerful quotes. Combined, they tell us that if we think positively, we’re likely to enjoy positive results. Negative thinking, on the other hand, can lead to outcomes that we don’t want.

Positive and negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies: What we expect can often come true.

If you start off thinking that you’ll mess up a task, the chances are that you will: You may not try hard enough to succeed, you won’t attract support from other people, and you may not perceive any results as good enough.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, is often associated with positive actions and outcomes.

You have hope and faith in yourself and others, and you work and invest hard to prove that your optimism is warranted. You’ll enthuse others, and they may well pitch in to help you. This makes constructive outcomes all the more likely.

When it comes down to it, positive, optimistic people are happier and healthier, and enjoy more success than those who think negatively. 

The key difference between them is how they think about and interpret the events in their life.

So, how do you think about your successes and failures? Do you have a predictable thinking pattern?

Turn Negatives into Positives

The first step in changing negative thinking is to become aware of it. For many of us, negative thinking is a bad habit – and we may not even know we’re doing it!

Consider this example: The guy on the subway who just made a face is surely directing his behavior at you. When the receptionist doesn’t greet you in the morning, you must have done something to anger her… again! You go straight to the coffee machine, because it’s Monday morning and you just know you’ll be solving problems until lunchtime. When you finally get to your desk, your assistant is waiting for you. “Oh no,” you think. “What has he done now? The first problem of the day… yippee!”

If you’re feeling bad after reading this, imagine how it would feel to surround yourself with that much negativity. Then ask yourself if this is the way you tend to think in your own life?

Dr Martin Seligman, who has been described as America’s most influential psychologist, has done extensive research on thought patterns. In particular, he looks at the impact of an optimistic versus pessimistic outlook on life and success.

Seligman says we explain events using three basic dimensions of Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personalization, with optimistic people on one end of the scale and pessimistic people on the other. 


I lost my job and I’ll never find one as good again. No point even looking!


I lost my job. Thank goodness there are other opportunities I can explore!


I lost my job. Companies are all the same; all they care about is money. I don’t know why I bother putting in any effort at all.


I lost my job. It’s too bad our company has to reinvent itself to stay competitive. Thankfully I learned some great transferable skills! When you’re more aware of the way you think, you can take action to use positive situations to your advantage, and re-shape the negative ones.

The goal is to think positively, regardless of the situation, and make a conscious effort to see opportunities instead of obstacles.

So, in our example, if you immediately think the receptionist is mad at you because she didn’t say hello, how rational is that? Could she have been busy or distracted when you walked by? Did you say hello to her? Maybe she wasn’t feeling well, or she was in a negative mood herself. These are all more rational reasons for her behavior than simply assuming that you did something wrong.


Preparing mentally and breaking a mental sweat in warm-ups

Greg Revak, September 4th, 2022 (Replay from Behind the Bench 9/8/22)

If you’ve been around a sport for any period of time, you’ve probably heard some version of “Wake up!” or “Get your head out of your #&$!”

It’s no wonder why these phrases are used so often in gameplay after mentally grueling warmups like the “Pretzel”:

Alright, joking aside, let’s dive into mentally preparing and warming up for competition.

Mental Preparation

F1 drivers are peak athletes. They experience crazy amounts of G-Forces and loads of strain on their bodies during a race. Beyond the physical warmup, they are keenly focused on mental sharpness and preparation. A slow start can ruin a race or even worse, cause a serious crash.

F1 drivers memorize the track and their responses before ever entering the track on race day. Their preparation goes something like this:

1) Study and memorize the track

a) Study the racetrack on a map

b) Practice laps within a simulator

c) Walking the track on race weekend

2) Practice mentally and physically

a) Physically warm up with exercise to activate their muscles

b) Mentally work through a lap

The goal is to imprint the track into their long-term and working memory. Yet, that is not enough! Drivers then work to quickly retrieve that information from their memory and visualize what they are about to experience so they can respond efficiently and effectively.

Just before the race, drivers will rehearse mentally what they are about to see and their responses.

As the saying goes, “you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training/preparation.”

Applying this to Hockey

Warming up mentally is just as important as warming up physically. Some ideas for hockey players:

  • Journaling
  • Pre-game/Pre-practice visualization, focusing on common situations and your response/process
  • Reminders/phrases written on your equipment
  • Eye & head exercises (scanning for relevant information)

Heck, before even heading to the rink… go play a fast-paced video game that forces quick decisions (Call of Duty is accepted).

Challenging the Pretzel Warmup

Okay… I can’t let it go – I have a bone to pick with the coaches that go with the infamous warm-up that is a staple in youth hockey. Here you have:

  • No decision making
  • Little player involvement

USA Hockey does regional and national camps as part of its process. It’s a great time and place to experiment (e.g. potential rule changes).

At one of the events, coaches were told no pretzel warmups would be permitted. Here is the creativity they came up with. Pretty similar to what we saw above, no?

Heck, this isn’t even specific to hockey. Here is a local youth football warmup.

Compared with the other side of the field. Can you guess who won?

Hockey-wise, there once was a coach in the NCAA that asked the rink staff to throw out another net for warmup and played small area games.

Warmup Study

In my early coaching years, I did a study of a 7-minute warmup. I’m not going to give you my results (at least, not today), but rather challenge you to track your own and bring back the results to share via social media or email… Seriously, I want to see your results and talk about them!

  • Decisions made, puck touches, shots, etc.

For example, a pretzel warmup might have a player with 0 decisions and 4 puck touches, and 2 shots. As a community, we can do better.

Arizona Players- check out this scholarship opportunity. If you have any interest in Cybersecurity this might be worth looking into.

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College Hockey Inc. is accepting applications for the third annual College Hockey Inc. Scholarship, presented by JLG Architects. The grant is awarded in honor of JLG founder Lonnie Laffen, a passionate hockey supporter who passed away in 2020. 

Application link

Players and families, we want to hear from you. If there are any questions, concerns, or if you just want to have a conversation, please feel free to contact us directly. We want to hear from you. Good Luck and Great Hockey!

Thank you,

Team VHC