The Art of Slump-Busting
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Hockey slumps are a bitch.
After game two, the media tried to proclaim Sidney Crosby’s two-game drought a slump. It isn’t. The guy hit posts, pads, pants, people and pillows in games one and two, but the damn thing just won’t go in. As I’ve been listening to the sports networks use his stats as the story, rather than to illuminate the story, I got thinking about real, actual slumps.
Did I mention they’re a bitch?
Attempting to slump break is freaking impossible, and, as a player, if I could give you a successful method I’d be a rich man.
I went through stretches of great success in college and pro hockey, tying together point streaks of double-digit games on multiple occasions. As you may have guessed, I also went through stretches of great misery, tying together streaks of wall-punching and pulling my hair out at the root for double-digit games… on multiple occasions.
The standard song and dance about slump breaking is, in my opinion, what prolongs them.
“Keep it simple. Shoot from everywhere.”
Nothing twists the knife in your already stabbed confidence like a goalie casually gloving down your shot from left field that you only took because technically, that spot by the boards at the blueline fell under the category of “everywhere”.
The only known antidote for the slump sickness, of course, is to work so hard Rod Brind’Amour looks lazy.
It takes a couple games of driving the net, hovering around the crease and generally playing violently before a shot from the point redirects off the bridge of your nose and goes in for you to get back to normal.
As far as slumps go, a few games wouldn’t be a huge deal. The problem is that there are stages of slump denial, which tend to add extra games to it before you realize you’re mired in one.
For starters, there’s the Bad Luck phase:
“Ha, what a lucky save.”
“I can’t believe that hit both posts.”
“If another puck bounces over my stick around the net I’m going to sacrifice a goat to the hockey gods.”
The Blame Placing phase is only a few steps behind the Bad Luck phase. Sadly, some players never get out of this one, convinced that their whole career was on the same path as Sid the Kid had they not had this awful nine-year stretch of bad luck.
“My linemates are awful.”
“I’m not getting enough powerplay time.”
“This ice is horrific.”
As the sad, slumpy realization sinks in, superstition becomes the only friend to turn to.
You start taping your stick with white instead of black. You stop playing two-touch soccer with the boys before the game. You even write something different on the knob end of your stick, something usually along the lines of “WWJD”.
As the slump shovel hits bedrock, thoughts on the home front start to drift, potentially all the way into “maybe I’m just not good enough” territory, highlighted by such classics as:
“I really should finish that degree.”
“I could probably work for my sister-in-law’s husband.”
“#$%$ @#!$#ing &%@#!”
But just then, just as you’re about to re-drywall your bedroom and commit career suicide, a puck goes in. And not a two-on-one, fake-pass snapper off the post snipe-type goal. Always some dumb, “I can’t believe it was that easy” freebie-type goal.
And so the pendulum swings.
When I think about real slumps, I can’t imagine Mr. The Kid is too concerned about his play. Hard work is in that guy’s bone marrow. I highly doubt he’s rounding up too many goats these days.
In fact, if I had to guess, I’d wager “I really should finish that degree” has never formed as a sentence during any of his mini-slumps.
I have a feeling Sid’s mental state is juuust fine.
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Justin is a hockey player turned writer. After playing for Alaska Anchorage in NCAA, he carried on with an NHL tryout (New York Islanders) before spending a couple seasons in the AHL/ECHL. Justin is now the web editor for the Score's hockey blog "Backhand Shelf." Check out http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/