With the Capitals waiting to play their first Stanley Cup Final game in 20 years tonight, fans, players, coaches, management, and ownership are all thirsty for the franchise’s first championship. In this letter, NoVa Caps’ Jim congratulates the Capitals on their success, and gives them 10 Principles of “Advice” for winning Lord Stanley’s chalice.
Congratulations. You are about to go where no Capitals team has skated in a generation. True fans are amazed at your collective resiliency, your awesome tenacity, your brilliant efforts, and the work of art you routinely perform each night on the ice. We know (or at least suspect) that you feel the weight of the expectations and hopes of your loyal fan base.
Of course, we want you to win. But maybe winning will be just a little easier (not easy) if the team keeps in mind the following Ten Principles for Winning The Stanley Cup.
1. Your Purpose. Believe it or not, your purpose is not to “win” or “take” the Cup. Your purpose in the next four to seven games is to play in such a way that you deserve the Cup.
2. Savor the Opportunity. You do not know if you will ever again be given the chance to play for Lord Stanley’s cup. So play to leave your mark. Play so that when it’s time to hang up your skates, you can look back and say, “Win or lose, I [we] left it all on the ice.”
3. Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude. Many have come before without ever having the privilege of playing for the Cup. Be thankful for your chance to play on the grandest stage. Be gratified that you have reached hockey’s very pinnacle. One day when you are older and are playfully bouncing your grandchildren on your knees, you can tell them you were part of something greater. You had an impact.
4. You Deserve Nothing Thus Far. You and those before you may feel the Capitals have languished in hockey purgatory since 1974. You’re wrong. Forget the silly and misguided notion that “it’s finally your time.” Do not think you are entitled to win. “Paying your dues” for 43 years will not put a single puck in the back of the net. You win by scoring goals. And you score goals through effort. Your effort.
5. Maintain Your Balance. Bad or missed calls by the officials…lucky bounces for your opponent…being on the receiving end of cheap shots…clanging pucks off the pipes: use these and other misfortunes to stoke the fire within you, not suppress it. Let adversity summon the spark that ignites you and your team. When you are hit and are sprawling on the ice writhing on pain, smile. Then get back up.
6. Your Opponent. Do not belittle or disparage your opponent. Respect your opponent as a worthy adversary. No matter how well the opponent plays, doing so summons even more power and strength within you. If your opponent plays great, you are given the privilege of playing even greater still.
7. It’s Not About You. It is about your team. Watch each other’ backs. Adjust to cover their fumbles and missteps. Do not now seek personal glory. Play so as to make your team better.Make it your mission to make your teammate the star. When the light shines on your teammate because of your efforts, the whole team wins.
8. Get in the Flow. Every game, even every shift, has its own style and momentum. Surrender to the game. Focus your competitive instincts and skills to first establish a powerful flow for your team. Then guard that flow with your hockey life. Create your personal zone. And stay in it. The entire game.
9. “Feel” Not Overthink. The mind plays tricks on you. Too often the game zips by with little or no chance to think. Instead, feel, really feel, what is happening on the ice. Feel the puck on your stick. Feel where your teammate will end up, not where he currently is. Feel the sensation of your sharpened blades on a pristine ice surface. Tap your hockey instincts. Rely on your experience and coaching. Trust your teammates. Trust your intentions.
10. Play Selflessly. Sure, there are “good” penalties. But more often they are not beneficial. Realize that some situations, taunting, and provocations do not require your reflexive reaction. Play disciplined. Walk away to skate another day. Stay out of the penalty box.
To win would mean a lot to us all. But winning the right way will allow you to keep company with the greatest hockey heroes of all times. And, by the way, Ovi, we believe. Good luck and know that we believe in you.
By Jim McCarthy