The day that everyone has been waiting for is finally here. Although Canada is playing for a different medal than they were aiming for, they are potentially faced with an equally daunting challenge. Just a few days ago, the entire country was expecting them to win gold, but I am sure very few imagined that they would be faced with the potential of coming away with no medal at all.
With a quick turn around from their semi-final loss to Russia, there was little room for the Canadian team to experience disappointment. They have a job to do today, and that is to win a bronze medal to prevent a second crushing disappointment.
Their game day preparation will be no different than if they were playing for the gold, nor should it be. This game is equally as important, if not more so, as our junior team fights to salvage the outcome of their journey, which began months ago at the very first selection camp. If Canadian hockey fans continue to demonstrate the same level of patriotism and passion for hockey as they have shown throughout the tournament, they will be cheering just as loud, and the Saddledome will be just as rowdy as it would have been as if Canada were playing for gold.
The day of a big game is just like any other game-day in a lot of ways. You wake up and go through your regular game-day routine. You make sure you are well rested, and physically and mentally prepared. What you do for off-ice and on-ice warm ups, and any other game day rituals within the team, including in what order you walk out of the dressing room, remains the same. On those big game days however, you go through your routine with more diligence than you normally would because there is more on the line. There is a feeling of nervousness and anxiousness in the air that is difficult to describe, but for anyone that has ever experienced a big game or competition, you know exactly what I am talking about.
I remember waking up the morning of the 2010 Olympic women’s hockey gold medal game feeling just as I would any other day, but with a heightened sense of awareness of everything around me, including that air of nervousness and anxiousness. I did everything I would do on any other game day, but went through my regular routine with that extra amount of diligence. There were obviously a lot of memorable moments from that day, but one that I truly believe had a huge impact on the way in which we defeated the Americans was the speech that was given to us that morning by Steve Yzerman.
He talked about all of things that he felt were important for us to be aware of prior to the biggest game we had ever played in our lives, including the great expectations that everyone had for us to win on home soil, and the extreme pressure that came along with that. He spoke about the importance of energy management, a topic that I discussed at length in one of my previous blogs. He reinforced the importance of focusing on our team, and what we needed to do in order to win, rather than on what the other team was doing, but at the same time expecting them to bring their best game. He had us sit there and imagine for a moment what it would feel like if the other team scored, and more importantly, what it would feel like to lose. The purpose of this exercise was not to set the focus on losing, but rather to make us aware of the potential of failure, and the feelings that accompany that, and to use those feelings as a source of motivation. All of the messages that Stevie Y relayed to us that morning also apply to the Canadian team and their quest for the bronze medal.
As a player speaking from experience, if I had the opportunity to say one thing to the Canadian team before this game, it would be to imagine what it would feel like to lose, as Stevie Y reminded us, to recall what it felt like to fall to the Russians in the semi-finals, and to use those feelings as a catalyst to spark the fire to win today. I can guarantee that if they do so, they will play with more desperation and determination than they have ever played with in their lives. The fear of failure can be paralyzing if you do not take control of it, but if you let it work to your advantage, it can be your greatest source of motivation, and can be the difference between winning and losing.
One other comment I would make to the Canadian players is that, to all Canadians, even though they will not win gold or silver, bronze matters.