Hockey is life #3: win the short races

As I continue pondering life lessons from hockey, I hope I’m not losing all of my non-Canadian readers, but I must press on!  Those of you who know me in person are probably still wondering how/why I would pick hockey as my sport to play growing up.  Frankly, I’m not very big and most people associate hockey with big bruising guys smashing into each other.  This part is true, but there’s a better aspect of hockey that the media, and often the NHL underplay.  Speed.  Hustle.  Quickness. Lacrosse is called “the fastest game on foot” but hockey is even faster because it’s played on skates.

A little guy in hockey learns to be faster than everybody else or get crushed.  Win the short races in hockey and you don’t have to worry about being bigger or stronger (or smarter for that matter).  This lesson is about quickness, and it builds on the first two lessons, keep your stick on the ice and keep your head up.  When you see an opportunity in hockey, you have to act immediately, and with great speed, or the opportunity is gone.  The game flows right around you, and you end up standing around watching it go back and forth (this would lead to being “benched” but we won’t address that here).

image from USA Hockey

image from USA Hockey

My high school coach used to say, “It’s a game of short races, and you have to win most of them to win the game.”  You may have heard that every journey is made of thousands of little steps.  That’s essentially the same advice.  Nobody was ever successful in hockey without getting to the open space or getting to the puck before everybody else.  That’s what creates opportunities and provides control of the game.

You win small races by being in extraordinary shape.  Hockey practice is as much about physical conditioning as it is about developing skills and scrimmaging.  Great players spend hours each week sprinting up and down the ice to strengthen their legs, build their lungs and improve their skating technique.  Many of our best practices did not include a single puck.

Ways to win short races in real life:

  • Make cold calls.  If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes!
  • Get your daily chores done first thing in the morning to create space in your afternoon.
  • Experiment with ideas, don’t just think about them. Fail quickly and move on.
  • Reach out to friends, associates, and colleagues to offer praise or gratitude.
  • Be the spark.  Do something that inspires others to join you in a collective effort that pays you back later.

Last thing: sometimes being first puts you in a risky position, so you also have to be quick to move on for the next opening.  It’s a series of short races, not just one.