There is nothing wrong with feeling anger, but it’s not going to change the situation you’re in. John Tortorella was plenty angry with the lineup that the Calgary Flames started on January 18, but yelling at Flames coach Bob Hartley or going after him in the hallway during the first intermission didn’t help his team – it actually ended up hurting them when he was suspended for 15 days.
If you let your anger control you, you can lose perspective and focus. Sports psychologist Saul Miller tells young hockey players, “When I walk through my neighbourhood and my neighbour’s dog barks, I don’t bark back.” It’s a ridiculous thought, but it’s the same thing with getting angry with someone else – it’s not going to accomplish anything.
When asked how he dealt with high sticks, late hits, clutch and grabs, and other frustrations on the ice, Paul Kariya said that instead of retaliating, he used a mental discipline technique called parking. If a situation arises or a thought comes to your mind that’s not going to help you or could hurt you (whether about something on or off the ice), park that thought and file it for later. Often giving something time to cool off gives you a chance to deal with it in a rational way that won’t hurt anybody. Parking requires both perspective and emotional control (mental toughness), but in hockey, the best way to get even with someone is to put the puck in their net. If someone tries to provoke you, use it or control it, or else it’ll use you.
Game Plan: When feelings of anger are coming to the surface, take a breath, release the anger, tension, frustration, or fear, and focus on the positive. Use that energy in a safe and healthy way. Maintain that positive focus, no matter what.