With the Stanley Cup championship series currently upon us, we can often predict who will win the series by asking a simple question: “who has the most grit?”  Who’s going to take a hit to make a play, throw their bodies in front of booming slap shots, get into the greasy areas in front of the net, and never get outworked? When the agony of defeat is a stronger feeling than the minor bumps or bruises from playing the game, you know your grit has arrived and you are ready to win a championship.

In her 2016 book, Grit, author Angela Duckworth explains that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence.” This special blend is what she defines as an intangible quality known as grit.

We can relate this as hockey players, since we know that there’s no such thing an overnight success. Greatness is achieved one shot at a time, in garages and basements, during late nights and days off, when no one is watching, for months and years. It’s early morning skating practices, weekends on the ODR with friends, running stairs and hitting the weight room. It is training longer and harder than you ever thought possible, and always having that little voice in your head asking “is someone out there training harder than me today?” This fulfills the “persistence” component that Duckworth mentions.

In addition, the simple truth is that you don’t have to be the most skilled to be gritty; it’s based on heart, otherwise known as the “passion” component to Duckworth’s definition. Often times, grit is formed by suffering through challenging experiences and disappointment, learning from those moments in time, and thinking about what can be done differently next time you’re in that situation to achieve the desired outcome. Maybe you didn’t make the team you worked so hard to be on, or you worked your butt off to help your team reach the championship game, only to lose in the final minute of the contest. These heartbreaks or disappointments are what shape us as hockey players (and human beings, of course). When these events happen to us, those with grit use the agony of defeat as fuel, fuel to keep pushing and reaching for the next opportunity to compete for the top spot. And when big moments happen in games, those with grit can “rewind the tape” afterwards and feel satisfaction knowing they “left it all on the ice”.

So keep putting in the work and train harder than anyone, because someday you will need to dig deep to help your team get that W, and those who were not only prepared but willing to do whatever it takes will be the ones to hoist the trophy. 


Edited in June 2024 from original article written by Lance Pitlick in 2015. Based in the Minneapolis area, Lance is a former NHL player with Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, played collegiate hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, is a foremost training professional with stickhandling and shooting both in-person and through onlinehockeytraining.com, and is the founder and former owner of Snipers Edge Hockey.

June 07, 2024 — Sniper Sam

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