A few weeks ago, I was listening to a hockey podcast covering the Sochi Olympics. They were talking about Martin St. Louis, the then-Tampa Bay Lightning player that made the Canadian Olympic team after Steven Stamkos pulled out due to an injury.
None of the experts were sure how much Marty would play during the Olympics, but he did see some action during the early games. He was dressed but didn’t see any ice time in the game versus the United States, but came back and played 4 minutes in Canada’s win over Latvia. In the gold medal game versus Sweden, St. Louis was +1 with 3 shots and 6:46 on the ice. The reporter commented on St. Louis’ performance by saying that he was playing every shift trying to get another shift.
That’s a great observation, and a great lesson for young hockey players. As good as Martin St. Louis is, on a team where every player is a superstar, even he didn’t know if or when his next shift was going to come. So he went out and, on every shift, played like this shift was going to be his last. By doing that, by playing that hard, he earned another shift, and then another, and another. If during any one of those shifts he went out there and coasted, his day would have been done because, even though he is the star on the Lightning, on Team Canada he was surrounded by a team of guys that were younger, bigger, stronger, and better hockey players than him. But he got his minutes because he played every second of them.
There are very few players in the league that are guaranteed another shift. Sidney Crosby always knows he’s going to get another shift, and that he’ll likely be put in during crucial situations. But even though he knows it, he goes out and plays every shift as if he is earning his next shift, and that’s why he’s one of the best players in the world.
Odds are, you are not a Sydney Crosby. If you are a Sydney Crosby, first send me your autograph, then do what he does and show the world why you get the minutes that you do. Odds are, though, that you’re a Martin St. Louis on Team Canada, a great player surrounded by other great players, fighting for your minutes. So go out there and fight for them as if every shift could be your last.