How Do NHL Players Deal with the Pressure of Playing in Big Games?

Just like any other sport and even any person, regardless, hockey players have to be able to overcome tough situations when they are on the ice. Sports like hockey can be a very physical game, but the mental side of things definitely cannot be overlooked, as sometimes it feels like you are at an online casino where the outcome of how they do in those situations can be the difference between winning and losing a game. 

Focus on the Positives

Being able to overcome tough situations obviously is easier said than done. That means that NHL players have to be able to control their emotions as if they get a little too emotional, they can commit a mistake or a penalty that leaves their team short-handed for a few minutes.

San Jose Sharks forward Oskar Lindblom has discussed the ability to overcome tough statistical games and making sure he has the ability to make some smaller impactful battles, such as winning a loose puck or checking an opponent.

“I’m getting chances. I just have to keep going here. No trying to be too negative. I feel like I am playing good.”

Remaining positive is critical to success as your opponent is trying to also win and keep things from going too down. It is almost like riding a rollercoaster throughout a game as there are going to be ups and there are also going to be downs sprinkled through. 

Lowering the Expectations 

You see this not only in hockey but in other sports as well. That is why you see National Hockey League players discuss things more than just if they scored a goal or recorded an assist during the game, but making sure they are just doing the right things.

The more expectations that the player puts on themselves, the more issues are going to arise. Especially since there are a multitude of factors that the player himself cannot control, such as playing time on the ice, the ability of the opposing goaltender, and teammates underperforming themselves.

Defenseman Jake Gardiner shared how he does just that as he said, “Expectations, either from yourself or from others, can be tough. But if you step back and reassure yourself you can succeed, it can make a huge difference in creating a positive result.”

Not every single game is going to be exactly what you want it to be as tough games are going to be there, especially at the top level in the world, so thinking positively will definitely help players perform better. 

Mental Health is Critical to Success

This statement needs to be known more because people seem to overlook this aspect. Especially coming off a global pandemic, making sure everything else is good is going to make things a lot better when playing for those 60+ minutes on the ice. Playing inside of quiet arenas was a reality that happened throughout sports, like someone playing a video game on mute, and that makes it a lot easier for players to be more in their own heads about their performance and begin to overthink things. 


Underperforming at your job can be brutal. Underperforming at your job when thousands of people are watching you live, and hundreds of thousands more are watching you from a distance, can be brutal. They need to step up and remain positive because if they think it, it will happen.

Making sure you are grounded as an individual is important, and there is a reason why franchises employ sports psychologists to help their players through whatever issues that are going on from the game going on or even the games before.

What are some other ways that you know how National Hockey League players deal with the rising pressures of playing in some of the biggest games in the world?