How The Colorado Avalanche Make Winning On The Road A Cup Capping Habit

To win the NHL’s coveted Stanley Cup, which they did on Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche needed to win four best-of-seven series. They did and, moreover, ended each of those streaks with wins on the road.

Logic – and odds makers – have always said it’s “easier” to win at home, but in each of the key moments of this postseason, the Avs did it “the hard way” and won while entire arenas of fans mocked them every movement.

So what’s her secret?

Most people who think about things like home play or ice advantage have focused on the logistics and other things that are outside of the team’s mindset. Professional sports travel is intense and tiring for athletes who have to move between time zones, sleep in different beds and eat more than they want to. In the past, the visiting team’s locker rooms could be smaller and offer fewer amenities than the home team. And of course, once the game has started, visiting teams could be harassed by referees and referees who might feel pressured by the home crowd.

Even seasoned professionals can’t be immune to directing that much love to someone else—at their expense, right?

Some of those obstacles to away wins still exist, albeit to a lesser extent, as teams have refined travel, diet and general fitness to mitigate some of the worst effects of life on the road. In addition, statistics show that teams with better overall records often have better away records as well.

So perhaps the vaunted home field advantage is less dependent on home teams playing better than on away teams playing worse? And if so, what does a team like the Avalanche do to be victorious both at home and away? And finally, what does their success teach us about leadership — on the ice or in an organization in which we work?

The answers seem to lie in mental toughness, especially in situations where your team is dealing with adversity. In hockey, that adversity could take the form of 18,000 fans vigorously questioning the legitimacy of your birthplace or even your affiliation with the human race every time you step onto the ice. In business, adversity can come from a series of lousy online reviews of your product or service despite believing in yourself. it could come from feeling pressure – a lot of pressure – from a new competitor threatening to disrupt your market.

Either way, the best way to get over adversity is to be willing to deal with it. Here are three ways the Avalanche kept their performance rock-solid when faced with adverse away-game circumstances:

Controlling the controllable: Even the best coaches need leaders on the ice to keep the team focused on the fundamentals throughout the year, not just during the playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon is the Avalanche’s on-ice leader. “You need someone who drives everyone,” said teammate Logan O’Connor. “When guys aren’t sharp or tired because it’s a long season, he’s always there to refocus people and hold them accountable,” O’Connor continued. “I think that’s the greatest thing about our team. Accountability throughout the lineup. Everyone has high standards for each other and he’s one of the guys who upholds those standards.”

Adopt an underdog mentality: Colorado started the 2021-22 season with championship odds of 6-1 and remained the favorite for most sportsbooks all year. But you never find out when you hear the avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog after the game. “What motivated us all is to make each other champions,” Landeskog told Sportsnet after the game. “To do it in this building against the two-time defending champion of the Stanley Cup… that’s very special.”

It’s even more special when you make it in front of the hostile fans we mentioned earlier. Nothing pulls a player out of a competition like a crowd invading his head; but nothing takes the crowd out of the game like letting all that animosity fuel the chip that lets your performance (rather than say your mouth or middle finger) do the talking.

Concentrate on the game – and on each other: Teams that overcome adversity focus not only on the game, but on each other. Ironically, the perceived inconveniences of travel—the ritual team meals and travel and exercise schedules—could strengthen the bond between teammates and keep them focused on their shared mission. Perhaps away games work a lot like corporate retreats, which rely on stripping teammates of the comforts and smugness of the familiar to focus them on what’s possible and how to work together to make what’s possible happen?

The Avalanche’s Cale Makar doesn’t love attention, and after being named Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Sunday, he drove the Conn Smythe Trophy to the Colorado Avalanche bench without even lifting it over his head.

Shortly after Makar made his lap around the rink with the Stanley Cup, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan asked Landeskog what other teams could learn from the Avalanche Championship Run. “Find a Cale Makar somewhere,” he replied.

That’s camaraderie in a big way. Maybe it’s true: the team that travels together brings home Stanley Cups together.

What is your team doing now to focus on the fundamentals of their game and work together?

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