-- Happiness. How do we get it? Are there instructions? Can we proactively and tactically approach something that is an emotion within our daunting, complex brains? Or is it all genetics, luck and circumstance?
I think we can all agree that attitude has a big effect on how successful most people become. And a good attitude starts with happiness. It's why as a parent, teacher or hockey coach, we should know by now that using happiness as a starting point for teaching is the best way for a child to achieve at home, at school and on the fields of play.
Wayne Gretzky was the best of his era because no one loved the game more. No one loved and enjoyed competition more than Jack Nicklaus. Gretzky and Nicklaus had great parents and upbringings, which made it easier for them to be optimistic. They were and are basically happy people by combining their immense talent with loving families. That didn't guarantee happiness, but it helped them succeed. There are plenty of stories of people from "broken" homes who ended up being big successes; the odds are in your favor when you have love and support and are happy.
As life goes on and we collect disappointments, we have to learn how to coach our brains to remain as optimistic and happy as possible when faced with adversity. That's when the game begins. Everybody hurts sometimes.
The military teaches its soldiers that mental toughness comes from being optimistic. It wants soldiers not to think catastrophically and not to think of the worst outcome. It wants them to be grateful and generous. There is a reason so many soldiers seem and are so impressive. They are optimistic, giving people.
Optimistic people are happier, and happier people are more successful.
If you struggle with optimism, here are a few things to remember. Bad things are temporary (just kill the penalty). There are specific causes for things that happen -- not universal truths that you can't define ("I suck!"). Some days are just not your day (yes, some days it is your day), and you'll be fine tomorrow. Don't beat yourself up. Be more like Tigger and less like Eeyore.
I've always told my kids, "Quietly try to be your biggest fan."
In Daniel J. Siegel's book "The Mindful Brain," he writes that we can stimulate emotional circuits in the brain by meditating or thinking good thoughts, and we can give the often negative, left side of our brain a crosscheck to the grill. We can coach our brains to think better and more optimistically.
Choose your thoughts.
In Alex Korbs' book "The Upward Spiral," he explains that the antidepressant Wellbutrin boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine, as does gratitude. Prozac boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin, and so does gratitude. Gratitude acts like a drug. "Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence," is something we all should remember. Be grateful, and be generous. It will make you happy. You will be healthier, have more friends and be more successful. Maybe that's why hockey gives out two assists.
We love hockey because it makes us happy. The speed, power, grace, sacrifice, agility, toughness and competitiveness all make the heart beat and the dopamine flow. Why do you think you're never in a bad mood 15 minutes before the opening faceoff? The dopamine is wheeling like Connor McDavid.
This season, we have an extra two weeks of hockey to kick-start some late summer/early fall hockey dopamine. The World Cup of Hockey is here.
Training camps opened this week, and pre-tournament action begins Thursday. The tournament will be held from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto. Eight teams will compete: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, USA, Europe and North America. Each roster has 23 players: 20 skaters and three goaltenders.
This will be the third World Cup of Hockey. The United States won the first in 1996, and Canada won in 2004. A previous version of this tournament was known as the Canada Cup and was contested five times between 1976 and 1991.
The 2016 World Cup will be played exclusively on Toronto's NHL-sized rink (200 feet by 85 feet) at the Air Canada Centre using NHL rules and NHL officials. Shootouts will be used to decide tie games after 65 minutes in group play, and sudden-death OT will be used in the semifinals and finals.
The eight teams are split into Group A and Group B for the preliminary round, in which each team will play its three group opponents once in a round-robin format.
Placed in Group A are Team Canada, Czech Republic and USA, plus Team Europe, a pan-European roster of players from birth countries outside the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden. The four teams in Group B are Finland, Russia, Sweden and Team North America, a selection of the top players from Canada and the United States who will be 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016.
The top two finishers in each group will advance to the semifinals (Sept. 24-25), in which the first-place team from each group will face an elimination game against the second-place team from the other group. The two semifinal winners will meet in the finals, a best-of-three series on Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and, if necessary, Oct. 1.
Pretty standard, really (Dr. Evil voice).
But this will be more than just a hockey tournament. If you are within driving distance of Toronto, this is a great opportunity for a long weekend for you and your hockey-playing son or daughter to take in and prepare for the long season ahead. I can't think of a better pep rally/pump-up jam to attend to get you and your hockey-playing child fired up. Even if you don't go to a game, it will be a fun couple of days. But if you have a chance to see an international tournament, especially in Canada, do it.
The activities (fanfest, concerts by Green Day and the Killers, among others) surrounding the hockey in the beautiful city of Toronto (home to the Hockey Hall of Fame) will be much bigger than an All-Star Game. Of course, there will be more than just one game (two a day at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET for the first week), and the intensity will be very high. Also, there will be excellent September weather. If you can, come experience this event.
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the family of ESPN networks will broadcast the entire tournament. One broadcast team will be Steve Levy and Barry Melrose with in-between-benches help from Kevin Weekes and Darren Pang. I will be doing six games during the first week of doubleheaders, joined by a combination of Weekesy and Panger.
Weekes and I will also be doing two pre-tournament games later this week: Europe vs. North America (23-and-under) at 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2 and Canada vs. USA at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPNU.
Linda Cohn and Adnan Virk will be sharing anchoring in the studio with Brett Hull and Chris Chelios?the first week, before I assume the studio duties during the second week of the tournament with Hull and Chelly.
Without NHL games since 2004, it is surreal that we at ESPN once again are broadcasting a hockey event of this magnitude involving NHL players. I'll try not to mess it up. We are pumped up and will go all-out to bring you a great broadcast. And, of course, we are bringing the old ESPN hockey music back!
I was raised a hockey fan by my crazed, sports-fan father, Ed. He was a high school goalie without a mask in the late 1940s and was a sports carnivore. As a child growing up, we didn't have cable TV, so I was largely raised on radio when it came to hockey. We could get Bob Wilson and the Boston Bruins on WBZ Radio, the Pittsburgh Penguins on KDKA with Mike Lange, Dan Kelly and the St. Louis Blues on KMOX, and occasionally,? Chicago Blackhawks games as well.
Hockey on the radio was a magical way for a young boy to experience sports. It was theater, a passion play, bloody and frightening and exhilarating. When you rooted for Bobby Orr, well, optimism came easily. If you lost, well, the zen of a Zamboni meticulously washed away the sins, and optimism returned. It was a clean sheet to begin again.
Your own imagination was the director of the game on the radio, as well as the casting director. I was Max in "Where the Wild Things Are," who grew up among beasts such as John Wensink, "Battleship" Bob Kelly and Dave Schultz. This gave hockey a mysterious, visceral quality other sports I followed did not have. The flavor of dopamine was different, good to the last drop. You never forget it, and you never run out. Once hockey grabs you, it doesn't let go.
Now, as luck and good fortune would have it, I get to do some play-by-play for the greatest hockey players on planet Earth. In Canada. On ESPN.
That makes me happy.