Stay Present: Ben Smith on Mentally Preparing for Big Games

03 Apr 2024
3 min read
Author – Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller is OMP’s Head of Content and an award-winning journalist and photographer.

What does it take to win an NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship?

There are few better people to explain than Ben Smith, a man who appeared in three playoff finals and won two championships with Boston College in 2008 and 2010.

As his ala mater Boston College prepare to take on Denver in the National Championship Game, Smith shares how he mentally prepared for the biggest game in College Hockey.

“I think generally it’s important to breath when you are feeling stress, nerves, anxiety, etc., or when you feel your mind moving away from the present moment” he said.

“Staying in the present for me is the key.

“Just enjoy every moment and try not to focus on what happened before or what could happen in the future – taking care of the present moment is all that you can do to achieve those big goals that you’ve fought all season for and are all of a sudden right in front of you.”

“I find it helpful to use quick phrases to refocus my thoughts when they are starting to wander.

“My favorite is “Right Here, Right Now”, but it could be as simple as “Focus” or “Now”, or whatever works best to you to come back to the present moment.”

Across eight seasons in the NHL Smith won Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and a Bronze Medal playing for the US National Team at the 2015 Ice Hockey World Championships.

He’s captained the Toronto Marlies to an AHL title in 2018 and also won two German League titles with Adler Mannheim in 2019 and most recently in 2023 with München.

Ben Smith (second left) celebrates winning the DEL (Germany’s top-flight Ice Hockey League) with Adler Mannheim in 2019.

Needless to say, Smith has a great deal of experience dealing with the pressures of big games.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is to enjoy the moment,” Smith said.

“If you and your team have gotten to this point you clearly have done something well and have prepared yourself and your team in a way that got you there.

“It is normal to feel pressure and to think about the significance of this game, but when the puck drops it is all about instincts and playing the game the way that you have prepared for all season.”

Smith’s first final was in 2007, his freshman year, and Boston College would lose to Michigan 3-1.

He learned a great deal from that first attempt, and it would help him in the remainder of his college career and then throughout his decorated professional career.

“As a freshman, of course I was nervous, but I probably was a bit naive,” he recalls.

“We were favored to win the championship and when we lost in the way that we did, it was pretty disappointing, especially for the upperclassmen who had experienced the same thing the year before.

“Those feelings didn’t disappear, but with them brought motivation to get back there the next season and get the job done.

“The second time around felt easier, having had that big game experience and knowing how the whole Frozen Four weekend plays out.”

“Losing isn’t easy but sometimes that’s what it takes to push you and your team to the next level that it takes to win.”

Ben Smith’s Athlete Insights series is coming to the OMP App later this year.



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