📝 by Stephen Meserve | AHL On The Beat
Whatever cliche you want to use ― “gripping the stick too hard” or “overthinking the game” ― it happens to every player at some point.
The way that you played the game to get you to where you are just suddenly isn’t there for you anymore. What you do to recover and adjust can define you both as a player and a person.
Texas Stars forward Anthony Louis had an iron grip on his stick as the Dallas AHL affiliate hit the November schedule. His game just wasn’t coming to him.
“I was second-guessing myself on the ice,” Louis said. “I didn’t have that confidence and swagger that I play with. I was struggling, but I knew I was right there.”
Louis started his professional career on an NHL two-way deal with the Blackhawks, playing three seasons in Rockford before heading out to Charlotte on an AHL deal. After eight games with the Checkers, the forward hadn’t clicked with his new team and had only collected a single goal. On November 20, 2019, the Texas Stars, mired in an 11-game winless streak and needing something to spark a change, came calling.
In the 10 games after Louis joined, Texas went 8-1-0-1.
Louis was on a personal cold streak to start this year himself. After what he felt like was a great camp, he went pointless in his first five games.
“I think I had such a good offseason this past summer. Going into camp, I felt like I was getting shoved under the rug a little bit. It got me upset, but in the wrong way and not the right way.”
Instead of using the camp as motivation, overthinking and decision paralysis began to creep into his game. Before he let the mental overtake the physical side of his game, he began to reach out to friends, family, Stars staff and previous hockey connections at Miami University to build back the mental side of his game.
One of the more influential picks, a book called F**k It Therapy: The Profane Way to Profound Happiness, was recommended by Dr. Don DiPaolo, who Louis met during his time at Miami. According to the book’s blurb on Amazon.com, the book helps readers to realize that “what you’re worrying about and stressing over doesn’t really matter so much in the grand scheme of things.”
“It was more about not overthinking,” adds Louis. “Control what I can control. I’m here for a reason: I’m a good hockey player. I know that, and I have to go back to what got me here: play skilled, have fun, and play with some swag.”
Adopting the mindset has helped. Since a healthy scratch in November, Louis has been on a tear, notching 14 points in 15 games including four multi-point efforts. Now that he’s back to playing his own game, Louis is using the skills he developed on the mental side of his game to help the younger guys in the Texas locker room.
“I never looked at myself as an old guy until last year,” said Louis, laughing. “But I guess I’m getting ‘up there.’”
At all of 26, the veteran forward tries to provide perspective and assistance to the younger players on the Stars, with or without a letter on his chest.
“I look at myself as a leader just by example. I make it clear to them even before the season starts that they can come to me. I can see when a guy isn’t themselves, and I can tell that they’re overthinking stuff. I feel like I’ve been good at just being there for guys, even if it’s just to talk and shoot the breeze or whatever it may be.
“When I was in Rockford [on my entry-level contract], I was so worried about getting called up or wondering why this guy or that guy got called up. I was worrying about too much stuff that was out of my control. But now I know what I need to do every day, what to focus on and what to avoid.”
Louis’s attitude shift has put a good perspective on what he does for a living. While he is certainly angling for the rare in-season two-way to Dallas or an NHL deal in free agency this summer, he’s concentrating more on what he can control and passing that message on to the younger members of the locker room.
“You’ve got to enjoy it while we’re here. Before we know it, I’m going to be retiring and hanging the skates up. It feels like yesterday was my first game for Rockford against Manitoba, and that was five or six years ago now.
“I try to tell that to the young guys. Just enjoy it here and make the best of it because if we don’t, you’ll regret it later on.”
Stephen Meserve is the editor of 100 Degree Hockey, which has covered the Texas Stars since their inaugural season.