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angus crookshank

Crookshank taking mental approach to his game

April 14, 2023

It has often been said that professional hockey is largely a mental game. The consistency and resilience that Angus Crookshank has demonstrated with the Belleville Senators is an affirmation of that point.

After missing last season with a torn ACL, Crookshank enthusiastically jumped into injury rehabilitation, physical conditioning and skill development. He also collaborated with Vancouver-based sports psychologist Trevor Hale to maintain his positive focus and competitive edge.

While Crookshank admits that a whole year away was difficult, he credits his coaches, teammates and the organization with helping him return to the lineup at full strength.

“Having hockey taken away from you as a kid who lives, breathes and dies hockey. It’s earth-shattering, to be honest. You lose the biggest piece of yourself. But having a proper support system around you, like friends to talk to. The coaching staff was awesome with making sure I was involved in team activities and as close to being with the team as they possibly could without playing. I’m thankful to the organization for that. But definitely a big mental piece there.”

Crookshank is pleased with the results of his innovative approach. Ultimately, the 23-year-old native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, feels he is now better able to deal with adversity as the game changes around him.

“Hockey is such an instinctual game. I think the majority of the mental side of things is in preparation. Being able to deal with the adversity that professional hockey is. You might have a linemate go down in the first period. You have to play with different guys. It may not be on the line that you want. You might not have scored for ten games, whatever it may be. So you have to find a way to forget those things that may be negative. Even positive things you might have to forget sometimes because if you get too confident, that can affect your game negatively as well. So dealing with those highs and lows pays dividends when you’re on the ice.”

While Crookshank finds himself amongst the AHL Senators leading scorers with 25 goals and 44 points through 68 contests, the rookie forward notes he has worked hard to adjust his mindset regarding his ability to be a difference-maker regardless of offensive output each game.

“Growing up, every night in Atom and Bantam, you’re hoping to score a hat-trick, and you get into that mindset as you progress through hockey, even into junior. It’s different coming into professional hockey, where everybody was that player growing up. Based on statistics, unless you’re Auston Matthews or Alex Ovechkin, you’re not going to go in every night expecting to score. So, working with [Assistant Coach] Ben Sexton here and Trevor [Hale] back home, I’m able to accept the fact that I can have a really effective hockey game without putting up points and be able to sleep at night knowing that I made a positive impact. Being able to accept that was the biggest thing for me. That was hard for me to wrap my head around, but I’ve made some great inroads, and it’s starting to pay off.”

Of course, hockey isn’t entirely mental; team systems, physical conditioning and many other factors impact the game. At the same time, no one can argue that a positive outlook can help players deal with adversity. But as Crookshank works toward his ultimate goal of playing in the National Hockey League, he has learned the benefits of both mental and physical development.