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This week NY Times did a profile of Martin Brodeur the New Jersey Devils inimitable goalie who has been minding the nets for the hockey team for the past twenty years. When I was young I used to play goalie in hockey and it was one of the more brutal physical experiences of my life. It took about three years after I stopped playing for the bruises on my legs to fully disappear.
To play a goalie in hockey you must not only be in peak physical condition but mentally alert every second of the game. A hockey goalie is the most paranoid position in sports. You play on a team, but are essentially alone. You cannot win games, but only lose them. Your job is to basically act as human shield as opponents drill a rubber disc (often towards your head) at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved being goalie. When done right playing goalie is one the greatest natural highs you can experience, but the built-in pressure of the position will inevitably produce some odd behavior. The Times article is replete with examples of goalies exhibiting what sociologists call “non-normative” traits. Bernie Parent, the great netminder of the Philadelphia Flyers used to sleep with his massive German sheppard. Another NHL goalie compulsively stripped off his uniform between the breaks of each period to take a shower as an elaborate superstition ritual. However my favorite example was Gilles Gratton, who as New York Times writes, “bounced around in the minors in the ’70s before ending his career with the St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers. Gratton liked to skate in the nude sometimes, wearing just his goalie mask, and refused to play if the stars did not line up properly. He believed that in a previous life he was an executioner who stoned people to death, and that he was fated to become a goalie — someone on the receiving end of a stoning, so to speak — as punishment.”
My own mental ticks when I played goalie were not nearly as colorful, but no less unusual. I would often throw my mask, my glove or my stick at the defensemen when I was even slightly displeased with their positioning. I would heap a torrent of verbal abuse on them that I would never unleash on even my worst enemy. It was amazing that these big, burly guys, who under different circumstances would not tolerate even a hint of an insult, meekly absorbed all of my abuse while the game wore on. Such is the power of a goalie in hockey.
But back to Martin Brodeur. How has he managed to not only survive but thrive for twenty years in a position where the average lifespan of a career is only four years? The article discusses the various goaltending styles and Brodeur’s ability to keep his knees healthy but then it zeroes in on the one key factor for his succes.
“Hockey people say that Brodeur’s particular strength is his ability to bounce back from a bad goal or a bad game and not let it gnaw at him. Hockey was locked out for the first half of this season, and during the Devils’ truncated training camp last month, you could see that he hates to be scored on even in practice, rapping his stick or ducking his head in disgust after letting one in. But the cloud passes in an instant, and then he’s bouncing on his skates and looking for more pucks to swat away. Lou Lamoriello, the Devils’ general manager, says, ‘Marty’s mental toughness, his ability to overcome a bad game, is just phenomenal.’ “
When it comes to trading, the ability to bounce back from a bad trade is the single greatest skill than we can posses. In trading we are always focused on offense – on our ability to bang profitable trades – to “score goals”. But when we think about it, it is always the defense that does us in. A stop is just like letting the puck cross the blue line and drift into the net. The feeling of pain and anger is exactly the same. Furthermore, in markets just as in hockey, a freakish bounce can often turn a win into a loss. This past Friday I was short the EUR/USD, my set up working perfectly when the market misread the headline on LTRO repayments spiked up literally to the pip of my stop took me out of the trade and then promptly dropped the pair right into my profit target.
Fortunately, I have grown up a bit from my days of throwing temper tantrums on the ice and did not hurl various objects at my trading screens. After a few moments of fury I “let the clouds pass” and reset my setups and ground out gains to take back some of the pips back from the market.
While I doubt I will ever possess the equanimity of Martin Brodeur, I am starting to realize that I must strive for that standard – for that is the key to winning both on ice and in FX.
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