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Tavares, CuJo talk shop about putting your ‘game face’ on

- November 27th, 2013


What’s at the core of an athlete’s “game face”?

You know, that steely stare laced with immense concentration showcased in the photos below?

Top-tier NHLer John Tavares and Hall of Fame candidate Curtis Joseph certainly know.

Conveniently, they co-starred in a Gillette panel discussing that very topic last week. (Tavares is a Gillette spokesperson.)

Here’s some highlights:

John Tavares

John Tavares in game face mode.
(AFP)

Captaining the New York Islanders at just 23, Tavares is known for his supreme focus — and, by extension, his game face.

Tavares epitomizes the 24/7 athlete of today’s NHL, always arriving at training camp in tip-top shape and rarely taking a night off from the grueling 82-game regular season.

The Team Canada lock said his game face rarely leaves, only intensifying on game days. “You want to have those butterflies, that excitement, before the game,” Tavares said.

To keep the tunnel vision intact, Tavares, who began his major junior hockey career as an underaged 15-year-old, has become superstitious about certain things. Case in point: the location of his sticks prior to puck-drop.

“Where I used to walk out of the old rink in Oshawa, guys would put their sticks on the stick rack,” said Tavares, talking about his time with the Ontario Hockey League’s Generals.

“I remember, being a young guy, there was no room for me. But (the stick rack) was right beside the medical room, so I put it in (there).”

Tavares follows the same procedure — home and away — to this day. If someone misplaces his stick, or merely ruffles the tape job, he makes sure the problem is fixed immediately.

Curtis Joseph

Curtis Joseph in game face mode.
(QMI Agency)

As for the man they call CuJo, a star goalie who had a knack for playing his best in clutch situations, the game face would depart on occasion, especially over the course of a longer off-season.

But, as Joseph recalls, the narrow-minded focus came roaring back in full force on game days.

“It starts when you get up in the morning,” Joseph said. “Obviously, the different levels, the more pressure the situation (puts on you), it seems like you start a little bit earlier.

“It’s almost like you’re not there when you’re at home. You’re just focused on the game. That’s when you play the best.”

Joseph, now 46, played internationally with arguably the two best forwards to ever lace ‘em up, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

“I tried to take it all in,” he said of their ability to treat an exhibition game with the same respect as a playoff Game 7.

His own rituals included not only dressing his left side first, but also stepping out of every room with his left side first, prior to puck-drop.

“Whatever works, you keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, you kind of change it up,” Joseph added.

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