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Brian Gionta's Tips for Dealing with Disappointment

By Jamie MacDonald, 11/28/17, 9:15PM EST


Success often comes from failure. Even at the highest levels of the game, players, teams and coaches are met with plenty of disappointment throughout every season.

Take for example, the story of Boston College’s otherwise fairy tale three-year run from 1997-98 to 1999-2000. In each of those three seasons, the Eagles reached the Frozen Four. There was just one problem: They didn’t win a title.


At the center of all this was Brian Gionta, who, as one of the keys to BC’s turnaround during the era, had scored 90 goals over this three-season stretch. 

“No matter who you are or what you've succeeded in, everyone has had just as many – if not more – failures beforehand,” says Gionta. “A lot of people don't understand that. And in order to be successful, you have to learn from your failures.

“In the moment, it's hard to go through, but it's coming out of it that you really learn who you are and what you are – if you're the type of person that's just going to accept that defeat and let it control you, or if you're going to turn it around and be in control of your own destiny and success.”

Since then, Gionta continued to face disappointment head on. Yes, there was an NHL career that spans more than 1,000 games. There was an Olympic Winter Games appearance. There was a Stanley Cup run. And there was a 48-goal, 89-point season. But even all of that had its fair share of failures before the triumph.

Here are ways Gionta dealt with disappointments he faced, and how you can navigate them, too.

Adjust Your Game

Failures can be mitigated preemptively. Gionta managed to head off some would-be issues by adapting his game before it failed him. To play in the NHL, he’d have to change his ways a bit.

“[Your game] evolves for sure,” says Gionta. “Coming out of college, you’re a premier scorer. And, for myself, I was coming into a very established lineup in New Jersey. There were Hall of Famers. In order for me to stick right away, I had to be on the checking line.

“Once you’re in, you work your way into where you naturally fit.”

Some players might more stubbornly have insisted on limiting their opportunities by not embracing a valuable role.

If you show how adaptable your game is to overcome obstacles, challenges and, yes, failures in your way, you standout to coaches and teammates alike.

Embrace the Opportunities

Gionta also re-channeled his perceived disappointments into the opening of new doors. In Montreal he served as a captain for the storied franchise, and he played in front of some of the most passionate fans the game has ever known. 

“I've never been the guy who is bitter about those things,” he says of the disappointments. “At the time [after not being re-signed in New Jersey], we are trying to figure out what it means, but it always seems like the next great thing for your career.”

That positive outlook again trumped what could have been viewed as a failure. 

After his five seasons in Montreal, Gionta played the next three for the Sabres, the team he grew up watching in Rochester, N.Y.

This season, however, while he had opportunities to play in the NHL, another door opened when the League chose not to send its players to the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

“You’re toward the end of your career, and you're still looking to play, although it was a decision based on myself,” says Gionta of the prospects of playing in a second Games. “I had options. But, still, not competing in the NHL this season and to still have this to come about [is fortunate]. With the disappointment always comes a new opportunity and a way to change and see new things.”

There are no promises, of course, but if and when Gionta does arrive in PyeongChang, his veteran leadership – even on such heavy topics as failure and disappointment – can serve Team USA well.

“If you're going out of my Olympic experience, we finished eighth,” Gionta recalls. “It's redemption. It's a chance to prove we’re a much better team and a much better organization. You use your experience of your biggest failures to learn from and then to succeed from.”

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

This biggest misconception that comes with failure is the fear of it. Gionta says that there is no way to avoid it, but instead, prepare yourself for the evitable and learn from it.

“If you let your failures be who you are, then that's what you're going to be,” he said. “But you can turn it around and make a positive out of it.”

How have you dealt with the bumps along your hockey course? Share your stories with us on Twitter @Mass_Hockey using #SuccessInFailure.