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The Road Most Travelled

January 21, 2010

It’s truly astounding to think where this game of ours can take us. There’s nary a rink I can walk into in this city without being recognized, and this isn’t always a good thing. I risk sounding arrogant, but the fact of the matter is that when you spend the majority of your waking hours inside city-area arenas, you tend to bump into the same people over and over again. It makes me feel good about myself, though, to recognize and be recognized and maintain relationships with people I’ve played with as well as players I’ve coached and their parents.

As I stated fairly emphatically today to a group of 6 and 7 year-olds, hockey is my job, this is how I make a living. I’m fortunate, yes, but it’s an ongoing battle. Do I really want to lose my voice today? Are these kids here because they want to be or because their parents want them to be? Normally that doesn’t matter, I’ve worked hard to maintain professionalism and teach to the best of my abilities regardless of the audience. Still, there are days when I’m the one that isn’t sure he’s in the right place.

All of this individual self-important belly-aching pales in importance to the relationships you can build with others fighting the same battle. My previous job created 4 or 5 of the most important relationships in my life. We worked in a school in different capacities, had different reponsibilities, but the fact that I think about what I learned from these men and women constantly allows me to feel that little bit of arrogance, maybe because I still constantly use their methods combined with my own passion for hockey and teaching.

This hits particularly close to home lately because one of these people that I worked with for so long has recently discovered that his wife could perhaps face a battle of her own with a disease that I know very little about. It’s crushing, and I think to all of the advice I received from this man over the years. He told me that relationships should maintain or build your energy rather than drain it. He told me that while I was on the ice coaching, nobody in the crowd could do it better than I. We often wondered why people thought they were bigger than the game, we wondered if we also had that attitude without even realizing it! He told me secrets, he told me how he discovered how to fall in love with his wife all over again. He told me how he loved the game, and this was evident when he told me how much hockey took from him, the frustration and anger it created, and he told of the wonderful and painful memories still warm in his heart. We disagreed on many things, we argued for what we believed in, we complained about our colleagues to no end, and we decided who was worthy of our time and attention (in a joking manner, of course!) This guy could also probably quote every Chevy Chase movie ever made, and that’s not an exageration. The only thing that brought more of a smile to my face was how everything he taught and believed in somehow related back to SlapShot.

This man had a part in making me the man I am today, and it’s our role in hockey both present and in the past that keeps us in touch. Hockey always seems to work in circles, brings you back to what really matter. I’m pulling for you guys, man. All the best.

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