We'd find us some Goalies, and oh how thankful we'd be, to finally get the game started, just a little after 3:33. So there we were, under the moonlit sky, shinning through the trees; giving us light, so that we could properly see that black rounded puck which would be lost a minimum of at least 10 times.
Mouth Guards in, Helmets strapped tight, the first puck is dropped, and bodies fly by. Codes are revealed through garbled words and gestures, pointing out the fact that, yes once again, you are off sides. You would think they would teach you some rules before being thrown in with these wolves, but instead you realize this is death by fire; you must prove yourself smart, worthy, and willing to take a hit, if need be, for the elders who are screaming words....of what I’m sure can only be described as encouraging mentorship. Words fly through your mind, none of which you say, and then to add to your utter humiliation you catch an edge while trying to get back over the Boards. (Gasp) Yes that short little wall, that has somehow risen another 3 feet from when you climbed over it just moments ago. “What the Hell am I doing ”, has itself on repeat in your feeble little brain; All with the constant laughter from your “Teammate’s”. That’s when you remind yourself you’re an ADULT ; and that if kids, half your size can do this so can YOU!!!! You get one leg over and then all hell breaks loose! You hit the player going in for you in the back of the head, (she is less than pleased) with your stick; and although it was totally unintentional She is now thoroughly pissed. The Laughter, from your so-called teammates, has moved over to the other bench . So as you lay half on the boards, head towards the ice, unable to do anything about you’re current predicament, you think “is this really worth it,?”, as the sound of your teammates laughter drowns out all other noise, and you know your dignity has now been completely stripped, you manage to get upright with the help of the ref.; Whom you thank, but up till this point has been useless…… But even he laughs after skating by.
What to do now…it’s what athletes, true athletes, ask themselves a thousand times a day. Doesn’t matter if you’re at work, watching a game, playing in one, you constantly strive to be the best. Everything in you makes you push yourself, sometimes too far, but it’s what you know; it’s how you’ve gotten to where you are now. So, do you keep your head down, fake an injury and sit out to save your dignity? Do you get mad, blame your teammates or the refs for making bad calls, or not teaching you the “correct” way? Or, do you get just mad enough at yourself, to make you want to do better, to prove them wrong, to make up for your mistake? Do you chalk it up to a learning experience, or do you decide you’ll never play again.
As you sit on the bench contemplating you’re options, you may or may not realize the decision you make, (even in a pick up game of hockey), can define you as a person. Yea you’re buddies are all watching, and probably still making fun of you, but you’ve blocked that out. There may be someone of importance you are trying to impress, I'm sure by now it's a lost cause, (but who knows right). The other factor, is the kid that came along who’s sitting on a bench, who’s heads been down, earphones in, you notice is now looking straight at you. Seconds pass, Silence doesn’t exist, and your mind is spinning. The noise is so great, its too much; the whistles, the screaming from the benches, the player who is always trying to give advice won’t shut up, even though you’ve acknowledged them. You’re trying to figure things out, when you can’t even focus yet on what just happened. Then you catch his or her eyes, eyes that have lost hope, and you decide to swallow your pride, because you know all too well what it’s like to lose hope. The shift change is coming, and it’s now or never. You get up waiting for your player to get close enough so you can hit the ice without causing another penalty. But this time, you decide to use your skates and not your face, which proves to be much more efficient and less painful. You look at the wall and easily get over it and on to the ice; you are determined. There is no Fear, no Hate, no second-guessing. You were made to play, and to be the best you can be; (granted you’re not there yet, but eventually with the right help, it’s a possibility); you hear no one, you just see the eyes. You’re not a hero, the fact is most the time you hate yourself, but now you have a purpose, not for you (I mean you want to be the best), but your purpose is for this kid struggling. Who now is watching your every move. Your reactions are too slow, you’re an out of control “Newbie’; but at this moment you’re going to prove that one fall doesn’t knock you down, and that getting back up, although hard and sometimes humiliating, is possible. You are greater than the image you’ve previously established. An icing call gives you the time you need...... You skate over to the kid, pound on the glass, and give a nod as if to say… “I understand, but watch what can happen when you believe in yourself.” You know that kid is now watching you, as you take your position. Be strong, stay low, see the puck, head up, watch your teammates… learn. You’re not called for being off sides again. Yea you fall, shit happens, but you get up every time, and give a nod to the kid, who thinks there’s nothing worth living for. Sometimes a sport is more than just a sport; it’s a chance to do something great with your day, a chance to make the worries of being an adult shed off you as you skate you’re heart out. It’s a time where you take hits, and you give them; but it’s the best physical contact you could ask for. It’s everything you need, to feel a sense of peace, even if it’s only for the 1 hour you’re on the ice. Many won’t understand, they can’t and they ask, “Why waste your time, what purpose does it serve?” " Why put yourself at risk for a major head trauma again?" "What joy comes from getting sick after, sometimes during, every game, or really any physical activity that get's your heart rate u:?" Some would say “grow up, it’s just a game”; "the Risk is too great, it could kill you, or leave you in a vegetative state." If that happens just kill me. Maybe they are right, maybe I need to stop being an athlete, but that's like asking a Wolf not to be a wolf. So yea its may seem stupid, carless, etc,; But not to you, and not for the kid who’s watching. It’s so much more. It’s where you will come to find peace, strength, and the bond with others that only teammates can bring. It is where you will learn self-discipline, and that sometimes you must take the blame, or hit, or whatever you define it as, for the betterment of the team. You’ll learn how to build someone else up, you’ll learn to listen to those who’ve played longer, are more experienced, and are willing to share their wisdom with you. You'll either be a leader or you won't, and You’ll learn how to take both positive and negative criticism, because really it’s all good; It's all relevant, important even when you can't understand why. At some point clarity will come, and you'll be that much better for giving something you don't understand the ability to reveal itself to you. So Why even try you ask? Because it makes you a better person. Is it hard yes, but that doesn't mean it's bad. You’ll learn things about yourself you never knew existed. You’ll also learn things about yourself that you find to be horrible characteristics, so you’ll try to change them; or you won’t and that’s you’re call too. Mostly you'll find yourself, in the midst of chaos, noise, and utter fear, you'll find who you are deep down within your soul. It won't be easy, and you may forget from time to time who you really are. But don't worry, their will be those around you; who see you as a far greater person than you'll most likely ever see yourself. They will tell you things they admire about you, why they love you, what they've learned from you. It may all seek surreal to you, and you probably won't be able to appreciate their words, till later on. But the seed will be planted, so that you may mature and grow; and then help others to do the same.
So, If I played hockey, I'd be the best I could be at where position I played. i would be there for my teammates, through thick and thin. I would listen and learn; but I would also give advice when I deemed it necessary. I would fight for my friends if need be. But I would not ever sacrifice my integrity, honesty, and Willingness to take a hit in order for a friend, teammate, or entire team to become closer....a family of sorts. that is what I would do if I could still play.
P.S. (Please let me know if you find any grammatical errors, or any other mistakes and/or confusion. Thanks!!!!)