Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Winning Ways

Many times I am asked about why I play hockey and I always, for some reason, struggle to answer the question coherently. I suppose there is no one word answer for it and we often go into length explaining why it is we do it. Recently I watched my wife play a game and it was her first ever win in ice hockey and it was at the moment of the final buzzer that I realized why we play this game.

Hockey is about goals and achievements. Achievements are what we cherish and find strength to carry on. Rather than analyse the deeper meaning of achievement again, I decided to remind my self of my best hockey achievements. These are the memories that help me strive forward and push on another day. These are the achievements that make me want to achieve more and to experience that feeling of winning and accomplishment.

1.)Pee-wee champions for the Hame region. Rewind back to 1992, it was my first ever hockey season and our team, the Parola Chicago Blackhawks was a team that no-one hade real expectations for. I enjoyed playing the game and as funny as it may sound, I asked to play as a defender to begin with, because I was afraid that I didn’t know how to score. However the coaches realised that I was a fast enough skater so they planted me as a winger. My first game I probably spent more time off-side than doing anything really useful for the team. What made the team exceptional was that we were all friends and we wanted to have fun playing. We went the whole season undefeated and the only time we didn’t win was when we drew 1-1 against a team called the Flyers. I can’t remember where they were based, but we got our re-match with them at the finals. We won the final and I can’t remember the final score, but I remember like it was being on top of the world and I wanted to celebrate the win like I’d seen the pros do it on TV, but I was a tad too young to empty a keg of beer and champagne bottles.

2.)Dutch Hans Bruck Bokaal. My first senior win and title. It was a long and arduous season, we found ourselves winning a team we’d played close games against before. On both occasions in the regular season we had lost and the overall feeling was that we were going to drop the final games as well. However something inside me changed when our team captain gestured the hoisting of the cup that I realised that we were actually going to win it. That realisation and the little bit of a buzz that I knew was the win was something I wanted to hold on to. It was something that I drew strength from during the finals and I didn’t want that feeling to escape and the season end with 25 guys holding their heads in their hands at the end. I can’t ever remember playing a tougher game in my life, but in the end all the hits that I took and all the dirty work I did at our own defensive zone paid off. I suppose this time I got my TV ending and celebrated like a pro on TV. Man was I ever sick and nursed the hangover of a life time, which carried on for a quite a while as we gathered our kit and drank Bacardi and Coke the day after. What makes it funnier is that I had my Chemistry final, which I royally bombed on the Monday after. I think it was a small price to pay.

3.)BUICH 2006 National Championships. Playing a series of 8 games on the hottest day of the year in a rink where there is hardly any air-conditioning. I can’t remember ever being as nervous as I was at the start of every game on that day. I wanted to win so bad as it was my goal at the start of the season and the last year of eligibility. The season before was a complete disappointment with the team crashing in the tournament. Sure I have fond memories of the losing trip, but still. The ending couldn’t have been better. We beat the ‘arch’ rivals Portsmouth in the final, which was easier than beating Sheffield whose roster included a lot of good talent. I’m not saying that Portsmouth was a terrible team, but Sheffield were a bit more talented, specially their own end. I remember scoring a goal and making a terrible giveaway which allowed Pompey to score, though I did redeem myself by setting up two goals. I think the reason we won the title was because of our coach who made sure we were all level headed and did things the right way. At the end of the day we walked away with the trophy and despite me hogging the trophy. I weighed myself the day after and I had lost 5kg of weight just through liquid. Though I didn’t celebrate by drinking alcohol as I was T-Total back in those days, it took me a week to recover from those games and the heat. Again a small sacrifice

Those are my three finest memories that I look back on. Though there are more occasions I get more motivation from the list would grow too long to list here. I am fully aware that there are probably more disappointments along the way to achieving these successes, but without sticking your nose into every possible situation, you cannot win. If you are not willing to lay it all down on the line you can’t expect to achieve and live these types of moments of glory.

So what does this have anything to do with my wife winning a game. It was seeing the joy on her face and her team mates, that I realised that these are the moments we play for and achieving that moment of jubilation is worth going through hell again and again. It does not matter whether it is a regular season win or a championship, but when you have been down on your luck even the smallest of wins can uplift you and turn your life around.

I can’t think of another way to end this blog than by quoting lines Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘The Wrestler’: These things have comforted me, My only faith’s the broken bones and bruises I display’ and of course, the memories and achievements that fulfil my playing life and my personal life.

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