Earlier in this blog I wrote about believing and having seen an inspirational video on believing and perseverance yesterday, I thought it was an apt topic to re-visit. Since my last post I have taken on the belief theme as far as to have it written on each of my sticks. Though it at first drew the ire of some of my teammates, the believing has nothing to do with god or other religious themes. Believing to me means that you are able to do what you set your mind and excel in it. Believe that you will succeed and believe that each dog will have its day.
The video I watched yesterday was of Vladimir Konstantinov. To those who don’t know Konstantinov or his story, here is a quick recap. He was one of the toughest D men in the game and I still remember him planting a monster of a hit on Colorado Avalanche’s Claude Lemieux in the 1996 Conference finals. When Detroit Red Wings won its first Stanley cup after a drought, tragedy hit Knostantinov. Him and his teammate along with a team masseuse were involved in a car accident, leaving Konstantinov seriously injured.
Konstantinov suffered brain damage in the injury, lost all mobility in his legs and the ability to speak, rendering his professional career over. As homage to him, the Red Wings still to this date have a locker set up for Konstantinov with the words Believe etched on a plaque. Where Vlad is a constant visitor to the Wings’ locker room, he is treated with respect by his teammates from that Stanley Cup winning team and the new members of the team. He sits in his locker while the guys get ready and is still effectively a member of the team, despite not being able to suit up.
What makes his story incredible is that he has worked relentlessly to gain a degree of independence and the ability to walk, even if with assistance. I think he has really exemplified the toughness and perseverance hockey players demonstrate whether it is in a game situation or when faced with adversity. His relentless work ethic is something to be admired at and he is in every sense of the word a winner. He beat all the odds and where he might not ever skate again (I won’t rule it out after seeing the video), he has definitely won more than just the Stanley Cup. To me, despite my despise of the Red Wings, Konstantinov is the ultimate winner and his team has shown the degree of respect that can only be admired. It shows that in a sport as competitive and harsh as hockey, you do not forget your own.
So how does Konstantinov’s story relate to my own preparation and aspirations as a hockey player? I can only draw inspiration from his ordeal and how he continues to overcome, but it shows that hard work does pay off. I mentioned a young Swedish player here by the name of Fabian Brustrom, who rose from obscurity to an NHL pro. Where the NHL ship has long sailed past me, I still believe that I have what it takes to step it up to a higher level. Just like Konstantinov and Brustrom, if I work hard enough, even this dog will have its day. When I speak to professional players, the best advice they have given to me has been that if you keep working hard, you will have your chance.
But what if the hard work doesn’t pay off with the result I hoped for? I have the sport that I love and I am able to play it. The hardwork that I put in has ultimately made me a better player, but most importantly, I believe that it has taught me valuable lessons in life. Things don’t come easy and the more I practiced the better I got and the better I felt. These past 7 months I have been on this trail have been some of the best of my life and I have learnt so much of myself and the lengths I can push myself to.
Where the above might sound like I have given up on my dream, it is far from reality as I am still striving for that goal. I am just fortunate to be inspired by stories like that of Konstantinov and Brustrom. By working hard I have proved to myself that I can play at the same level, if not better, when I played the Dutch first division (equivelant to English Premier League for you British readers).