Monday, 28 September 2009

Dedication Personified

17th of November 1994, I remember watching the daily sports news cast as I had come accustomed to. It was exciting time to watch Finnish Ice Hockey due to the NHL lock out and many of the games brightest home grown stars were playing on home ice again. You had Kurri, Tikkanen, Selanne with the few ‘import’ players from Geoff Sanderson, Michael Nylander and Theo Fleury.

I remember when Fleury scored the game winning goal for Tappara, he skated down the ice throwing his kit on the ice and sliding down it. I remember thinking to myself ‘who is this guy? He’s insane.’ The guy was immense, despite his small stature. A true example of little guy big.

Despite his awesome NHL career being plagued by personal problems, Fleury had something about him. His passion was something that was admired, his fearlessness was unbelievable. In a game where everyone was almost twice his size, he did not give in. To him even if you were Zdeno Chara size player, to him you were fair game.
Now as I’ve been following Fleury’s stellar come-back attempt I’ve never been as motivated by any success story than this. It is truly inspirational as it is not only a great hockey story, but an awesome life story. Theo turned his life around and at 41, six years away from the game he was able to come back and put up respectable numbers in the exhibition games.

I’ve been truly impressed with Fleury, not for only turning his life around but for the dedication and the heart he has shown to the game. He is a true example of an athlete who has gained redemption and has proved to himself that, given the chance, he can play. I’d tell the NHL to stop looking for a recipient for the Bill Masterton trophy this season as the winner has been found already, before the first regular season game has been played. Surely Theo’s achievement is a true testament to what the trophy stands for and what exemplifies the true hockey spirit.

I recently read an article about Fleury’s time in the Finnish leagues in 1994. His approach to the game was truly humble. This was during the time when Finnish ‘professional’ players still had day jobs to go to and were paid miniscule amounts for playing. Theo got accustomed to his team quickly and was immediately respected by his teammates for his approach to the game and his off ice personality. What’s more and I think more importantly, Theo was loved by the fans and the fans loved him. It has been one of the outstanding qualities of his career, no matter where he has played or whatever his personal problems were, the fans always loved him.

Additionally the article mentioned an occasion where Theo took leadership in the changing room from the word go, by telling the team that the logo on their chest was what they played for and they represented their town and were to make their fans proud. Profound words from a newcomer, but a man with years of experience under his belt Lord Stanley’s ring on his finger.

So what does that Theo’s story has to do with me and why am I jumping on the praise Theo bandwagon? Theo has inspired me to the point that I now have the motivation to go back to the gym and start going through the pains of training and push myself and realize my dreams and write my own ‘come-back’ story. This is one of those stories that truly shows people that if you have a dream and you work for it, good things can happen.

Theo has now retired a Calgary Flame after showing the grit and heart he had when he first exploded to the league. Theo I thank you for the dedication you have shown and the inspiration you have instilled to thousands like me wishing to chase their dreams. I wish you all the best for the future.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Coming back

It has now been nearly a month since the season finished and since then I’ve had a break from updating the blog, to focus on other things than hockey and rigorous training. Needless to say that I haven’t just sat on my back side with a pack of chips (or crisps as the Brittons call them) in hand, but I’ve been doing other things that have taken my mind off the game for a while and tried to keep myself in some sort of shape, so I don’t have to start an uphill climb in a few weeks time. Well to be honest it will be an uphill climb but atleast it won’t be as steep as it was last year.

There have been interesting things happening and a real buzz going on with things related to hockey that have, quite frankly given me more of a boost for next season. There has been things going on that have made me realise that some of my dreams and aspirations are not as lofty as I first thought. It will be definitely an interesting period to get myself into shape for the up and coming season again and I’m starting to hit the gym with a vengeance in a weeks time to start the training properly.

There have been things that I learnt from last season and things that I know I can, and have to do better and more effectively to start making a difference. I think I found my motivation again when I was staring at a slogan at the gym that stated that “Endurance wasn’t built in a day.” I think this statement is very true for myself and serves as a good reminder of the hard work hockey players will need to carry out off the ice, as well as on it.

Even though the season didn’t go the way any of us really hoped for, I think that there were lessons there that we all can learn from. On a more positive note we didn’t come at the bottom of the table and we never have done in the past few years. I think one of the more positive things to come out of our recent AGM (apart from a raging hangover) was that guys seemed pretty committed to get to the playoffs and with new faces and old faces coming back in, we seem to have a good enough team to challenge for a playoff spot next year. My own personal goal is always to get to the playoffs and bring back something more than taste of bittersweet disappointment, but to achieve that, it needs a whole teams’ support.

Speaking of the AGM, I managed to (somehow) scoop up the team top point scorer, despite failing expectations I’d set myself and having a pretty much an off season by my own standards. Though having said that, statistically yes my season was bad, but in light of other things that I did, I think I played the best hockey I’ve done in a long while. I was able to agitate and I wasn’t shying away from board play, or at least not as much as I used to. The other award I picked up was the Players Player of the year award, which I’m grateful for and would like to thank all my team mates who voted me for the award. It’s a great honour to get that level of distinction from the people you spend a lot of time of the year with. Knowing my temper and the type of person I am in competitive situations, I can be a bit of a dick to be honest, but I appreciate the guys for giving me their votes.

Though if I’m completely honest I would much rather exchange both trophies for a trophy being presented to the team at the end of the playoffs. That would be better than winning any amount of individual awards, or then winning the awards at the end of a season where we’ve scooped the championship.

I will start documenting my way back to the land of the gym and all things hockey related soon enough. But for now: Bring on the pain!