Hockey is a game. A game like any other. Its faithful players will argue until breathless about hockey as a lifestyle, just the same as anyone else will about their respective sport. In a life that’s short and by no means easy, it’s important to have things like these–passions and interests to help keep a restless mind at bay. For me, hockey was my first love, the one that will never leave or get jealous, the one that is always there when I need it, the one that will never let me down.
Hockey is arguably the greatest gift I have ever received, and for that I have one person to thank: my dad. Our backyard deck is where I took my first, albeit wobbly, strides on a makeshift rink made from 2×6 boards and a plastic tarp, where every winter he flooded the area with the garden hose. I was skating there before my earliest memories allow me to recall, and for the next 15 years I loved every second spent on that ice.
Amusingly enough, at eight years-old I started my competitive hockey career playing roller instead of ice, after my dad pushed me to play in a league that was starting up near where we lived. Later, I made a local travel roller hockey team, which may very well have been the most important thing, hockey-wise, that happened in my life. Not because the team was all that great, it was a lot of fun, but because everyone on the team had the same set of stickers on their helmets. Yellow stickers with five green stars, and one that read “Generals” across the front. This is where I decided I wanted to play ice hockey, and I only wanted to play for the Red Bank Generals.
Thanks again to my dad, he pushed me even further than I may have even wanted to go at the time, and after a lot of hockey played I made the Generals Peewee B team. This was a similar story throughout my next many years of playing hockey, as only a few years later I was playing for one of the best teams the Armory ever had and was captaining my high-school team. Two trips to Nationals (the second of which, an OT loss in the semi-finals, I still have nightmares about), several CAN/AM gold medals, countless road trips and hotel rooms, thousands of dollars spent–all so I could do what I loved to do the most.
My parents gave me everything I asked for and the best support I could have received, I am forever indebted to them for that. As for my dad, I owe everything I have ever done in this sport to him. He gave me every tool I needed to succeed, and without him I would have never accomplished the things I did. He pushed me when I didn’t want to be pushed, when I needed to be pushed, and saw the potential in me to become as good a player as I have. He believed in me far more than I ever believed in myself, and that’s the best thing I could have ever asked for. Thank you, dad.
I am able to remember very little about my first trip to watch the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, where they played Joe Sakic (a player I took a big liking to) and the Colorado Avalanche around 2001 or so. It wasn’t until my first year of playing hockey that I really got into the Rangers, during the 2006-2007 season that saw a team with new, young superstar Henrik Lundqvist in net, and headlined by Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan up front. I fell in love immediately. And thanks to this team, which has given me an awful lot to be both happy and heartbroken about, I’ll be able to continue my love for hockey long after I become only a beer league hero.
Thank you hockey, for giving me the greatest of things I’ve been given, for teaching me lessons I could never learn in a classroom, for friends I’ve been to war with, and memories I’ll never forget–and most of all, for being there when I needed you the most. Thank you again, to my parents for making it all possible and allowing me to pursue my dreams.
I love this game.
Let’s go Rangers.