JJ Santagata

An Unforgettable Ride… For The Boys

JJ Santagata The Last Ride

I have never really thought of this, for so long I always thought “oh that will never happen to me” or when the time comes I’ll be fine. It’s not that big of a deal. I never imagined I would be sitting here looking back on my career, the ups, the downs, the blood, sweat, and tears put into this sport. The broken bones, bruises and playing through injuries. All the bad that has happened this sport always kept me around. All because this sport asked me to give it my all, so I gave it my heart. I never really thought much of it, when numerous coaches would tell me “I wore my heart on my sleeve”, I thought my sheer ruthlessness, emotion, and love for the game was normal and at times, I would question myself and think am I crazy or do people not love the game as much as me. I can confidently say, I have probably said a thing or two to hurt a teammates feelings or put down a coach, nothing I am proud of, but that is what happens when I allow my emotions to overcome me and control me. Most of the time, in between periods I have no idea what to say, for those who have played with me, when I sit there quietly sometimes, it is not because I am thinking, it is because I legitimately have no idea what to say. But as a leader, you expect me to speak and step up and that is what I will do. You always think I say the right thing or do the right thing on the ice or in the locker room. But remember at times I have been lost and I have been completely unsure of myself in certain moments and games. I have made mistakes and I have lost games or caused turnovers. Leading a team is not easy and it was nothing I imagined to do, but with this opportunity, I was given to lead this 20 some odd guys alongside two great captains as well, you all have given me the confidence, support to always know what to do or say.

Now, you see many times this season we all have agreed that this year has been a bit different than years past and I would have to agree. See, my freshman year was an amazing time but I was young, irresponsible and had nothing to worry about. Nor did I truly appreciate those moments enough, I was not present enough to cherish those times. My sophomore year and junior year I put a lot of pressure on myself and dealt with my own personal problems. Now, my senior year after coming into it knowing that this could possibly be my last year with this team, this organization and certain players, a sense of awareness and urgency hit me. “The enjoy it while you can” moments hit me, the “it goes by fast” moments hit me. And I realized through my three years I probably was not the best role model nor teammate. Therefore I strived to be that, I strived to be the best teammate, captain, role model, person for all of you. When a team believes in you as much as you guys do, it changes my perception of many things. I don’t enjoy waking up Sunday mornings not being able to feel my body, or bruised from head to toe, or coming off the ice after a game ready to throw up. But. when I have a team like you guys, it makes all the negatives of this sport a positive. I am blessed to be able to wake up bruised, because I know that bruise was for you guys, I am blessed to wake up not being able to feel my body because I know plenty of you feel the same way and we worked our tails off and I am blessed to come off the ice ready to hurl because at the end of that 60 minutes I gave it my all, I played like it was my last shift and it was all for you guys. I know you all look to me for answers or to be that role model that is always there but remember boys, I too once was lost, unsure and thought I could not handle the pressures of a leadership role. I faked my way through many days in the past and I put on a mask so many of you would not see me struggle. That is why I cannot be more blessed to be apart of this team because you all have allowed me to break through many barriers in my life, be the real me, show compassion, kindness, and understanding without judgment, and fully supporting everything I do or say.

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I want you boys to look back on this year and remember all the good times we had, the feeling we all shared after a win, the late nights after games, the bus trips, the constant arguments we would get in, the yelling the screaming, the crying, everything about this season remember and cherish it. I want you boys to realize how much this season has meant to me and what has done for me personally.

This season I like to think it reminds me a lot of how that USA team was in the movie Miracle, the brotherhood that team displays in that movie is one of a kind and I wanted to bring that feeling here to you boys. Remember during that movie, when they were doing the secret Santa and everyone was just sitting there cheering having a good time, those times I’ll never forget with you boys. Remember the time, when they all shared the gold medal platform together and they are standing there, together on that small platform, smiling ear to ear, raising their hands with their fingers pointing high in the air. I want those times for us, after a win, when we get in that locker room and start dancing our face off, I think back to the time Team USA won that gold medal game and they shared the platform together.

Every moment, every win, every loss and every time I step on that ice with you boys I will cherish for the rest of my life. We are only guaranteed so much time together, one more full semester to battle every single night with the best group of men. I have not had this type of love for hockey in the last five years, you all have sparked my love for the game back and I cannot wait to absolutely leave it all out there, one last time. 

 

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